How to handle negative reviews

Posted by Meg Bernazzani on February 6, 2019

A bad online review can be a golden opportunity for a dealer to shine

One day you decide to see what people are saying about your dealership online and you’re appalled at what you find: someone left a scathing one-star review! You immediately feel enraged and want to lash out at the reviewer because they’re giving people a false impression of your business.

But before you do anything hasty, take a moment to consider the best course of action. Bad reviews are a fact of life in today’s digital world where anyone can leave one on platforms such as Facebook, Google, Yelp, and Yahoo – not to mention auto shopping sites like CarGurus. There’s a smart way to handle the situation, and when done right you can improve your company’s reputation.

See bad reviews as a chance to show you’re paying attention to your customers

According to a survey by Dimensional Research, 88% of people are affected by what they read in online reviews when making buying decisions. And, our own research shows that 70% of CarGurus shoppers always look at a dealer’s reviews before contacting them.* Those stats are why you should care about what reviews say — but don’t let it get under your skin when bad ones come up.

A bad review is your chance to show that you’re paying attention to what your customers are saying and that you care about their satisfaction. If you ignore a bad review it can make it look like you don’t care.

Bad reviews can even help your business. AdWeek reported in 2017 that interacting with negative reviews can boost conversion by up to 67%. It seems the old saying is true; there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

Reach out to reviewers with empathy

When it comes to responding to bad reviews, cooler heads should prevail. Never respond in anger. Approach the situation with a calm and rational demeanor. Start out by thanking them for offering feedback, and then say that you’re sorry they had a bad experience and you want to make things right.

In your response, aim to focus on three key things:

  • Own up to the issue. Recognize the customer’s problem and accept fault.
  • Explain your solution and show how future customers won’t have that problem.
  • Offer something to make up for their trouble. It could be a refund, a discount, a free tune-up, for example.

Note that it doesn’t matter who was actually in the wrong. Yes, some customers are obstinate and demanding—but your online reviews are not the place to sort that out. A positive response demonstrates that your business is listening to customer concerns.

Prompt satisfied customers to leave reviews

A Bright Local survey found that 84% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. A great way to fight back against bad reviews is to encourage satisfied customers to leave good ones. If the good reviews greatly outnumber the bad, this will minimize the latter’s damage.

There are many ways you can prompt customers to leave reviews:

  • Follow up with customers who found you through CarGurus a couple of weeks after purchase and ask them to leave a review on the CarGurus site.
  • Offer coupons, discounts, or extras to customers who leave online reviews.
  • Post signs and stickers around your dealership promoting the review sites that you’re on.
  • Put a note on customer invoices prompting them to leave an online review.

When asking for a review, it’s important not to insist that the review be positive. Reviews must be honest to be effective.

Ultimately, a bad review is better than no review because it can be used to elevate your company’s reputation. When it’s time to respond, apply these tips to handle it like a pro.

*CG Purchase Intent Study, Jul 2017, n=1,917
*CG Purchase Intent Study, Jul 2018, n=51
Topics: reputation management, reviews