Your Online Reputation
    Much has been written about Automotive Online Reputation Management and,
    fortunately, there are a number of companies and consultants now available to
    assist dealers in getting a handle on this crucial subject.
Copyright© 2008-2010 Automotive Dealers Network. All rights reserved.
Jim Radogna is the President of Dealer Compliance
Consultants, Inc., a San Diego, California training and
consulting firm. He has more than 20 years of
broad-based management, training and consulting
experience in the automotive industry.
Jim Radogna
President/Dealer Compliance Consultants
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Reputation and customer satisfaction is of the utmost importance to dealers and there is little doubt
that many negative online postings are either questionable or do not reliably portray the true culture of
the dealership.
However, I believe that a dealership’s reputation is difficult, if not impossible, to manage when staff
members do not operate ethically and resort to “old school” deceptive practices.  Looking through
some of the sites that rate dealers, I found some interesting examples:

  • A dealer reviewed on one of the sites has dozens of negative posts about bait and switch,
    refusal to sell at advertised prices and other questionable acts.  I was a bit surprised at the
    volume of negative feedback and I have to wonder who’s watching the store.  But fear not, the
    brilliant perpetrators of all of this negative feedback had a plan. They simply added some
    positive posts to the site, which of course were exposed as coming from the dealership’s IP
    address.  So much for that idea. How does this dealer defend against various staff members
    allegedly lying to customers and then trying to cover it up? It’s sure not going to be easy.

  • A post on another site accused the dealer of deceptive adverting. I realized long-ago that some
    customers have a tendency to misread advertisements, so, in order to give the dealership the
    benefit of the doubt, I looked up the ad on their website. Well, sure enough it was questionable
    at best and went astray of that state's advertising regulations. The people who wrote that ad
    may be patting themselves on the back for bringing customers across the curb, but at what
    cost? The customer not only did not buy from the dealer, but gave a glowing review and
    recommendation of the competitor who ended up earning their business. Undoubtedly, there
    are many people who are going to read that review about the dealer’s advertising practices but
    how does the dealership defend itself? They could claim that the ad wasn’t deceiving but the
    state’s attorney general might not agree. Does the dealer really want to open that can of

  • The next dealer was accused of payment packing by the finance department.  According to the
    post, the customer attempted to rectify the situation by returning to the dealership to discuss the
    issue but apparently received no satisfaction. After the customer posted the negative review, a
    customer relations rep from the dealership responded with a nice apology and offers to help –
    so far, so good, (although it was 21 days after the original post).  Here’s where it goes downhill
    – the next post comes from an “anonymous” employee of the dealership who proceeds to
    berate the customer by accusing him of posting fraudulently. The employee stated that the
    customer’s issue couldn’t have happened; the company is wonderful, etc.  “Anonymous”
    actually remarked that the customer should be “ashamed of himself” and “should be man
    enough to discuss his concerns and not hide behind a fraudulent posting.”  Is it just me or is this
    the worst possible way to try to handle a negative review??  Eventually, the GM got involved
    and the problem was finally rectified to the customer’s satisfaction (I guess it was a real
    customer with a real complaint and not a fraudulent posting?).  The customer very graciously
    posted an update about the resolution, but also responded about the employee that attacked
    him and called him a liar. The question that comes to mind is this: What has more significance
    in the mind of someone reading this review - that the dealership ultimately handled the
    complaint or that someone in the dealership raked the customer over the coals for complaining
    in the first place?
    There are a number of excellent firms that specialize in Online Reputation Management and I highly