Managing your online reputation


Jim De Luca
Sales and Technology Columnist

For decades, the first point of contact consumers had with car dealerships was the receptionist. Often times, the way that the receptionist handled incoming calls would set the tone for the caller’s experience in the dealership.

Nothing could be further from the truth now as the first point of contact is Google.

The analytics of most dealership’s web traffic indicate the majority of hits result from people entering some configuration of the dealership’s name and brand into the search engine. This will usually take them to a results page where a link to their website is featured near the top of the results. This is also where Google Reviews are prominently featured.

Dealers can’t underestimate the influence of Google Reviews, as user generated content (UGC) is playing an ever-larger role when consumers decide where to buy a vehicle.  

A 2014 study from Brightlogical found that 79 per cent of buyers trust online reviews as much as referrals from friends and family. Another 44 per cent said reviews were the most important factor in determining where to buy. That number jumps to 51 per cent for Generation Y, which represents 40 per cent of today’s consumers.

A trust factor study conducted by found that 84 per cent of online shoppers would not engage a brand until trust has been established.

While paid review sites can be beneficial for building trust, Google Reviews are more influential because they always outrank paid sites in search results.

Another benefit of Google Reviews is that they are free.

So why do dealers pay big bucks for review sites when they can have Google Reviews for free? The answer, for the most part, is that they don’t know how or they don’t fully comprehend the value of Google Reviews.

Creating a Google Review Culture     
Consumers are looking for three things when determining where to buy a vehicle. They want trust, transparency and a respect for their time.

Google Reviews are effective ways to build trust, offer transparency and save time because they provide insight into the experience buyers can expect before they visit a dealership.

In order to deliver these factors online you must solicit positive Google Reviews and manage poor ones.

The most effective way to get positive Google Reviews is by asking for them.
Simply tell your customers that you’re trying to build an excellent online reputation and ask them to share their experience in a couple of paragraphs on Google Reviews.

Two or three words reviews like “great experience” or “that was easy!” are good, but a short story is much better. The best time to do this is right after they take delivery of their vehicle.

Asking for reviews is also an excellent way of uncovering and rectifying any problems. This will give you an opportunity to make sure your customers are completely satisfied before they write a review or receive their CSI questionnaire.

Manage your reviews by reading and responding to all of them, good, bad or ugly.

Google Reviews can be viewed by thousands of people, so when responding to your reviews, think not only of the person who wrote the review, but also about the people who will read them to determine if they should do business with you.

Bad Reviews

Some people are impossible to please, so it’s inevitable that you will get bad reviews. The good news is that a bad review can actually be more beneficial than several good reviews, providing you address it with a positive response.

Nobody expects perfection, so if you drop the ball and get a bad review, respond with a sincere apology and an offer to make things right.

Responding to your reviews will show online shoppers you’re engaged with your customers after the sale. If it’s a good review and you respond, they’ll know you appreciated their review; if it’s a bad one and you address it quickly, it shows you’re eager to fix the problem.

To create a Google Review culture in your dealership have your managers read every review in sales meetings, post reviews in your lunchroom and in their offices.

They can also email reviews to everyone on staff and run a best review of the week contest to incentivize sales and service to solicit reviews.

Share your Google Reviews on in-store displays, social media, conventional advertising and on your website to maximize their benefits.

Today it’s easier than ever to overpromise and under-deliver because virtually every dealership’s website promises a high-level of exceptional service.

With everyone promising a great experience, the slightest infraction could easily disappoint buyers and lead to a bad review. You have to ensure your operations deliver the in-store experience your Google Reviews promised.

Google Reviews are more than just a marketing tool, as they provide insight into the experience that online shoppers will have when dealing with your dealership.

Make Google Reviews a key part of your marketing strategy and make sure that every member of your team does so too.

Jim De Luca is the national sales trainer for Vehicle Armour Inc. He can be reached at 905-865-8734 or