No matter how good you are, how hard you try to run an ethical and decent business, or how much you bend over backward to do the right thing, somebody out there is talking trash about you somewhere to someone.

Customer satisfaction in the car business has become little more than survey manipulation. A couple of years ago I was a featured speaker at a J.D. Power Automotive Roundtable in Detroit. During my presentation, I said people don’t buy another car from you because of customer satisfaction. Truth is, people don’t know when they’re satisfied, but they do know when they’re not. And that’s when they get emotional.

Think about it. When is the last time you asked to see the restaurant manager so you could compliment the food and the service?

Hello! We’re car people. Customers love to hate us. When I train salespeople and managers, I always start off by telling them, “The consumer does not want to like you.” In fact, they usually make the decision to dislike you long before they meet you. Liking you creates an obligation to be civil, even nice to you.

Social skills and a good personality are required in the car business, and customer relationship management is not a computer program. It’s about winning people’s trust and confidence, and, eventually, convincing the customer to genuinely like you.

Unfortunately, now the haters have the ability to smear your reputation anonymously. The rise of the Internet, especially social media, has created a cottage industry of companies that specialize in reputation management.

Back in September, I had the oil changed at a dealership quick lube. When I got back in the car and was preparing to leave, the service advisor asked me if I had a smartphone. (Who doesn’t, right?) He asked me to Google the address of the dealership, so I did. Then, with “Post a Review” showing on my phone, he asked me if I would write a Google review about my experience at the dealership. He didn’t tell me what to say, he just asked me to write a review. I gave the dealership a five-star review and added a few good words about the service writer.

Just about everybody is in the game now — Google, DealerRater, Edmunds,, Yelp, Ripoff Report, and just about every other vendor and Jack that comes through your door. I have an extremely low opinion of most of them, especially Yelp and Ripoff Report. Their very names are offensive. Talk about creating the problem and selling you the cure. Reputation management has become extortion and blackmail.

OK, how do we monitor reputation when there are so many places people can post? First of all, where do your customers come from? That’s where you really want to stack up good reviews. Google is first and foremost, regardless of whatever other services you use. I like DealerRater and some of the services offered by website developers.

It’s really great if you can get the consumer to post a review in the review section on your website. That way you can intercept the problem and fix the damage before the customer goes online and posts away on public forums.

Now, if you do find a negative review in one of these forums, the key is to address it immediately. Sometimes apologizing is more important than explaining why you’re right. Remember, good reviews are seldom volunteered, but bad reviews are something people do without being prompted. The reason you need to chase the good reviews is because they can push down and decrease the relevancy of bad ones.

Do you have a Google alert to inform you whenever your dealership’s name is mentioned on the Internet? And when was the last time you Googled your dealership and searched for it on Twitter? Remember, people don’t just trash your reputation on the ratings sites. And Twitter and online blogs have become increasingly popular.

With website domain names costing less than $10 a year, do you own every combination of you website URL? Do you own,, and so on? I ask because I’ve seen serious haters buy domains containing variations of a dealership’s name. They then build fake sites to kill the dealership’s reputation. Sadly, there isn’t a darn thing you can do about it.

Folks, you have to manage your dealership’s reputation. And doing that requires a commitment to routinely checking every source every day. Because no matter how good you are, haters are gonna hate. Keep those emails, Facebook chats, phone calls and text messages coming. Until next time.

Jim Ziegler is the president of Ziegler SuperSystems Inc. Email him at [email protected].

About the author
Jim Ziegler

Jim Ziegler

President and CEO of Ziegler SuperSystems

Jim Ziegler ranks among the industry's most recognized and honored trainers, consultants, authors, speakers, and forecasters.

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