Negative and intentionally false online comments
In 2010 dealers spent more on online advertisements than print media. The explanation is simple: Greater than three-fourths of new-vehicle buyers (79%) use the Internet during the shopping process. However, spending money on online advertisements alone, will not bring customers to your dealership. You must also have a positive online reputation.
Potential customers conduct Internet searches about you, both before traveling to your dealership, and at your dealership by using their mobile telephone. Negative comments, whether honestly or falsely made, will impact the customer’s vehicle purchase decision. You must control and own your online reputation to keep customers open to purchasing a vehicle from your dealership.
Proactive steps in addressing negative online comments
Take proactive steps to control your online reputation:
1. First, publish new web sites, blogs and other-like online content that provide positive comments about your dealership.
2. Second, at least once a week monitor your online reputation by conducting Internet searches at various search engines and specific industry-related web sites to discover any negative posts about your dealership.
3. Finally, when you discover negative posts about your dealership, analyze and determine the most effective way to address the negative online comment.
In addressing negative online comments about your dealership, be sure to copy the URL (i.e., web site address) of the negative online comment, or “bookmark”/add it to your “favorites.” When revisiting the negative online comment, go directly to it. Do not continue to view the negative online comment by conducting an Internet search and then hitting the link to it. If you do, then you tell the search engines that this negative online comment is relevant and warrants a top search result for your dealership. Second, save a copy of the negative online comment by printing it or saving it as a PDF file.
There is no “cookie cutter” approach to analyzing a negative comment. Each negative online comment has its own unique set of facts that will ultimately determine the best approach to manage it. Some facts to analyze include:
- Determining the specific situation complained about.
- Was it published anonymously.
- Where was it posted.
- Did it contain your company name, slogan(s) or any of your advertisement content.
- Was it an opinion or designed to damage your business.
Addressing negative comments by customers
In addressing negative comments which have been placed by customers of the dealership, your options include (i) quietly and quickly removing negative online comments from the website; (ii) post a proactive reply that discloses how you addressed the situation and prevented it from reoccurring; and, if the customer appears determined to damage the dealership through repeated postings, have experienced legal counsel contact the individual demanding he/she cease or be subjected to legal claims.
Addressing negative comments designed to damage reputation
In addressing negative comments, which are not based upon a customer’s opinion but are instead designed to damage the dealership’s reputation (i.e. from a competitor’s employee), in addition to the steps listed above in handling negative customer comments, the dealership must involve experienced legal counsel to immediately stem the flow of damage. Legal counsel should contact the wrongdoer and his/her employer enlightening them of the circumstances, demanding an immediate stop to the fraudulent activity and, where appropriate, seeking damages. Often your dealership name, slogans, website content and online ads are the subject matter of the fraudulently placed online comments. In that case, the dealership can be very effectively protected through federal trademark and copyright law.
Online negative and fraudulent postings have become such a serious threat to auto dealerships that Bass Sox Mercer has brought on board a highly experienced attorney specializing in online reputation management as well as trademark and copyright law. They assist our dealer clients in analyzing negative online comments and efficiently resolving those matters with the goal of minimizing damage to the dealership’s reputation with customers.
By being proactive and knowing your legal rights, you will more effectively control and protect your online reputation.