And Bad Reviews Waste It!
The Data on Online Reviews
I am going to keep this post as short as I can. First, I am going to bang through some data on online reviews since it is so compelling. Then I will provide a little healthy conversation. Finally, I’ll wrap up with the all too obvious (but sadly too often missed) conclusion that you are crazy if you don’t manage your dealership’s reviews very closely.
First, here are some facts:
- Podium, Google, and a host of other companies cite data that say that around 90% of consumers say reviews influence their buying decisions.
- 23% will visit a business shortly after reading positive reviews.
- 65% have read one in the last week.
- 73% only look at reviews written in the last month.
- 3.3/5 is the minimum star rating for a business that will still have consumers wanting to buy from them (although I’m betting that that number is rising).
That’s just a very small percentage of the data that argues why you should care deeply about the quality of your reviews. You can find it everywhere.
The simple truth is that buyers want to hear from other people like them before they buy anything online… whether a toaster or that car on your lot. If your review rating is low, then they will shop with the dealer across the street (assuming their reviews are better).
But the story doesn’t end there…
Reviews Help Your Search Results
Getting good reviews isn’t just smart for the reasons cited above; it is smart because having a lot of good reviews, also bolsters your search results. Why?
Reviews are a form of new user-generated, relevant content. Search engines like relevant content… and good reviews are VERY RELEVANT. Yes, I did over emphasize, but I’m hoping that you’ll get my point.
Let me use Google’s own documentation to make my point. According to Google, “more reviews and positive ratings can improve your business’ local ranking.”
Is that clear enough? If not, Rocket Digital adds a bit of detail by telling us that the “quality and quantity of reviews on Google is one of the most important ranking factors for local SEO.” Simply put, if your dealership has a 4.6 rating and 123 reviews while a competitor has a lesser rating, then this tells Google that your customers say that your dealership is more relevant and trustworthy than your competitor. Keep it up and you’ll be constantly turbo charging your rankings.
Perfection Isn’t Always Good and Size Counts
You shouldn’t let your reviews get too good or some customers will doubt they are real. That 5/5 really looks sweet to you, but others will suspect that you’re gaming the system. What’s best? According to Review Trackers, the sweet spot is between 4.0 to 4.5. What’s your ranking?
With that said, it is also clear that size does matter. According to a Salsify consumer report, consumers expect over 100 reviews to have confidence in the results and, conversely, a low number of reviews makes the consumer less likely to believe a high rating. Think about it next time you review your numbers relative to your key competitors.
Strategies for Creating Great Reviews
So what can you do if you have a low rating and/or a low number of reviews? Here are some tried and tested strategies to consider and apply in your dealership:
- Make sure your sales process ends with a review request. Make it easy… Provide a card and send an email. If you want to take an extra step to increase your response rate, have your sales associates take selfies with their guests, or just take a regular photo, and then send the photo with the email request. This little “gift” reinforces the positive which is always a good thing.
- Use one of the many online tools to automate your review requests. Many dealers use automated tools to send out review requests using sales data from your DMS. These tools take a burden off your shoulders and ensure that request is always sent. Our recommendation is to do this, but to still include emails from the sales associates. Under these circumstances, the customer will get a request from the GM after they get a personal appeal from the sales associate. Work it right by having the GM’s email acknowledge that they might have received a request from the sales associate, and it will seem natural.
- Always respond to your reviews and include a messaging strategy when you do it. We see way too many dealers leaving reviews unanswered. This is really bad for multiple reasons:
- Responding impacts Google’s search ranking algorithm.
- You should always own your message and respond to good and bad reviews alike.
- Bad reviews always tell you something about your business (see that one next).
- Therefore, to make your review responses as beneficial to you and your future customers as possible, outline a messaging strategy that helps your SEO and tells your story in multiple ways (to keep interest). Respond to reviews by reinforcing the geographical areas you serve, how you are different from your competitors, and anything else that makes your dealership special.
- Use bad reviews to improve your business. There is a dealer in Chicago that taught us this philosophy years ago. He always sees negative reviews as insight to breakdowns in his business operations. In his view, and I agree, it is important to respond to these reviews immediately by calling the customer. This shows how serious you are about customer service, can often put you in the driver’s seat to fix the problem, and give you an opportunity to ask the customer to change the review after they have been satisfied. Allen says two things: 1. There are always difficult people you can’t help, but that is just a small number of people; and 2. Those you can help often change their review rating.
- Share, share, and share again to let people know that you’re loved. You can leave the reviews to tell their own story on Google, review sites, and your website, but it is also good to share them to reinforce their message. You can share them on social media with a comment about the customer and how much you enjoyed helping them, or, if you are really adventurous, you can shoot a short video about the review. Videos are beloved by social media. A short video that reinforces your messaging strategy, recites the review, thanks the customer, and then invites others to contact you, is a cost-free way to generate leads.
Remember, around 90% of your future customers will check online reviews before they choose to buy from you. Leaving the review rating, your total number of reviews, and the messaging around your reviews up to chance is a good way to cost your dealership money.
If you need help, contact me. We can walk you through how you can improve your review management and even provide software to automatically generate new review requests.
Good reviews make money. Go out and get that cash!
Adam Dennis, SurgeMetrix