In the last few days, there has been national media coverage of a vendor on Amazon who decided to “stack the deck” and buy reviews. The two articles, one on Gizmodo and one in the New York Times, told the story of a company selling cases for the Kindle Fire on Amazon who included notes in the packages asking for positive reviews from buyers in exchange for a full refund of the purchase price they paid.
Within the automotive industry, there have been (and still are) companies that promise to increase your online reviews and, while they claim the reviews are all genuine, people paying attention can easily dissect the fact that they are not. I wrote an article in June of 2011 that investigated one company, Review Boost, that was suspected of doing just this in which I interviewed the owner.
Most dealers do not participate in or knowingly hire any companies that do this.
One statement in those articles, which was included in the letter to consumers who purchased the Kindle Fire case, caught my attention though.
“We strive to earn 100 percent perfect ‘FIVE-STAR’ scores from you!”
Does this sound familiar?
Most dealerships have a time, usually in their delivery process, in which the customer is “educated” that they will be receiving a survey from the manufacturer and how important it is for the dealership to receive top scores in all areas. Some dealerships even get as detailed as having a copy of the survey with the desired answers highlighted and reviewed with the consumers. I know dealers who ask the customers to fill it out and bring it into the dealership in exchange for something – a free oil change, t-shirt, etc. Some ask for the survey to be returned blank (which they obviously plan to fill out themselves) and some just ask them to return a completed survey which they can then read and decide for themselves whether to return it or not. I know dealers who will even RDR the car with a different address if there is heat on the deal so that a customer never gets the survey at all.
While this is certainly not identical to the vendor in the articles, in which they offered a refund for the product in exchange for positive reviews, it’s pretty close.
Reviewing a CSI survey with customers when they buy a car is skating a fine-line especially when there’s coaching involved. When you throw in a free oil change or some other incentive, it’s the same thing. Every dealer knows that they aren’t supposed to do this. However, CSI scores can be tied to future incentives from manufacturers so dealers are always under pressure to keep their scores high.
The problem with any of this is that you never get an opportunity to truly improve. You don’t get real feedback on what (or who) is broken in your process. Even though these aren’t “public” reviews and are only viewed by the manufacturer and employees of the dealership, the opportunity for improvement still exists.
You should embrace the opportunity, take your lumps when they come, and do your best to solve the customer’s complaints or criticism with your CSI surveys just as you would with your online public reviews. Even though consumers might not see these when choosing your dealership, making sure that ALL your customers are happy by attempting to solve issues they may have had, whether you received the feedback publicly through an online review or privately through CSI survey feedback, will help you grow as a dealership.
Embrace all reviews, both negative and positive, public or private, and use them as a learning experience and an opportunity to fix broken processes, clean house of cancerous employees, and become a better dealership.
I guarantee that by doing this, you’ll see less negative reviews.