If you're in the market for a new or pre-owned car, truck, suv, mini-van, or other type of vehicle there is great news. It's a buyer's market, and thanks to online reviews you have never had more leverage or power as an automotive consumer.
The internet has changed the way people purchase vehicles, especially used cars. When looking for used cars for sale, people automatically look online but the process involves more than simply looking at used vehicles for sale. An equally important part of the used car or new car buying process involves checking out consumer reviews of car dealerships.
Based on recent research by SalesFuel, dealership reputation is critical. According to the study, 59% of survey respondents indicated dealership reputation was the single most important factor when deciding which dealership to visit and ultimately do business with. With reputation ranking so high in the dealer selection process, automotive dealerships are bending over backwards to keep customers happy. In fact auto dealerships are looking beyond normal customer satisfaction. They want to impress customers on the car dealership lot, and they want to impress people online with reviews that have come freely from satisfied customers who have purchased vehicles from their car dealership.
Other factors influencing shoppers included:
51.8% – Selection of Vehicles
43.1% – Willingness to Deal or Negotiate
33.3% – Location Close to Home or Work
5.3% – Support of an Important Cause or Charity or community involvement
For consumers it seems a positive experience is among the most important factors when deciding where to purchase a vehicle, and because auto dealers know this is the case all dealers are doing their utmost to put their best foot forward.
The effect of online reviews is clear. Auto dealers are feeling the pressure of the market place, and as such they are forced to keep their prices competitive.
Car dealerships are also doing more than ever to provide an upscale experience when a customer visits their place of business. It goes beyond free coffee in the waiting room. Lincoln has been offering its customers free loaners when their Lincoln is in for service or repair. They are also treated to a variety of beverages in Lincoln dealership waiting rooms.
Used car dealerships are stepping up their game too, with more luxurious waiting rooms, beverage bars, and staff training designed to ensure every customer receives the royal treatment when they step onto the car lot, and into the dealership showroom.
Car dealers, are acutely aware that a negative review can cost them customers, which is why all auto dealers today are so careful to make sure every customer leave satisfied.
For reputable car dealers online reviews are actually viewed as a great sales tool. Reputation management done properly means car dealers can promote themselves, and with independent reviews through services such as google business review, consumers can be sure they are getting the straight goods on car dealers, from other customers.
Car dealerships like Fusion Auto Sales located in Tilbury Ontario, are using online consumer reviews as a promotional tool. Fusion Auto Sales serves a large region stretching from Windsor-Essex, through LakeShore, up into the Sarnia Ontario area, and through Chatham-Kent Ontario. The reviews from customers are something that dealer principal Tom Mosey takes pride in.
"We've won awards, including an award for being one of Canada's fastest growing businesses, but there is simply nothing more powerful or important than a positive review from a satisfied customer," said Mosey. "We take it very seriously, because online reviews are simply the modern day version of word-of-mouth advertising."
Of course no dealership is absolutely perfect, so achieving a perfect review score is something every car dealer aspires to, but very very few actually achieve. It is important to note that there are also online trolls, who can do damage to any reputable business simply by leaving a negative review for no reason other than to cause chaos or engage in mischief. It happens more often than people may realise. In fact it is not uncommon for a business, like a used car dealer to have a troll leave a negative review even if that person has never visited the car dealership or had any kind of interaction with the car dealership staff. For that reason is it important for consumers to me mindful of the fact that some people are simply negative by nature, and therefore any dealership that scores four out of five stars or above is probably going above and beyond to provide a superior experience for customers.
Many dealerships will ask customers to pose for a picture or leave a review online, after purchasing a vehicle. It is quite normal for a dealer to do this, because every dealer know how important online car dealership reviews are in today's digital environment.
For years, brand loyalty to car companies, like Chevrolet, Chrysler, Ford, Toyola.ca, Honda.ca, Mercedes Benz, Nissan, BMW, and others was paramount for consumers. Today a dealer that cultivates a positive relationship with a customer is often fostering that same kind of loyalty, and you can see that in some of the online reviews of car dealerships in your region.
