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How Negativity Helps Your Dealership


What happens when someone is upset with your dealership?

While many people might go home and vent to a spouse or friend, negative experiences tend to result in negative reviews on Google, Yelp, Facebook or other sites such as DealerRater.

A public tirade on your store’s brand is enough to make even the best sales or marketing manager cringe. And while it’s important to yield favorable reviews, it’s the outcome of the negativity that actually improves your star rating over time.

Sure, you can (and should) respond to negative reviews with humility and professionalism, but how many of those negative reviews result in a real, honest, tangible change at your store?

There is a big difference between a hot belligerent rant and a constructively critical review. Here’s how to turn negative experiences into positive changes at your dealership.

1. Create an inviting home for negativity

Especially here in the Midwest, in-person interactions tend to glaze over honest opinions. Even if the person is feeling like they’re being ripped off by your salesman or service advisor, he or she might feel uncomfortable with sharing that sentiment at the store.

For that reason, it’s important to make your intentions clear and sincere to every customer: 1. You (hopefully) are striving to provide the best possible service.  2. You are open to any feedback regarding the customer experience and 3.  you’ll actually change as a result of the feedback.

Also, it’s important to set the customer’s expectations. Explain why the manufacturer is asking for reviews via email, and why they’re also getting review requests from Edmunds.com, DealerRater and the like.

Think about it this way: If you don’t want the person to leave a one or two star review in a highly-visible place like Google or Facebook, show them a different (more private) place to do so. Better yet – make them feel welcome to share negativity in that place. After all, you’re benefitting from it.

So, how do you get people to that safe place? Ask them for the rating first. This allows you to respond immediately by diverting them to the page or site where they can best be heard and considered.

2. Ask the right questions

Once you have the upset person browsing to your negativity page, it’s important to ask the right questions to get to the heart of the matter. Make a beautiful form for them to fill out, and don’t be afraid to get deep.

It’s also important to stay neutral. Don’t slant your questions towards a desired outcome. Instead of “Was your experience satisfactory?” ask something like “How was your experience?”

Deep, open-ended questions to consider:

  • What could we have done to serve you better?
  • Where is improvement needed the most?
  • What can we do to improve our service?
  • How can we make things right with you?
  • What can we do to improve your star rating of our store?

If you’re raising an eyebrow at these questions, remember that the negativity page is controlled and private. Also, think about the answers and what you could do with them.

But what happens if they’re not in your negativity zone? What could you ask in response to a negative review on Google, for example? For our clients, we designate a point person for each department of the dealership. If the negative Google review is about service, we ask the person to provide more feedback by calling the Service Manager directly via email or phone (and we also provide the contact info).

We could take that a step further, though (and I would encourage you to test this idea). What if your store would respond with the standard “We value your feedback and … ” statements and also ask a question? What could you ask at this point? Call up that Service Manager yourself and ask her what she usually asks to start the conversation with the negative caller.

In theory, asking the question in the response to a negative review will not only make the whole process more efficient, but it would encourage the reviewer to actually call, and also show potential leads that your store cares enough to ask good, constructive questions that can result in positive change.

3. Make a positive change

Once you’ve funneled the negativity to the right place and collected the feedback with beautiful, thoughtful questions, it’s time to do some work.

What would that work look like? Maybe you need to sit down with your salesperson or service advisor and adjust the process. Perhaps you need to enable a finance manager to communicate directly with the customer rather than sending them around the horn. Or maybe you need to include disposal fees on your service quotes.

Whether its big and systematic or small and trivial, any change that turns negativity into positivity is worthwhile.

After that change happens, do some celebrating. Communicate the improvement to your employees and also to the person who felt welcome enough to suggest it.

What’s your experience?

Has your dealership made positive changes as the result of client feedback? Have you found some good practices? Share them with us in the comments!

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Image: Florida Memory