Most people don’t. Let’s face it… the old adage about a customer telling 3 people when they have good service but 20 people when they have poor service is even more true in this competitive market and down economy. And then throw the dynamism of the internet into the mix and the numbers instantly increase exponentially. Across the board, businesses spend exorbitant amounts of money on various advertising mediums, multiple marketing messages and spectacular corporate branding programs to gain name recognition and, ultimately, consumer interest and loyalty. However, it is a shameful waste when those efforts fail due to poor reputation management.
When it comes to protecting your business reputation the optimal place to start is the internet. It is effective, inexpensive, immediate and, in this day and age, essential to any truly aggressive business strategy. So whether your business has a reputation dilemma that needs to get fixed or no internet reputation to speak of yet, follow these 7 simple steps to online reputation nirvana.
1. Google yourself. (C’mon. You knew we had to start at the beginning.) Check out all of the organic listings that mention your business name as well as the reviews that come up next to your listing in the vertical search where the map is shown. Here are a few things to look for: Are there rip off reports and do they rank higher than your main website? Are there reviews and which sites are they from? Is there anything outdated or have dead links (old websites, for instance) that should be removed?
2. Set up your alerts. Google offers so many wonderful FREE tools. One of them is the Google Alerts feature. Go to Google and click on the link that says “More” and then click on “Even More” and you will be directed to a long list of options, the first of which is to set up your Alerts. Make one for every possible name a consumer may use to refer to you. For instance, if you are ABC Ford Dealership, you may want one for that as well as ABC Motors, ABC Cars, ABC Ford, etc. Once you have confirmed the alert setup, Google will then provide future notifications to you when anyone anywhere on the world wide web refers to your business name(s). Which leads us to #3…the tough part of the job. (I said they were simple…I didn’t say they were easy.)
3. Read all the reviews…and then Respond! Good, bad or indifferent, familiarize yourself with the reviews that are currently propagating through the internet about your business as well as the sites where the reviews were written. Some review sites will provide you with a 2 week grace period to respond to bad reviews and/or rectify the situations before they go online. Others may let you file a rebuttal which will also be posted. Either way, to have your side heard is of essential importance. Even if the complaint is a mile long and has pictures to prove it, a few well written words of understanding goes a very long way. First, Empathize with the customer, then Apologize for the situation, try to Rectify the problem and Solidify the relationship with a promise to serve them better in the future (EARS).
“Dear Mr. Smith. I understand that you had an unfortunate mishap during your recent visit to our dealership and that your car was returned from our service department an hour late with a scratch on the passenger door. I can understand why you are upset. I would be too if it had happened to me. On behalf of the entire staff at ABC Ford, I want to apologize for the problems you experienced as it is definitely not typical of the customer service for which we are known. In order to rectify the situation, I am prepared to have the scratch fixed at our body shop, offer you a complete car detail for free and give you a 50% discount toward your next service visit. Please ask for me directly and I will gladly take care of you personally to assure your satisfaction. We pride ourselves on providing world class customer service to our clients and I certainly hope you will give us the chance to rectify this situation. I look forward to hearing from you about this matter and thank you again for your continued patronage.”
Now how can you say no to that? But even all the sugar in the world may not win some people over. That’s ok. You can’t win ‘em all. However, everyone else is seeing that you made an honest effort to reconcile with the customer and make good. Most of the time, that’s all you need.
4. Buy up URLs. You’ve heard that saying that the best offense is a great defense. Well, when it comes to your internet strategy, no truer words could be spoken. Buy up all of the keyword rich URLs that are still available in your market and point them to your main website. Also, buy any URLs that are a derivative of your dealership name, too. For instance, ABC Ford should also buy up ABCcars, ABCmotors, ABCauto, etc. While you’re at it, you should also buy up all URLs that you can think of with a negative connotation. For example, IhateABCFord.com. Why? Simple. So that no one else can get their hands on them! Buying up URLs, whether you use them or just put them in your back pocket, is the most inexpensive and effective investment you can make in the future of your dealership.
5. Video Testimonials. Why not use video to reassure your prospects that they should choose you over the guy down the street? Believe it or not, your testimonials page is one of the most popular stops for your website visitors right behind the inventory and specials pages. And let’s face it, if you don’t toot your own horn, it’s likely no one else will do it for you. Start compiling a strong library of video testimonials of happy customers and post them on your main website as well as all of your dealership social media pages. Speaking of which…
6. Social Media. If you haven’t done it already, or you have been putting it off for some reason, well it is definitely time for you to join the rest of the world in the 21st century. Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Twitter are all inventive ways to promote your dealership. You can even set up a dealership blog, too. And you don’t have to constantly make it all about your current specials and incentives. Instead, share articles about the latest model about to hit the market, tell people about the little league team you are sponsoring or the Toys for Tots drive you will be hosting, post your latest video testimonial or show your latest TV commercial. Keep the information fresh and interesting and watch the number of “friends” and “fans” rise. So go ahead and do what all the cool kids are doing. Set up those social media pages and be sure to cross market them with each other and with your main dealership website. You may also want to check out a new social network and review site specifically for the auto industry, Carfolks.com. Dealership sales and service personnel can build a page for FREE on this dealer advocate site and invite their customers to share their buying or servcie experience online so other prospects can find highly rated sales team members.
7. Out with the bad and in with the good! Be sure to encourage your happy clients to write about their experiences online. Suggest it at the very end of a successful transaction so it stays fresh in their mind and point them to websites like Edmunds.com, Dealerrater.com or even Google and let them know that their kind words are deeply appreciated. (Thanking them online always looks good too.) The more good reviews you collect online, the farther down and less important the bad ones appear.
Stay on it! While all of this sounds like it will leave little time for much else, the effort is well worth it! Keeping up with all of these items on a daily basis can be streamlined to as little as 15 minutes. Remember if you don’t create your online reputation a disgruntled customer may do it for you!
For more information on protecting yourself online contact TKCarsites on the web at www.tkcarsites.com or call Toll Free 800-899-7791