Picture this: You’ve just finished dinner at a new restaurant with your friends. The food was delicious, service impeccable. As you’re walking out, you pass by the owner of the restaurant and share an enthusiastic “Thank you!”.  But instead of smiling warmly and thanking you in return for your business, the owner just stares blankly back at you, not responding, and watches silently as you walk out the door. 

Hmm. Kind of a disappointing and awkward way to end an otherwise great experience, huh? 

Now imagine the same situation playing out digitally at your dealership. A customer has just made the second largest purchase of their life, and they’re riding high after a great customer experience at your store. They make the effort to go online and spend time writing a glowing review of your dealership. And then…crickets. No response from your dealership. No “thanks for those kind words” or “thank you for your business.” An opportunity to turn a happy customer into a loyal customer slips away. If you’re not responding to reviews, this is the best-case scenario.

The stakes are much higher when your dealership inevitably receives poor feedback from a customer. And believe me, this will happen – no one and no business is perfect. But if you don’t take the time to respond to this customer’s concerns with an acknowledgment, apology and action steps to resolve, you risk not only losing a customer (and missing out on their referrals) but also negatively impacting the perception of potential customers that are shopping for the right dealership to work with. Customers don’t expect perfection, but they do expect that a dealership they’re about to spend a lot of money with knows how to make it right when they fall short.

The supporting data is overwhelming. According to BrightLocal’s 2019 Local Consumer Review Survey, a commanding 97% of customers read businesses’ responses to reviews. That’s pretty much everyone. But this is the kicker: 71% of customers are more likely to use a business that’s responding to reviews. The punchline? Responding matters, and it matters big-time. If you’re not responding to reviews, particularly bad ones, prepare for potential customers to pass you by. 

And let’s not ignore the many health benefits of a comprehensive review response strategy. Not only do well-crafted responses help attract potential customers, they also are literally an invitation for you to contribute SEO-rich content that benefits your local search results. Google has not been shy about promoting the fact that reviews and responses are top factors in local search rankings.

Dealers are getting better at responding to reviews, but still have a long way to go. On the DealerRater platform, only 43% of the nearly 1.2 million reviews submitted by consumers in 2019 were responded to. This is up from 38% in 2018 and 33% in 2017, so at least the trend is in the right direction.

The major review platforms – DealerRater, Cars.com, Google and Facebook all provide the ability for dealerships to respond publicly to consumer reviews free of charge. Take advantage of them. Engage with your customers after the sale or service visit, and adopt a comprehensive response strategy in 2020 for all reviews, not just negative ones. It’s one best practice you can’t afford to ignore anymore.

Would you like some help with responding to reviews? DealerRater’s new AutoResponse product can help. You can learn more or schedule a demo at dealerrater.com/dealers.