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Managers, Are You Leading or Just Passing Through? Every dealership I have visited lately has the phone calls tracked or not, going to the switchboard or BDC. Then they round robin to sales staff if the ISM is busy "We know that never happens;" The problem...

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About Kim Clouse About Kim Clouse Kim Clouse has been involved with automotive internet sales and process for over 20 years. He was a charter member of the AAISP while it existed and winner of the Lemons to Lemonade Award...

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About Kim Clouse About Kim Clouse Kim Clouse has been involved with automotive internet sales and process for over 20 years. He was a charter member of the AAISP while it existed and winner of the Lemons to Lemonade Award...

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Can You Define Car Dealer Reputation Management? I would like to go on record and say that the term Reputation Management for Automotive is a misnomer. Vendors can only  teach Car Dealers to discover, report, and maintain their hard earned reputation...

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Can You Define Car Dealer Reputation Management?

Posted by Kim Clouse | Posted in Dealer Process, Reputation Maintenance | Posted on 05-09-2016

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I would like to go on record and say that the term Reputation Management for Automotive is a misnomer. Vendors can only  teach Car Dealers to discover, report, and maintain their hard earned reputation by allowing the customers who spend money with them to be invited to post a review. If there is a problem, everyone is alerted and it either gets fixed or explained, not deleted and covered up. It is called “Honest Exchange”(c) Dealer Report Cards was the first and only company so far to do this. Disgruntled employees, competition down the street, unfair customers who take advantage, folks who have had hard times and could not get financed, only need login to Google, Yelp, Dealer Rater or one of the hundreds of accounts online. All of these go directly to Facebook to take advantage of this new way to pass what used to be “word of mouth” along too.

I fell into this advertising funnel while trying to get auto dealers to pay attention to www.dealerreportcards.com  even while realizing it was impossible for every employee who interacts with a customer to have a good day every day. And we all know the inherent problems of customer frustration when they were unable to purchase. What about the lifetime extended warranty they bought from their local XYZ motors? Which repair shop is on the contract? Better yet,  which one are they using this month? What about the unjust maintenance schedules? Can’t blame them for finding a place to tell their friends and neighbors to beware of that kind of scam.

We must have been doing something right though because it is public knowledge now that Cars.com took this video that I sent to Ralph Ebersole in 2010 and duplicated my Talking Cars to speak about their review process in an ad titled  Cars.com Talking Cars Gas Super Bowl XLV Commercial Ad 2011 . They even had the decency to send their little talking cars much like “Hot Wheels” to my home address. I still have them in the box if anyone is interested.
Yes, they are pirates!
They gave up on that platform after all these years and acquired Dealer Rater. Have a look at their site now compared to a year ago. When I asked one of their sales reps how long they had been creating independent sales staff pages, he replied,  “about a year now”. Looks familiar, doesn’t it?

Crazy thing is that General Motors has recently adopted the exact same process without a posting site through one of their gazillion third party companies. Funny, Maritz called me a few years ago about this program before I was back at a GM store then after a meeting one of them visited the store to just watch Dealer Report Cards work one day. Funny, they now have a RepMan score so associates can get paid for asking for a review. Pardon me, “Can you give me your e-mail so I can send you a review? Make sure it is perfect in every way please, don’t let them know how terrible we really were! