Online Review Essentials for Automotive Businesses

Let’s face it. Thanks to a few bad apples, some folks have a low opinion of the automotive business.  You know who we’re talking about. That sleezy mechanic who overcharges for a simple fix making honest mechanics look bad. That fast-talking car salesperson who insists on undercoating and makes other straight-talking car dealers look greedy by association. But as you know, the majority of dealerships and repair shops care immensely about providing a great customer experience. Without it, they lose customers, they lose their business, and their livelihood goes down the drain.

These days, many automotive businesses are realizing that there’s something that can make them stand out from their unsavory competitors. Something that helps customers understand that the bad actors are a minority. We’re talking about online reviews.

In this piece, we’ll explore the value online reviews have for automotive businesses. We’ll discuss how a review generation program can help you elevate your reputation—even if you’ve made some mistakes you need to fix. We’ll also look at how honest customer feedback can help you identify ways to provide better service, so that you don’t just look like a better business, you are a better business.

Almost Every Potential Customer Reads Your Reviews

So why care about reviews? In case you’re not already convinced, here are some eye-opening stats:

People influenced by reviews
  • 97% of people read reviews for local businesses before working with them. (BIA/Kelsey)
  • 90% of people who read online reviews said positive reviews influenced their decision. (ZenDesk)
  • 87% of people won’t work with a business with a 1 or 2-star rating. (Search Engine Land)
  • Improving your review score by a single star can increase your revenue by 5-9%. (Harvard Business School)

See where we’re headed with this? If you want to make sure your potential customers know that you’re nothing like Fast Eddie and his crappy car corral, you’d better start earning more great reviews. The keyword here is earning.  

Reviews Aren’t About Looks, They’re About Quality

Reviews do two things for your business. One is they’ll help you elevate your reputation online. Great reviews and a good review score make you look good, but believe it or not, that’s not the ultimate goal. Critical reviews—though frustrating and occasionally untrue—can often help you understand which things you should do better. Getting reviews isn’t about targeting a few people you know will be nice. It’s about earning great review because you’re doing your absolute best. One of the best ways to undo the auto industry’s poor reputation? Kick total butt on the customer service side then make sure everyone knows it.

So, where do you start? First, you need to make is super easy for your customers to regularly offer you feedback. In a sense, you just need to ask.

Getting the Reputation You Deserve

It’s unfair, but the burden is on you to prove you’re not like Fast Eddie. Luckily, we’ll show you a few steps you can take to become a business worthy of a solid online reputation. Here’s what to do:

1. Pick a Few Review Platforms  

Your business probably already has a Google listing and might even have a few reviews that came in naturally. You may even appear on sites like Yelp, DealerRater, Carwise, or Cars.com. In some cases, you might be on one of these sites without realizing it. First, take a moment to list out the places your business appears, so you know which platforms you need to target as you set about gaining more reviews. For many, it’s wise to just pick a few to keep things focused. Whatever you choose, be sure Google is one of them. For more info on getting the most from Google Reviews, check out this post.

Automotive review platforms
There are lots of automotive review platforms

2. Ask Customers to Leave Reviews

customers willing to leave reviews

According to BrightLocal, 85% of your customers are willing to leave a review. All you need to do is make it easy for them to do so. While asking them in person might get you some results, it’s much more effective to text customers following an appointment. Using a solution like Swell, it’s easy—arguably the easiest way—to automatically text your customers review invites. When they receive it, they’re one tap away from opening a link, typing in a review, and giving you a star rating. This approach is incredibly effective because it’s so easy for your customers.  

3. Monitor and Reply to Reviews  

As you begin to get more reviews, keep a close eye on what people are saying. Remember that people won’t just read customer reviews—they’ll read your responses as well. Responding warmly and personally to positive reviews can help prove you care about individual customers and their experience. Here’s a great example of warm, personal reply on a positive review.

Positive Google Review

You must also respond to the dreaded negative reviews as well. Responding to negative reviews can help you explain your side of the story or give you a chance to make things right with a customer. The interaction below is long, but it’s not uncommon for businesses to get these kinds of reviews. The owner’s response is candid and helpful.

