There are lots of websites with reviews on businesses, and in the end, the best place to examine reviews is where the volume of reviews is highest since it probably represents the overall experience with the business better than a small sample of reviews. Better yet, ask your friends, family and co-workers about dealership experiences, call the dealership and ask some pointed questions or visit the dealership yourself. We have become quite familiar with the review sites as we attempt to monitor what customers are saying about us. Here is a quick rundown of the major ones and our insider thoughts.
We prefer this one. First, DealerRater requires a user login to post a review. Second, DealerRater forbids reviews from the dealership’s IP address and hammers any dealer it finds posting false reviews about its dealership (employees up to no good). Third, all negative reviews with certified DealerRater dealerships have a minimal interaction requirement by the customer so dealerships know the customer is legitimate and not a competitor attacking the business. You can’t leave a poor review and disappear off the face of the earth. By and large, the scores of the reviews on DealerRater are a little higher because negative reviews are first brought to the attention of the dealership to give the dealership and the customer an opportunity to resolve whatever disappointed the customer.
Don’t think this is just a pro-dealer site. We have been slaughtered in some reviews on DealerRater, but at least in those cases we knew we deserved it. The other bonus from reviewing dealers on this site is that you are really confident the dealer will see it and get a chance to resolve your complaint.
Google Reviews on the Places Page
Google reviews drive us crazy. The enhancement where Google now requires a Google Plus account to leave a review is a huge improvement. I have looked at some dealerships and really questioned the legitimacy of those past reviews. You can tell just by reading them. I think many of them were created by people associated with the dealership or by outside companies in an effort to boost the review score. Dealerships also get attacked by competitors on Google reviews. We have been lucky on the negative review side. There have been one or two suspicious negative reviews where we couldn’t figure out who the person was or what the person was talking about, but most of our negative reviews, while not always a fair representation of the situation (though sometimes we screwed up and they hit it on the head), are actual customers with actual complaints.
What drives us mad is that Google reviews disappear and reappear. We have crafted responses to every review, but sometimes we look at Google reviews and see none of our responses – they have disappeared.
I think Google is headed in the right direction on Google reviews, especially by making sure reviewers have a Google Plus account to assure some level of legitimacy. I would take “A Google User” reviews with a grain of salt though not completely discount them. Read them and look for specifics that might indicate a real reviewer. The Google Plus account reviews will be more legitimate.
Better Business Bureau
A high grade with the BBB shows the customer is serious about resolving a customer’s complaints. The number of complaints is often associated with the volume of business the customer does. For instance, Carmax has 798 complaints on its BBB account. Does that make them a bad business? We don’t think so, and the BBB gives them an A+ just like us with 9 complaints. But they are significantly bigger. Likewise, a small dealership with 50 cars is going to have far fewer complaints than us since we have 400-500 cars and lots more transactions. You want to see that the dealership cares about a customer’s complaint. The BBB score is about eliminating businesses that carry higher risk. See this link for details on the BBB’s rating system. As noted in this link, the BBB accounts for size when grading the business on complaints. They will tell you on the BBB page for the business what lowers and raises that specific business’s rating.
Cars.com has been beefing up its reviews on dealerships, and there is a decent sample out there for many dealerships. It is probably worth looking at it.
Yellow Pages, Citysearch, Yelp, Merchant Circle, etc.
Occasionally you will see a dealership with a lot of reviews on some of these. I have never seen a dealer with a good Merchant Circle review. I think this where people complain – or in the case of one dealer, add a really positive review and then advertise a flooring company that will work on your house. We have some poor reviews sitting out there on Merchant Circle – a few of them I would say are not true, and a couple of them we were wrong. In fact, we helped out a few of those customers that complained without it being noted after the fact or the review redacted. In addition, there hasn’t been a review there in a couple of years. So why did we bring it up? We’d rather not be accused of writing a blog entry that is dishonest. We freely admit we have made mistakes with customers over the years. We are really proud of the changes we made with each mistake to prevent those poor customer experiences from repeating. That is really all we can do. Citysearch and Yellow pages can be decent if there are enough reviews there, but with most dealerships the sample size is pretty small. Yelp is geared more towards restaurants, and we have no reviews there, but we are on Yelp.
At DonohooAuto, we have policies for our employees. No employee is to speak badly about another dealership. We would like to know if you ever hear one of our employees do so. We will correct it. No employee is to create a positive review on any review websites. If you ever see a suspicious positive review, please let us know. We want reviews to be an honest representation of varied customer experiences with us.
We are happy about how we are represented online. Mistakes we have made are out there for people to see. We make mistakes. You should probably be suspicious if there are no negative reviews. That seems unrealistic or the company hasn’t been around long enough. Length of time in business is pretty important in the used car business. We have heard about dealers shutting down bad reputation dealerships and opening back up under a different name, then repeating after the new name gets a bad reputation.
We have way more happy customers that have published reviews on their experiences. In addition, our own feedback mechanisms where we actively solicit feedback from our customers tell us we have lots of happy customers. We survey and call our customers after they purchase. We want to know how we did. We love feedback – positive or negative. And we have turned many a negative customer experience into a positive one by soliciting feedback and addressing the concern.
One of our key initiatives is excellent disclosures about vehicle history. We provide both Carfax and Autocheck and even make customers aware of paintwork that no other dealer would bother disclosing – of course most paintwork issues are merely cosmetic and inconsequential to the value of the car – that’s another blog entry. We have improved our disclosures consistently every year we have been in business, and we think that helps minimize poor reviews and makes for satisfied customers.
Here are some helpful articles about reviews. We hope this blog entry helps you in your next vehicle purchase.
Here are some links to some good articles about reviews.