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The Perils of Trying to Control Consumer Reviews | DrivingSales News

The Perils of Trying to Control Consumer Reviews

August 8, 2014 0 Comments


Third party review sites are everywhere. Yelp! Google, Facebook, and TripAdvisor.com are household names, and no doubt, if you operate a business, there are a handful of other sites that consumers have visited to learn about you. How you deal with your consumer reviews, whether positive or negative, is up to you, however, one approach that a New York Hotel had taken resulted in viral implications the business owner never imagined.

According to this article, the Union Street Guest House in New York was prepared to impose a $500 fine for every bad online review written by guests that booked their stays for a wedding or other event. With over 200 reviews on Yelp! that averaged a meager 1.5 stars, the hotel’s ownership sought harsh financial means to control and discourage the reviews rather than address concerns or improve their customer’s experience.

Bad reviews and poor experiences are part of being in business. Abraham Lincoln’s infamous quote: “You can please some of the people some of the time, all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time but you can never please all of the people all of the time.” Of course, back in the day, good and bad reviews only traveled about as far as the person next to you. Today, with a few keystrokes, we can tell not only our friends on Facebook, but also the whole world.

What is your strategy when it comes to reviewing and responding to reviews at your dealership? Do you have a department or a designated person at your store or at the corporate level that monitors reviews on social media and third party sites? Whether good or bad, do they respond in a timely manner to the reviewer? Do they have the authority to remedy any outstanding customer concerns? Does ownership or management have a pulse on what is happening in the virtual world or are they oblivious to what the general public has said about the store they operate?

It’s long been known that car dealerships have less than stellar reputations compared to other industries, and savvy consumers do more research than ever before deciding where to buy or service their vehicle. Checking recent customer comments on the most popular consumer review websites is just one of the steps in their decision making process.

Let’s face it, most people take very little time to write reviews or offer star ratings. The reasons for not doing so are countless but we can generalize that many consumers either don’t have time, don’t feel they are qualified to write a review (or feel they do not have the ability to write one) or they will leave it up to others to speak on their behalf. Those that do have a voice tend to take the high road (positive, “completely satisfied” / 5-star reviews) or the low road (negative / 1 or 2-star reviews). Does your dealership see this trend?
How we respond to the positive review can be just as vital as how we respond and handle a negative review. Do you have a reward system at your dealership for employees that receive a positive review? Do you publicize this to motivate them to provide better service and more positive reviews?

Positive surveys and happy, satisfied customers are the lifeblood of our business. But if we truly aren’t conscious of our overall online reputation, these surveys are superficial.

Our customers are our voice and influence our reputation, not only online and in our community but also in the eyes and ears of the dealership owners and the OEM. We need to take the time to understand why customers say something good or bad about our dealership and employees. There is a lot we can do at the dealership to influence the hearts and minds of our customers and we can learn a lot by the reviews they provide us. We can encourage positive reviews, but we can’t penalize those that voice what we would rather not hear.

Like it or not, reviews and review sites are not going away, so we might as well as embrace them. Even though we can’t please all of the people all of the time, we can take steps to remedy poor customer experiences before they go viral and it is outside of our control.

[Note: Since this article was written, the owner of the hotel has issued an apology that indicated that the whole policy was intended as a joke and was never enforced. While we’ll probably never know whether that statement is fact, what we do know is that it will be an uphill battle for the hotel to repair its online reputation and convince guests – both past and potential – of its sincerity.]

About the Author:

The DrivingSales News team is dedicated to breaking the relevant and the tough stories affecting car dealers. Have questions for DrivingSales News? Reach the team at news@drivingsales.com.

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