Of late, I’ve been doing a lot of work for big international brands with coast to coast dealer networks.
If you’re a manufacturer, say of cars, and a consumer has a terrible dealer experience for which you receive a 1-star Yelp review, what recourse do you have? What if it wasn’t just one review, but dozens or hundreds? After all, you didn’t sell or service the car.
On the other hand, what if you are dealer and, unbeknownst to you, you take delivery of a ‘lemon’ and as a result of selling that ‘lemon’ to a consumer, you receive a swarm of negative reviews on your Yelp, Google, Facebook, DealerRater, and Cars.com pages. What if that ‘lemon’ was caused by a defective part impacting dozens of vehicles you leased or sold? After all, you didn’t manufacture the car.
The issue here is that the consumer (good, bad, or indifferent) doesn’t always know who to credit or blame for their experience. In the case of the brand, which is often the primary driver for a consumer purchase, the manufacturer is the ultimate neck to choke. The manufacturer is perceived to have deep pockets and an overarching desire to protect the brand they’ve spent so much time and money to build.
We’ve all seen what one misstep captured in a viral video can do to brand value.
This blog will focus on the challenge from the manufacturers perspective and I’ll take on the dealer view in a future installment (though, if you’re a dealer, read on, as you may pick up some nifty tidbits).
Let’s start by examining where most consumers get their reviews according to a Bright Local survey:
Now let’s look at where dealers of a large national brand are focusing their efforts. This data was gathered from the reviews sites of over 50 dealerships nationwide:
Do you see any disconnects here? How about the over emphasis on Yelp reviews or how the dealerships ignore BBB altogether? BBB may not be the hippest reviews site on the internet, but according to Bright Local, it still comprises 15% of all ‘trusted’ reviews searches. Yellow Pages is 10% of trusted reviews search and represents 0% of the reviews for over 50 dealers! Facebook is 20% of reviews search, but only 12% of dealer reviews. Google isn’t off by much (16% vs 13%), but still 19% below target.
As a brand, your reputation is everything. That’s why you can slap Jeep, Polaroid, Rolex, General Electric, etc on anything and people will buy it. It’s all about trust.
When you allow a dealer to use your brand, consumers expect the same quality as if they bought it directly from you. If your dealer has a 3.5 rating on Yelp, you have a 3.5 on Yelp, and visa versa. You and your dealer network are in the same boat and have a common goal – provide the consumer with the best experience so they will be inclined to share that experience with others in person and online.
Only they don’t, at least not without some encouragement.
As I’ve written many times before, angry customers are 11-13x more likely to leave a review than a happy one. Thus, your brand and those representing it already have the deck stacked against them.
Step one is to make it super easy for happy customers to leave reviews.
Look at this sample data taken from a subset the dealers in this study. Notice how their reviews focus is literally all over the place:
Some throw everything they have at Yelp while others are Facebook fanatics while still others drive all of their reviews to sites that didn’t even get an honorable mention in Bright Local’s survey. Worse, most pay Google short shrift.
Same for the star ratings:
How can a one dealer have 5 stars on Google and a single star on Yelp while another has zero Yelp or Google reviews but five stars on Facebook?
This is a simple lack of standardization, and if it goes on too long, your brand will suffer.
I imagine a time very soon when brands will standardize on SAAS based reputation management platforms and include specific instructions in their branding guidelines favoring some reviews sites over others, provide best practices for replying to public online feedback, and even mandate the use of their selected platform.
An added benefit of standardization is the ability to police the dealers in a single interface across the universe of reviews sites and take proactive action before negative reviews get out of hand:
Until this happens, manufacturers and brands will be magnets for negative online reviews when dealers are unable to satisfy customers. Tools like NetPromoter Score only go so far toward accomplishing these goals.
Most customers will say one thing on a survey and quite another online as this TripAdvisor survey demonstrates:
Plus, your prospects don’t read your net-promoter score on Yelp, they just scan for one-star reviews to see what can possibly go wrong if they do business with you or one of your brand ambassadors. Most consumers wouldn’t know what a net-promoter score was if it rear-ended them in a parking lot.
Your goals as a brand are to standardize online reviews management, collect and direct those reviews to the places where they have the most impact, build a reputation hedge around yourself and your brand ambassadors, use negative feedback to improve your business, and do this all before you competitors figure it out.
Based on the calls I’m receiving, if you’re reading this, you’re already late to the party. Time to make reputation standardization a priority.