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Why Negative Reviews Can Help Dealers

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Who’s afraid of negative reviews? Car shoppers certainly are not. And neither should dealerships.

Recently, DealerRater surveyed hundreds of recent and prospective car buyers to understand their perceptions of online reviews. Eighty three percent told us that they find positive reviews either somewhat useful or very useful[1]. But nearly as many — 77 percent – also feel the same way about negative reviews:

Usefulness of online review content

Shoppers don’t like to read negative reviews for the sake of reading negative feedback. They find negative reviews useful as a way to provide a counterweight to positive reviews, especially when the reviews provide detail. Negative reviews won’t necessarily turn away shoppers; rather, a mix of positives and negatives may help shoppers understand and prioritize a vehicle’s attributes against the shopper’s personal wants and needs. In fact, a few negative reviews can make the positive reviews more credible.

Negative reviews can help you in a number of ways. They are an opportunity for you to:

  • Negative reviews may make you aware of pain points about vehicles and your own dealership. If consumers are consistently complaining about the quality of the maintenance service you provide, or about their sales experience on the lot, then you have some powerful motivation to correct whatever triggered the complaints. In a sense, consumers who speak up are doing you a favor by giving you a chance to correct a problem.
  • Demonstrate how responsive and caring you are. As I noted in a recent blog post, responding tactfully to criticism tells potential customers that you care about their opinions and are committed to excellent customer service.
  • Educate customers when appropriate. Negative reviews might point to a misunderstanding or lack of awareness about a vehicle or your dealership. For instance, if you have evidence that your vehicles are consistently priced more attractively than competitors’ inventory, your sharing this information will provide a perspective should a customer complain about the price of vehicles on your lot.

The key to putting negative reviews to work for you are to learn from them and to respond. Doing so is not always easy. Most dealers would rather focus on selling cars than spending part of their day responding to criticism. But failing to respond to reviews suggests to customers that they will have an indifferent experience at your dealership. As I blogged recently, it’s important to respond by demonstrating empathy and resolve. Let the customer know you are sorry they had a bad experience and indicate that you are taking follow up action.

For more insight into responding to reviews (both negative and positive), check out The DealerRater Guide to Online Reviews: Leveraging Reviews for a Competitive Edge. Don’t run from negative reviews. Benefit from them.

[1] Source: DealerRater, Car Shoppers Are Judging You: How Digital Word of Mouth Influences Your Sales, January 2017. We performed a quantitative survey of 503 recent and prospective car buyers from November 3 to 15, 2016.