For about 25 years I ran an after sale follow up program for auto dealers nationwide. We sent out a lovely tin of cookies to the customers of these dealerships shortly after the sale. The customers never expected it. Frankly, they could not imagine that their car dealer would make such a gesture AFTER the sale, after the profit was made. We enclosed a Thank You card, hand signed by us, with the salesman’s signature. It was a personal touch that always seemed to resonate with the customers. They anticipated that the dealership really cared. Enclosed with this Thank You card was a bounce-back, stamped questionnaire card that asked for comments and evaluations as well as for referrals. This Mini CSI gave the dealerships an advance warning as to what the customers might tell the factories when they sent out their more elaborate CSI questionnaires three or four weeks later. It enabled the dealers to dwell on the negative responses so that they could change these perceptions before they came to the factory’s attention.
Fast forward more than 20 years and dealerships have a lot more to be concerned about than their factory’s opinion. The advent and explosion of social media has brought a dealer’s “dirty laundry” out in the open, far outside the dealer/factory private world. Now everyone can be privy to a bad experience some customers might have had with their dealer, whether the area is sales or service. Sites like Yelp readily tell the world what customers think about their dealers. Dealers seem to be even more concerned about what the public at large might think of them because of these sites than they ever were when JD Power measured a customer’s satisfaction on behalf of the factories.
Just this week I learned that a service manager that I knew responded very hotly and directly to a negative response his service department received on Yelp from a recent customer. It was right there on the Net for anyone to see, including me. Not only was this not the right response if he wanted to keep his customer’s good will, but his foolish and ill thought out response was now available for all other potential customers in the area to consider.
By comparison, I read an article in Automotive News about a very responsive dealership who follows up on all comments, both good and bad, with a dedicated guest relations manager…..not a sales or service department manager. They take a few days after the posting to think about the best way to handle a comment. They then converse with their sales and service managers for some background information. And, finally, they will personally reach out to the reviewer privately to address their issues. They don’t use stock responses. And, they thoroughly go through the entire conversation on Yelp so that there is no confusion about the issues. Once the complaint has been resolved, and only then do they inquire whether the customer might be open to changing their review.
In an era where more people have better access to a dealer’s reputation, it seems to make sense for a dealership to be more sensitive to a customer’s perceptions, especially with so many other people watching.
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