It's a dead horse and we're beating it. However, we'll keep going indefinitely if that's what it takes to hammer the point across that car dealers should do everything they can to receive negative feedback from their customers.

It isn't what dealers want to hear. It's what they need to hear. There isn't a business in America that makes 100% of their customers happy 100% of the time. The car business is no different. If anything, there is a greater level of passion coming from people who either satisfied or dissatisfied with their automotive experience that with other experiences because of the importance of vehicles in our society.

Nobody like to make people upset to the point that they complain, but dealers should be hoping to address those complaints as soon as they happen. A lot of reputation management companies try to sweep these potential complaints under the rug, but that's not the right strategy. Dealers should do everything they can to encourage upset customers to communicate with them directly. That does not mean sending out a survey to test the waters before asking them to contact you. It doesn't work as well and lingering negative feelings can manifest into visible negative reviews down the line.

The First Email

Here's the problem with the two-email concept that most reputation management companies employ. It dramatically reduces the number of people who respond the second time. For those who are not familiar with the technique, here's how it works:

  • Customer emails are pulled from the DMS
  • A survey is sent to them asking if they had a positive or negative experience at the dealership
  • If it comes back positive, a second email is sent asking them to leave a review on sites like Yelp and Google+
  • If it comes back negative, a second email is sent asking them to contact the dealership with their complaint

This format has one fatal flaw. It assumes that once you ask people their opinion, that they're going to open another email later asking them their opinion. It doesn't work. Those who already complained once are less likely to even open the second email, let alone to go through and leave a review. To maximize both positive reviews left publicly online and negative reviews sent discreetly to the dealership, it should all be done in a single email.

Ask for both. You'll get more positive reviews. You'll get more direct negative feedback. It's a win-win.

Address it Now so They won't Complain Later

A positive experience is great and the customer will remember it for days or even weeks, letting their friends and family know about it any time they ask. A negative experience can linger for years.

Just because someone has a bad experience and doesn't leave a negative review today doesn't mean that they won't leave a negative review in the future. All it takes is a reminder. Maybe they see a commercial on television while they have their iPad in their hands and they think, "Those guys really screwed me. I need to speak my mind."

Maybe their car has troubles and it's a reminder that they didn't want to buy the car in the first place. Maybe they don't have a Yelp account at the time of purchase but a few months later they do. There are plenty of reasons why someone would leave a negative review well after the time of purchase. It happens to dealers all the time. If it had been addressed up front, giving the dealership an opportunity to express empathy or try to make things right, perhaps the future negative review could have been avoided.

Most Want to be Heard

There's a perception that people leave negative reviews because they want to burn a dealership. This is usually not the case. They simply want to be heard, to let someone know that they weren't happy with their experience.

It doesn't have to be public. Through the one-step email method to dramatically increase the amount of negative feedback, it's easier for a dealership to address their unhappy customers' concerns before they're allowed to linger and percolate.

Some people want to burn the dealership with a negative review no matter what they do to avoid it. That can't be helped. Thankfully, the majority of people simply want to know that someone is aware of their bad experience and is willing to discuss making amends.

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  • Great points! That's why our programs at DealerRater are designed to let dealers know about the good, bad and ugly. When it happens, as it happens.
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