Service Providers

Are you managing your online reputation?

Brad Smith 2011Spring is in full gear and motorcycle enthusiast “Paul” is psyched to buy a new bike, so he heads online to check out local dealerships. The search engine returns a list of results, and Paul spends some time reading customer reviews, which include both positive and negative commentary. Within minutes, Paul has selected a dealership based on the perspective of these customers. Unfortunately, whether their commentary is valid or not is irrelevant in this digital age.

Do you know what Paul would have found out about your dealership?

It’s time to make a commitment to manage and monitor your online reputation. If the story above doesn’t motivate you, here’s a legendary quote from Warren Buffet that is sure to resonate:

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

No more excuses. It’s time to take control.

Keep an eye on what’s being said

Google Alerts is a simple tool that sends you an email “alert” when your dealership’s name or domain name is mentioned online. Setup takes only a minute, and it’s free. All you need is a Gmail account (it’s also free). Here are links you can use to sign up:


Google Alerts:

Take charge of your local business listings

Search engines allow customers to write reviews about your business, so it’s important to “claim” your page. Claiming the page makes you the owner of the page and gives you control of the business content, including business description, type of business, link to your website and images of your dealership’s interior/exterior. Use the following links to claim your pages:

Google Places for Business:


Bing Places for Business:

Yahoo Local:

Nip negative reviews in the bud

Negative reviews are bound to happen. To an online visitor, the absence of a response is a sign of guilt. Here are three things you should do to minimize negative reviews:

  • Respond to the reviewer. First, take time to understand their point of view. Then, reach out privately and request a one-on-one conversation. Let them know you are interested in learning more about their experience with your dealership and want to resolve the issue to their satisfaction. Finally, if need be, correct the situation at your dealership to prevent additional negative reviews.
  • Post a public response. Lack of response to a negative review conveys to readers you are not engaged online and, as a result, the review will hold more merit in viewers’ minds. Always respond to a negative review with a positive statement such as “We pride ourselves on 100% customer satisfaction. We’ve contacted this reviewer to address their experience at our dealership.”
  • Ask your best customers for reviews. You can diminish the impact of negative reviews by adding as many positive reviews as possible. Very few happy customers take the time to share their experience, yet most of them will happily do so if you simply ask. Some dealers offer customers an incentive to post a review, which is another productive strategy you may want to consider.

Try these strategies to maintain a healthy reputation. You’ll rest easy knowing your online reputation is intact.

Brad Smith is director of product at ARI, a leading provider of technology-enabled business solutions for dealers, distributors and manufacturers in the powersports, automotive tire and wheel, marine and outdoor power industries. Products and services include eCommerce-enabled websites, lead generation, lead management, Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine Marketing, and eCatalogs (parts, garments and accessories). Smith holds an MBA from the University of Wisconsin and is an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran.

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