Online Reputation management is something that The Dealer Geek nation is being sold, coached, and frightened into caring about. I thought who better than my main man Mitch Gallant, who works out of the Regina Ford Dealer Capital Ford to do a little Q & A with.
Q: Mitch, can you give our readers an overview of your position at Capital Auto Group?
You bet, my title is Director of Marketing and Communications. Under that umbrella I help our business development centre (BDC), our marketing team and our front end customer service folks do the best job they can each day, and oversee those 3 departments.
Q: How important is a dealer’s online reputation and how long have you been super focused on this for your stores?
I think that reputation in general has to be a priority and trying to divide your online from your offline reputation would be a messy thing, being that they’re one in the same thing. Customers are looking to make a purchase from a dealership they know will stand behind what they sell and make the ownership experience a pleasant one. Your online reputation is the easiest way for customers to get a feel for how their shopping and ownership experience will be and so I think it’s a critical part of dealership operations. For our dealers, we’ve always been focused on reputation but our online strategy has been in place for no more then 2 years.
Q: Give me the low down on how you became the DealerRater Dealer of the Year for 2012?
When you’re first in you have a great advantage. That aside, our GM is focused on our reviews and has incorporated it into some contests as an element of VOC. We have all our directors on board as to why reviews are important. You hear “top down” all the time and this is no exception. We have a yearly awards banquet and DealerRater is one of the trophies and we try to show our sales guys how it can be beneficial as part of the selling process, and we’re always talking about them to get reviews deeper and deeper into our day to day. The end result was winning DealerRater’s dealer of the year award for Canada.
I’d also have to point to some inspiration from guys like Andrew DiFeo and Craig Belowski. They’re two guys who crush results with DealerRater in the US. They let me pick their brains, and it helped a ton!
Q: How much energy did you spend on Google Reviews vs sites like DealerRater and Yelp?
It’s hard to say because we try to have all our sales staff and our service BDC staff working on it all the time and looking for opportunities but personally I’d say about an hour a week I’ll look at our Reputation Management report. DealerRater gives you notices of all reviews so if there’s a bad one we jump on it and we try to do the same with Google, whenever we notice a poor review. Overall it’s a small time investment for the impact.
Q: Were you impacted by the recent changes with Google Reviews?
Yeah, we where at about 30 reviews with a 29/30 rating and now we’re down to 10 reviews at a 28/30 so not a big drop but it’s a huge bummer because of how much work it seems to take us to get Google reviews. For whatever reason only about 5% of our database uses Gmail accounts so getting Google reviews is tough slugging. The end game for Google is to reduce spam and increase integrity which is in everyone’s interest so it’s not all bad, but I won’t deny that losing legit reviews is a let down.
Q: Do you receive a lot of call from vendors offering outsourced Online Reputation Management and how do you feel about that strategy?
We don’t take that many calls but when we do it’s a short conversation. At the end of the day if you’re outsourcing your reputation management you just don’t get it. I’d hate to offend anyone but I feel the strategy of outsourcing your reputation is lazy, short sighted and the biggest mistake you’ll make all year. You can game for short term results but this isn’t a short term sale or campaign, this is business at it’s core. You wouldn’t let some kid in Florida review your financial statement and coach you on how to run your business, would you?
Q: Can you give me an example of when positive online reviews made the difference on sale?
I hate to generalize but it happens almost daily when we’re working with online leads. It’s one of the first things we send the customers as a reference to how their experience will be with us and when we ask if they received the link and looked at the reviews you can instantly tell the difference it makes.
Q: How hard is it to get salespeople involved in the process of harnessing positive reviews?
It’s a pain in the ass but it’s like anything, you have to show them the impact it can have for them and how they can use the tool to their benefit in order to get any help. To do that you have to know the system yourself so dig in and give presentations on the benefits to reviews and reputation management for themselves. One of our core values at our dealerships is “Intrapreneurial” so we play on that to show them why this is good for their business.
Q: What would your advice be to dealers out there that fell asleep and just realised they are in a negative situation?
DO NOT BUY YOURSELF OUT OF THE PROBLEM, DO IT THE RIGHT WAY. It won’t take you a month to work your database and find customers who can help you. Start with your friends and family to get the positive review count up, and use email marketing to campaign for more reviews. You can create some POS material to give to and we’ve found that the F&I office is a great place to request reviews.
Q: Last question Mitch. Are you going Back to Back with the DealerRater Title?
Have you been impacted by Google’s recent changes? Outsource reputation management or take care of business yourself?