What do you do when a customer blogs about their bad experience at your dealer?
Well, it happened again. Another panicked general manager called me to report that a disgruntled customer had blogged their story about a mishandled service experience. The extremely negative post had been indexed in Google, scoring in the top 5 position of page 1 of a search on the dealership’s own name as the searched keyword phrase.
It isn’t the first time I’ve been called to the phone to hear appeals for help; "fix it fast" to "get it off of there" and "what could I do to get rid of this?" I’ve been building dealership websites for 11 years, so my clients usually make the call to me when they are on the receiving end of customer complaint blog posting. For a better term, let’s coin a name for this experience – "Flogging".
What can a dealer do if they have been flogged by a customer?
It’s hard to quantify the actual damages to your dealers business, but there definitely has to be a negative impact. In every single dealership site that we manage, the searches made using the dealership’s name are consistently the highest percentage searched keyword. So the exposure is certainly there and a dealer’s discomfort is justified.
Whether justified or not, true or an outright fabrication, negative blogging or "flogging" by customers is a powerful way for an unhappy customer to do some real damage to your dealers online and offline business. I’ve seen customers published negative blogging stemming from experiences ranging from a used car sale where the tires were supposed to have been switched prior to delivery, to a new car price that was quoted one way as a phone up, and wasn’t available for that price when the customer arrived, to a press releases from Consumer Affairs about a dealer groups indictment and fine.
My advice to our clients has generally been the same. First evaluate whether or not elements in the post are utterly false in which case an attorney’s letter might be in order. More commonly though I advise dealers to swallow their pride and actively do whatever it takes to resolve the issue with the customer while asking for a retraction or positive update in the blog.
At one such dealership, on our advice, the dealer principal gave the customer his cell phone number and personally resolved the issue to the customer’s satisfaction and asked the customer/blogger to post how the dealer rectified the problem. This turned the negative blog posting into a positive testimonial for the dealer.
What if the customers’ issues are not solvable? In those instances I think a viable tactic would be to participate on the blog and report what preventative measures and changes in policy and procedure resulted from the experience. This can show that you the dealer are sincerely concerned about the consumer and have taken the measures to prevent this from happening in the future.
In any case, shouldn’t a dealer try any means possible to participate and have a voice in the situation? To me, silence or non-recognition is the most damaging tactic. I think the dealer should do their best to participate so that both sides of the story is viewed.
Getting flogged by a customer can have a powerful negative impact to your dealership. It certainly should be a topic of discussion among dealership management teams and should be covered in personnel training. In this recent Internet phenomenon your customers are empowered by the capability to flog you.
All dealership employees should understand that their customer service performance, or lack thereof, could become the catalyst for a powerful negative blog post. Instead of factoring into a CSI from an individual bad questionnaire, a single angry customer can now compound their opinion to thousands of your customers who have searched your most common search – your name.
Guest Post by Jeff Bonnell | Principal of MJM Internet, LLC
I want to thank Mr. Jeff Bonnell for his participation and for writing about such a concerning subject.
There is something that I personally do to help monitor what consumers could be writing or “Flogging” about our dealer. I put together a short step by step video on how you too can monitor possible flogging by setting up an RSS import using Google Blog Search and Google Reader.