Most dealerships understand the importance of online reviews, in general, for their stores. Consumers are increasingly turning to the Internet to research dealerships before selecting one. This includes researching not only sales-related reviews, but also service. Yet, most dealerships focus most of their attention on gaining reviews from the sales side and leave the service department to fend for itself. I’m not saying that dealerships don’t care about how their customers feel when they leave the service department; but simply that there is typically no proactive process or campaign in place to solicit reviews from service. In most cases dealerships get their service department “report card” from OEM surveys and are content to leave it at that.
That’s all about to change.
An article in The Detroit News last week revealed that Hyundai is planning on working with review service SureCritic to solicit and post reviews – in real-time – about the Hyundai dealership they visited. On the surface, this may not appear as any game-changer. However, due to publicity surrounding fake online reviews, consumers are increasingly more careful in scrutinizing reviews in an attempt to identify those that seem genuine, versus those that could be false. I doubt that there are many review sites consumers trust 100 percent. However, many sites have taken steps to weed out potentially fake reviews and increase consumer confidence in them. As an example, Amazon.com has a thriving community that contributes to product reviews and many people read these reviews when considering a purchase. Reviews become even more important for an Amazon shopper because the product they are purchasing is not in front of them, so they have no opportunity to touch, feel and test the products before they buy them. That being said, according to an article in Forbes magazine, a combined 30% of Amazon user-generated reviews are phony. Automotive service is similar to Amazon in that there is nothing for the consumer to touch and feel. And there is also nothing for them to see, so being able to rely on accurate and trustworthy reviews becomes that much more important in their decision making process.
What makes this Hyundai-SureCritic partnership so different? Reviews solicited by SureCritic are vetted using a dealer’s own DMS to match submitted reviews to sales and RO records. Hyundai will be able to state that 100% of its reviews were left by customers of that particular dealership. Hyundai also plans to post them straight on the Hyundai website “whether good, bad, or ugly.” Hyundai’s rationale is that this system provides consumers with a verifiable and trustworthy source for consumers to use to assist them in researching dealers before making decisions. They also want to allow “owners to openly share their experiences, positive or negative, and give Hyundai dealers the opportunity to demonstrate their dedication to delighting their customers,” according to John Krafcik, president and CEO of Hyundai Motor America.
OEMs certainly have a vested interest in ensuring that brand customers have positive experiences at their franchises. This is apparent through OEM survey programs for both sales and service that have long been in existence. In most cases, underperforming franchises see ramifications from loss of stair step money to lowered allocations if they don’t stay within certain guidelines. Now, however, Hyundai is taking it to the next level – transparency. Survey scores and report cards haven’t been made public in the past. This move brings one more level of accountability to their dealers and will share it with the world.
If you haven’t had a review system in place that focuses on all departments, my advice is to start one. Hyundai is going to hold their franchises accountable, and will also brand them with the Scarlet Letter should they not provide their customers the service that Hyundai is expecting. This Hyundai program is ingenious in that it could make Hyundai’s website the go-to source for consumers to research dealers. That not only increases their website traffic, but pressures their dealers to perform at a higher level.
I’d be willing to guess that the implementation of this program will be watched carefully by other OEMs. This program has tons of upside for OEMs and forces dealers to improve their game. Ensure that both your service and sales customers are well cared for and happy, and you’ll be gold. Ignore them, however, and you may find it more and more difficult to attract new customers.