Car dealers are constantly studying the results of surveys, and recent studies have shown that consumers only actually visit 1.5 dealerships on average when they decide to purchase a vehicle. This represents a huge shift in consumer behaviour. It shows that consumers are doing most of their research and shopping online. It shows that consumers are taking advantage of price comparison tools through services like Auto Trader, Car Pages, Kijijji and car dealership websites. They are also researching car dealerships by looking at reviews.
In the case of used cars, research has shown that consumers today are narrowing down their choice of vehicles to a handful that they like online. They then carefully compare prices and features, and then check to see which dealers have the best reviews. Selection, price, and dealer reputation combined ultimately make the difference for top dealers. In the used car environment reputation is everything, because consumers know they are making a big investment when they purchase a vehicle, and they want to be sure they are buying not just a used vehicle, but also service after the sale, and want to know that there will be support for them should they have any issues following their purchase.
In the end automotive consumers are given an enormous amount of power, because their online review can help make, or break a car dealership. Online reviews are not just a tool for consumers to make an informed decision on where they want to do business, they also give consumers a powerful voice.
Online reviews are a form of social media, because they allow car buyers, to talk to one another and help each other. By leaving an accurate review after purchase a new or used car buyer, can effectively lend a helping had to another person who is in the market for a new or used vehicle.
There are companies providing review management services to car dealership too. A whole sub-industry has been created for these companies within the car dealership world. Services like Reviewsii, compile all reviews in one place for dealers so they can be displayed on a car dealership website. The service also allows dealerships to efficiently respond to reviews and comments online.
It is important for automotive consumers to read the reviews, and not rely exclusively on the ratings displayed. Sometimes negative reviews also include explanations from a consumer who may have left a negative review but only for one reason, while other parts of their car buying experience were positive. It is also important to read the car dealership response to online review both negative and positive. The responses from the dealership can show you exactly what kind of attitude the car dealer has toward customers, and can give you a good indication of how you could be treated after making a vehicle purchase.
The bottom line is that auto consumers know that today, they have options and will choose a dealership that has a good reputation and offers the best experience, even if it means paying more. According to the SalesFuel report, “Customer loyalty and personal experience in dealerships proved critical in a shopper’s decision of where to do their wheeling and dealing. Note that 10.6% of vehicle buyers are loyal to a particular auto dealership. If the model and price are right, 18.1% will buy from the same dealer they bought their last vehicles from. Now here’s the BIG ‘but:’ 16.5% would buy a different brand to avoid a dealership where they’ve had a bad experience.”
Two additional studies released earlier this year also point to the high impact the customer experience has on revenue and customer lifetime value:
54% of consumers would buy from a dealership that offers their preferred experience, even if it didn’t have the lowest price
72% would visit dealerships more often if the buying process was improved
56% of shoppers would buy more cars if the process was easier
99 of 100 automotive shoppers begin their purchase journey expecting it to be a “hassle” driven in large part by their experience, and that of friends/family, with retailers seeking to control the buying process to the retailer’s objectives
Be aware as a consumer that unhappy customers are far more likely to leave a review than a satisfied customer. Weigh that fact while conducting online research of car dealerships, and you will appreciate how hard some dealerships are working to keep customers happy and earn positive online reviews.
Be aware that car dealership now live, and in some cases die, by the power of online reviews. Keep that in mind as you conduct research, and use it wisely as a tool when buying, but it also advisable to be mindful of fairness when leaving a review. If the pen was mightier than the sword in years past, then a computer keyboard connected to the internet may well be the most powerful consumer tool ever created both in terms of finding a reputable car dealer, as well as in holding a dealer responsible for a bad experience, or rewarding a dealer for going the extra mile to ensure you car buying satisfaction.