If you listen to Yelp, they will tell you that you should never ask customers to review you. Their perspective is on that says that if people want to leave a review, that they will do it on their own without prompting. This is true when it comes to some businesses – restaurants, hotels, services such as hair salons. In the automotive industry, Yelp and other review sites seem to have a misconception of their role on the internet. For most business types, they are not a place where people leave reviews. They’re a place where people vent.
When you finish a satisfying meal at a restaurant, for example, there’s a natural tendency within active Yelp users to leave their opinion. It’s a habit. If you look at the list of places that the average active Yelp user reviews, the majority of them will be restaurants. That’s just the way it is. Many of them eat out multiple times per month and leave reviews everywhere they go. It’s a habit.
Buying a car is a different experience. There is no habit upon which to fall back since it’s not something people do every week, every month, or even every year. As a result, there is no natural tendency to want to leave a Yelp review about a car dealership. They could be more satisfied with their experience than they were with any 5-star burger joint they ate at for lunch that day, but they are much less likely to think along the lines of leaving a review after buying a car than after eating some french fries.
Yelp doesn’t agree. It’s not that they’re naive, nor are they completely self-serving in their opinion. Their goal in the long run is to get as many people as possible authentically reviewing as many businesses as possible as often as possible. They must also be protective about their turf. Review sites have been getting some negative press over the last year as businesses and marketing agencies have been getting caught leaving fake reviews. The best thing they have going for them is credibility and they must maintain it as long as possible, if not indefinitely.
We understand Yelp’s position. We really do. In fact, we agree with it in many ways, particularly for everyday businesses like restaurants and dry cleaners. However, buying a car is not an everyday experience and should be handled differently.
Asking for Yelp reviews must be done the right way. This isn’t a bulk play. It can’t be. Dealers and other reputation management companies often blast out poorly worded filtering emails asking people to share their experience in a survey. If the survey comes back positive, they’re sent a second email asking them to review the dealership on Yelp and other review sites. This is bad. It’s called filtering. It won’t last forever and will likely be a black eye for those who are participating once word gets out.
We believe the best way to get reviews is to ask transparently. One email. No filtering. Yelp and other review sites should be emailed out “blind” without knowledge of whether the customers were satisfied or not. Now, obviously this won’t work for dealerships that truly have customer service issues, but if a dealership is treating customers right and delivering an excellent experience, there’s no reason why the reviews need to be filtered. Does that mean some reviews will come back negative? Yes. Is it a terrible thing if a bad review slips in amongst several strong reviews? Absolutely not, and we’ll cover why this is the case in a future post.
The important thing is to know that filtering is bad. That does not mean that you shouldn’t give a special method through which unhappy customers can contact you directly. We believe that dealerships want to hear directly from their customers who were not satisfied, so we include that option in every email. However, testing the waters with a survey is the wrong way to go about doing this.
Asking for Yelp reviews isn’t bad unless you’re doing it the wrong way. If you do it properly, your excellent customer service will be rewarded.