Negative Google Review


Handling a negative Google Review

You’ll note that the shop owner stood up for the business after an (arguably) unfair one-star review. It’s not harsh. It’s informative, straightforward, and very detailed. A prospect reading this will assume the owner is knowledgeable and was helpful to the customer. The customer just looks like a jerk.

Remember, though, that sometimes you’ll be in the wrong. You will make mistakes and some people will show no mercy. You might have to swallow a little pride to make things right with people. Reply calmly and courteously, but do reply. You’ll look awful if you don’t reply. Make it clear in your response that you intend to fix the issue anyway you possibly can. Doing so proves to a dissatisfied customer and people reading the review that you’ll correct mistakes if you make them.  

Keep in mind that reviews like the one above are rare, but they will happen. A business that strives to provide quality service can’t possibly make everyone happy. Some people just can’t be pleased. The silver lining is that bad reviews—even the occasional one star—isn’t actually a bad thing. For one thing, a few critical reviews actually make your business look more authentic. Nobody is perfect. And customers are often suspicious of a perfect star rating. Second, as we noted, critical reviews might alert you to problems you need to fix. Sure, you may get occasional reviews that are false (we explore how to handle reviews like these in another post), and you may get some that sting. But if you’re doing a great job as a business, the great reviews will far outweigh the bad.

4. Adapt and Improve

While some critical reviews might relate to a single issue, several reviews mentioning the same thing might point to a trend you need to correct. As you collect reviews, make note of any common themes you see among them. Some businesses might realize a certain employee handles customer interactions poorly. Some might see that a part of their process could make for a better customer experience. Find the things you can improve and then fix them.

Powering Better Service Through Engagement

For automotive businesses, gathering feedback from customers through reviews (or even through surveys) is a great way to elevate their online reputation and learn ways to improve. But these are actually just one component of engagement. To truly provide better service, automotive businesses need to be ready to engage with customers anywhere at any time—phone calls no longer cut it. As you ponder your approach to gathering reviews, it’s also wise to think about your communication and engagement strategy more broadly. Can you and your team quickly communicate with customers no matter where and when? What are you doing to make every interaction with them convenient? Here are some things that will help you provide a much better customer experience:

Engagement quote
  • An online chat – Customers and prospects might have service-related questions and not everybody wants to talk on the phone. An online chat like Swell WebChat makes it easy for someone on your team to answer questions your website visitors have. Check out this post for more on why online chats are valuable.
  • A tool to text customers – These days texting is king. With Swell Message, you can text customers to remind them about an upcoming appointment, alert them that their vehicle is ready for pickup, or even to ask them to leave reviews. This is a super convenient way for your customers to interact with your business. Best of all, you can interact with all your customers right inside the same window, and even bring together messages from your online chat, texts, or Facebook Messenger.
  • Simpler ways to pay – This is often overlooked. Paper invoices can be a drag. Between mailing them and following-up, it’s a time waster for your team and an annoying way for your customers to pay. But what if you could send a payment reminder to a customer’s phone over text message? What if they could pay with any form of payment they wish, all with a few taps on their phone? This is where Swell Pay shines. If you want to take the hassle out of getting paid, it’s definitely a tool to try.
  • Online scheduling – Are you still penciling people in after a phone call? These days, your customers expect to be able to request an appointment right on your website. Swell Schedule is a convenient way for your customers to do just that. This saves your team time while also making life just a little easier for your customers.  

Final Thoughts

Remember, reviews aren’t just about looking good online. It’s about earning a solid reputation. Reviews not only give you more visibility in searches, they also help you identify ways that you can improve. The more you use reviews to gather feedback and enhance the quality of your customer service, the more trusting customers you’ll have—and isn’t that what business is really all about?

Swell Message Icon

And if you’re looking for a tool that makes it easy for your business to gather and respond to reviews take a look at Swell Review. Businesses that use Swell Review get dozens of great reviews within the first month of using it. These reviews help boost their reputation, give them more Google search visibility, and often help bring more customers to their doors. Add to that killer engagement tools like Swell Message and Swell Pay, and you’ve got a real ringer. Best of all? You get all of these tools in a single powerful platform. To see how Swell can help your automotive business, get a custom demo today.