Consumers increasingly use their smartphones to research which businesses they should patronize. These days, online reviews are a big part of that decision process. If managed incorrectly, these reviews can easily flip your prospective customer away from your dealership and into the lap of your competition. And it’s not just a bad review, it’s how you respond to them and interact with the customer. Responsiveness is key — Keep in mind that saying nothing is almost as bad as saying the wrong thing.
But what should you say when an upset customer takes to a review site and bashes you, your business, or your staff — when you weren’t even aware there was a problem?
An interesting article on Moz.com shares some great facts about online reviews and how to respond, both correctly and incorrectly
Owners and managers can feel blindsided when a negative review appears. Quite often they aren’t even aware of the problem. Most business owners and managers care about their businesses, value their customers and, when negative reviews appear, take them personally. To summarize the article, the owner of a food truck involved in a really busy festival woke up to a negative review from a customer complaining about the length of time it took to get the food and that the food itself was not equitable to the price paid. The owner essentially blasted the consumer with all sorts of excuses and some aggressive insults. This, in turn gave the consumer an even lower opinion of the business. As a result they edited the review from 2-stars to 1, making the situation even worse. The article dissects the actual review along with the owner’s response and shares how the author would have chosen to respond had they been in a similar situation.
Rather than rehash the whole article (which you should definitely read), I’ll focus on why responding appropriately to negative online reviews is so important.
When it comes to a negative online review, it is important to keep in mind that they are on public forums. They can be read by other prospective customers and are typically memorialized forever. In enough quantity, reviews can make or break your business. While each and every negative review due to a poor customer experience needs an individualized and appropriate response, it’s difficult to advise an umbrella policy. That being said, one easy rule to remember is this:
When reading and preparing a response to a negative online review, imagine that you’re standing in the middle of your showroom floor packed with customers who are considering buying a vehicle from you. The customer is directly in front of you stating their upset loudly enough for everyone to hear — both what the customer says and any response you give. Because of that, your response can impact whether or not other customers choose to complete their transactions with you.
This simple action can help you be more thoughtful in your response. It’s highly unlikely (hopefully) that you would rant at and insult this upset customer in front of the other customers.
In reality there is little, if any, difference between talking irately to a customer live in the showroom surrounded by other customers, or in responding abrasively to a negative online review – except for one major detail:
The potential size of your audience!
While the handful of customers in your showroom are the only people to witness this event, EVERY customer that visits your online review sites will witness it in perpetuity.
So which is more important? Well, they both are. How you handle a guest standing in front of you and fix a problem, or apologize for a mistake, is exactly how you should handle a customer online. It doesn’t matter whether you think the customer is wrong, is overreacting, or just trying to get something for nothing. Take your personal feelings out of the equation and focus on improving (or at least attempting to improve) THIS customer’s experience – which will also show every other customer that you care and would be willing to help them if a problem should arise.
People do business with people they like. Make sure that everything you do – whether that’s in person or in an online interaction – reinforces the message that you care about your customers and are willing to work hard to rectify any problem. You won’t be able to make everyone happy — but other prospective customers will see that you tried. And in the end, that’s all that really matters to them.
Author: Sara Callahan
Sara Callahan, Carter West Public Relations Founder & President
Sara Callahan is the Founder and President of Carter West Public Relations, one of the top agencies that specializes in retail automotive public relations.
Born in the United Kingdom, Sara Callahan re-located to the United States over twenty-five years ago and held executive positions in several marketing/communications firms before founding her own agency, Carter West Public Relations, in 1990.
Ms. Callahan’s particular strengths include community and media relations, content development, social media, campaign strategies, trade shows, special events, print and broadcast media placement.
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org