The importance and effectiveness of positive online reviews

When you’re going on vacation and want to find the perfect hotel, what do you do for research? What about a dinner outing with friends – is there anything you check before making a reservation?

If you’re like the overwhelming majority of people, the first place you’ll go before making your decision is an online review site. According to research from multiple sources including Social Media Today, 92 percent of consumers read online reviews. Star ratings have also been named the top factor for consumers in making a judgment about any given business. For a hotel, that online review site might be TripAdvisor or; for restaurants, Yelp! or OpenTable. What about your local dealership? Facebook, Google+, Better Business Bureau – and the list goes on. Some online review platforms like Yelp! and TripAdvisor even overlap into the local business category. What will your potential customers find when they visit these sites?

Here's the thing – those people that read your dealership’s reviews could easily become your customers. They’ve gone this far in their research because they want to buy from you, so long as bad reviews or low star ratings don’t drive them away. So, it is well worth your time and effort to make sure that you have positive online reviews that will reassure your online visitors and bring them into your store.

The first thing you need to do is assess your dealership’s current status in terms of online reviews. There are three likely outcomes for this assessment:

  1. You have plenty of reviews, and they are all positive. Congratulations!
  2. You only find a small handful of reviews, but they are moderate to positive for the most part. Not the worst position to find yourself in.
  3. You find negative reviews – a small or large amount, it doesn’t matter much. The fact that they are mostly negative means that you have a low star rating as well.

Rest assured, there are things that can be done to improve all three situations above. Let’s start with the most dire:

  • Negative reviews. You must acknowledge and respond to these as quickly as possible. Often times, this is what upset customers want – acknowledgement. Even if there’s no solution to their problem, if they feel that it’s been recognized, you’ll be in a much better spot. If there is a way to resolve their issue, then by all means, try to do so. You’ll find that, more often than not, a customer whose problem has been solved or who’s been given care and recognition will actually remove or re-assess their negative review. In fact, it’s not uncommon that you could even turn that person into a happy customer after all!
    • The most important thing is that other customers who read the negative reviews can see that you’ve responded to them. The nature of your response will speak louder volumes than the bad feedback itself. But you must stay up to date with the reviews that your dealership has received in order to make this happen.
    • Hopefully, you’ll be able to get some of that negativity about your dealership removed. But, if not, the best step to take next is to bury the negative by collecting positive reviews for your business.
  • Small amount of reviews. It’s a fairly well-known fact that unhappy customers leave negative reviews far more often than happy customers leave positive ones. This is unfortunate, because an abundance of favorable ratings and comments about your business shows potential customers that your dealership is a smart place to purchase. There are ways to generate positive reviews from your happy customers – don’t be afraid to ask for them! Collecting feedback via email marketing campaigns or through a printed form or flyer at your store – these are just a few ways that make it easy for satisfied customers to share their sentiments. By sending these people to the online review sites that matter most (Facebook, Google+ and more), you can increase trust and drive a positive perception of your business.
  • Large amount of positive reviews. You are in a great spot, but don’t let that stop you from maintaining the awesome reputation you’ve worked so hard to earn. Continue to collect good reviews by being proactive about them, and use the great feedback you’ve already received to gain even more. By nature, customers who’ve had positive experiences at your store will be inspired to share their story when they read about others. Make sure your great reviews are recognized by positing them on your website or sharing them on social media – and don’t forget to thank your happy customers!

A common theme among all three of these scenarios is the importance of social listening – being alert and keeping track of what’s being said about your business online. Failure to pay attention could result in a major blow to your dealership’s reputation. Staying on top of your game and maintaining a consistent routine of checking up on the sources that can affect your dealership’s success is vital to the survival of your business.

Lauren McLean is the public relations manager for Dealer Spike, a company that provides innovative websites as well as a suite of powerful online advertising solutions that help marine dealers help increase sales and service profitability. For more information, visit or call 800-288-5917.

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