By Lawrence Papoff
When customers want to know about your store, where can they go? To friends, of course, if they’re one of your customers. But chances are they won’t know any of your customers. So what will they do? These days, they head to the Internet and click their way around and start by punching in your dealership’s name.
And that’s where DealerRater comes in.
DealerRater (DR) boasts it’s the first website where customers can go and read what people think about doing business at a given dealership. Founded in 2002, the site currently features more than 30,000 U.S. and international car dealers and 190,000 user reviews. Business in Canada started six months ago.
“We help consumers decide which one to visit based on the actual experiences of others,” Matt Lamoureux, DealerRater’s V-P of business development and strategic planning, told Canadian AutoWorld. “The savvy dealer takes time to build positive reviews by asking happy customers to write a review and they use that to build a competitive advantage.”
Lamoureux concedes that happy customers are the ones least likely to write a review. But he says the company has ways to motivate them.
First of all, ask them. Then hand them a rating reminder card supplied by DealerRater. And if that’s not enough, send them an email reminder designed to encourage them to write a review when they are most likely to be in the mood to write one: when they just got the email.
“The early adopter (DR subscriber) who asks happy customers to rate their store has an advantage. That store will stand out.”
He explains that below a dealership’s Google listing, the shopper will see a rating and the number of reviews a store has. Click on that and the customer can read all the reviews.
Below that are the first two of three lines of a review. Click on that and the shopper moves to the dealership’s DealerRater page.
All dealerships of a given brand are listed and get a page; only subscribing dealerships get to wear the orange DealerRater Certified badge on their page.
Benefits include regular staff online training sessions, held six times a week; all best practices are shared. DR sends all positive opinions to the dealership website. The store’s administrative staff is taught to use the back end tools. As for staff buy-in, he says that’s not difficult.
Each staff member – sales persons and service advisors – get their own page on the store’s website. Staffers are encouraged to get reviews from customers. All positive reviews go to the staffers page.
“This is the digital equivalent of the black binder full of endorsements from happy customers. If the (staff) person responds to an email, they can attach a link to the reviews, Lamoureux explains. “So it’s good for that sales person’s sales.”
And what about negative opinions about the dealership?
Subscribing or certified dealerships enjoy a 15-day cooling-off or reconciliation period. DR advises certified dealerships immediately of any negative opinion and supplies information.
Should the dealership fail to turn the negative opinion into a positive one, the opinion will be posted on the store’s DR page. There is no reconciliation period for non-subscribing dealers; all negative opinions will be posted immediately (after screening) to a non-subscribing dealer’s page.
“Then Google spots it and it goes on the Google search page … right next to the store’s map.”
But what about cheaters – dealers and staffers who write fraudulent opinions about theirs or competing stores? And what about defamatory reviews?
He warns that while the odd bogus opinion might slip through DR’s screening system, most get caught. He discussed some of the ways DR catches cheaters.
“Every computer has a unique address. When someone writes a review, we check the IP address and see the location of the computer that wrote the review. If it’s written within a dealership, that’s easy to red flag. If it’s written from someone’s home, we can find it.”
DR “red lists” dealerships caught cheating. In other words, a red warning message saying the store’s been caught writing bogus opinions will appear on the store’s page and stay there for six months.
“We also actively investigate all (negative) reviews with the onus on the customer to prove the incident did occur.”
Aware that there is an onus on the company to protect the reputation of not only subscribers, but non-subscribers as well, Lamoureux says, “We have hired a content moderator to read every review. As of January, every review will be read before being posted.”