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Your Online Reputation

Word of mouth has always been the dealer’s best marketing tool, but the Internet age has changed the rules. Find out what dealers are doing to regain control of their reputations.

January 2011, F&I and Showroom - Cover Story

by Justina Ly

Confident in Chacon Autos’ longstanding tradition of stellar customer service, CEO Gary Chaney is willing to absorb the occasional negative review in the interest of serving Dallas’ special finance market.

 

When it comes to online reviews, the stories being told may not tell the entire story.

Just ask the owners of Chacon (pronounced “CHAY-con”) Autos, a Dallas-based dealer group that lays claim to six used-vehicle locations and two Suzuki franchises in Texas.

Gary Chaney, the group’s CEO, says customer satisfaction has always been the name of the game for the 60-year-old operation, and it has the awards to back it up. The dealer group earned Suzuki’s President’s Club Award in 2006 and 2007 for sales and service. The dealership also has been recognized by Baylor University and the Texas Historical Commission for its business success. It even made Inc. magazine’s list of the nation’s 5,000 fastest-growing private companies.

“We like customer service,” Chaney says. “We even try to keep the same employees at each location, so when customers come in they see the same faces all the time.”

The problem is, that’s not the story being told online.

A quick Google search reveals that the dealer group received an average of two out of five stars from 15 reviews. Customers either loved or hated Chacon Autos.

Chaney says the reviews are the byproduct of working in special finance, a market the dealer group was founded on in 1950. Chaney points out that many of the less favorable reviews come from disgruntled customers upset about their vehicle being repossessed. He understands their frustration, but says the reviews don’t tell the full story — especially considering the fact that nearly a third of the dealership’s sales come from repeat customers.

“I’ve never had a lot of confidence in those [ratings], because I know our customers like us,” he says. “Thirty percent of our business is repeat customers. That’s what our business is built on.”

Still, in today’s Internet age, Chaney knows his organization needs to get out in front of this new word-of-mouth medium.  That’s what Chaney’s daughter, Stefani Musick, the dealer group’s controller, is now attempting to do. She recently established accounts on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for Chacon Autos and says her goal is to use those platforms to market the dealer group, tout its vast inventory and distinguish it from the competition.

“Right now we’re using social media to market ourselves, to get some followers,” Musick says. “I guess we’re still in the infancy stage, but, ultimately, it would be great to get some customer feedback.”

New Media, New Management Tools

Reputation management is not a new concept to the industry. Manufacturers frequently track what consumers think of their vehicles and their franchised dealerships. Dealers also conduct their own surveys to learn more about the experience they offer consumers. The difference now is that consumers can broadcast what they think via blogs, social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter and, in some cases, the dealership’s own Website.

“Consumers have always talked about their experiences with brands and products,” says Jared Hamilton, founder of DrivingSales.com, a vendor rating Website. “Now, with the Internet, it’s in a public setting,”

More consumers are turning to that public setting as part of the car-shopping process. According to a recent J.D. Power and Associates study, about eight out of 10 new-vehicle buyers who turn to the Web visit at least one third-party site. One of the most popular sites for doing just that is Edmunds.com, which features customer ratings and reviews of dealership sales and service departments.

A recent report by Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research also points to the impact rating sites are having on consumers. According to the study, 49 percent of male Internet users and 42 percent of female users consult ratings and reviews at least once a month. In contrast, 23 percent of males and 17 percent of females post ratings and reviews regularly.

The study also found that, while consumers are not heavily influenced by peer reviews, they still read them before making a major purchase. “People tend to seek out reviews when they are about to purchase a big-ticket item and they are reading the reviews to make themselves feel more comfortable with spending that money — like they have done their homework,” Forrester’s Reineke Reitsma wrote in a recent blog. “But, in the end, it’s their own judgment they rely on.”

DrivingSales.com’s Hamilton says customer ratings and reviews in today’s social media world come in two formats: structured and unstructured. Structured reviews can be found on Websites such as DealerRater.com, a car dealer review site featuring more than 30,000 U.S. and international dealers. In these reviews, customers grade dealerships based on customer service, quality of work, friendliness, price and overall experience.

It’s the unstructured reviews — in which customers discuss their experience at a dealership with friends on social networking sites like Facebook — that Hamilton says dealers need to pay attention to. “You need to be cognizant of how people are talking about you, even if they are not filling out a form,” he says.

Comment

  1. 1. Online Reputation Manager [ May 24, 2013 @ 08:55AM ]

    Thanks for a great article!

  2. 2. Online Reputation Manager [ May 24, 2013 @ 08:55AM ]

    Thanks for a great article!

  3. 3. Bubba [ May 12, 2015 @ 02:57PM ]

    Whatever, chacon autos are crooks and never follow through with their word!!

 

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