Whether you’re looking into restaurants for date night or booking hotels for your long-awaited overseas vacation, chances are you’ve factored Google reviews into your decision-making more often than not. And when your customers are trying to decide where to book their next oil change or whether the dealership across town will offer them a more pleasant purchase experience, there’s little doubt they’re doing the exact same thing.
Google reviews appear directly in search results and Maps listings. These ratings are therefore front and center when internet users search for your dealership or any local automotive-related service, meaning they play a crucial role in your dealership’s online reputation. Here’s a closer look at why such a simple process makes an enormous difference in how customers perceive your business and how to effectively manage these reviews to your advantage.
Why Google reviews matter
Your current and potential customers read them. According to the 2020 Local Consumer Review Survey by marketing management software firm BrightLocal, 87% of the consumers they surveyed read online reviews for businesses last year. More critically, only 48% of those consumers would consider engaging with a business with a rating of fewer than four stars, and automotive is among the top five industries for which consumers seek these reviews out. Clearly, this portion of your online reputation matters a great deal.
Google reviews are connected to search rankings. Google uses a business’s reviews to determine how it will rank in search results and Maps queries. A higher star rating, therefore, makes it more likely that potential customers will come across your dealership while searching online.
They offer low-cost, authentic marketing. Provided they’re well-managed, Google reviews are an affordable and authentic form of marketing for your dealership. Digital reviews from real people function as well as word-of-mouth in building trust and confidence among your client base.
How to manage Google reviews
Register for Google My Business and put someone in charge of it. Larger dealership groups are likely to hire an agency to manage the high volume of Google reviews that will come in. Smaller groups or independents may benefit from giving this task to a digital marketing manager or someone with similar skills. If you haven’t already done so, go to business.google.com to verify that you own the business. This allows you to make changes to your dealership’s profile and opt in to be notified whenever a new review is posted. While you’re there, make sure any other relevant information is accurate such as your website, phone number, and hours of operation.
Respond to all reviews, both positive and negative. Proactively responding to reviews shows that you’re actively monitoring your account and that you care about what your customers think. According to a 2018 study by Harvard Business Review, responding to all customer reviews, both positive and negative, typically results in an overall higher rating.
Responding to positive reviews is relatively easy: provide a personalized response, including a name if possible, and thank that customer publicly. Negative reviews can be trickier to navigate. Start by taking the complaint seriously and performing an internal assessment to determine the cause of the issue. Then, respond to that issue directly in a polite response. Be up front about any mistakes that were made, and offer one-on-one contact with the customer to resolve the problem. If the customer accepts your offer, he or she may later decide to update the review, but it’s important not to ask for this. If Google later determines that you attempted to influence the review, it may be removed and your ranking penalized.
If you suspect that a review is fake – which is often easy to determine by searching for the user’s name in your customer database and asking internally about the details of the complaint – then it is possible to flag it with Google and request its removal.
Ask your loyal customers for reviews once they leave your dealership. While it’s important not to ask explicitly for positive reviews or to provide any sort of incentive, asking all of your customers to post a review is fair game. This can be accomplished through a review page on your website, a paper business card stapled to each receipt, or even simply a verbal request. Some businesses ask for reviews through email campaigns or by posting requests on social media.
Learn from them. Every Google review, whether positive or negative, is an opportunity to improve. From finding out which of your employees is delivering exceptional customer service to sussing out bottlenecks or pain points for customers, this chance to learn about how best to serve your clients is one of the most valuable services Google reviews can provide.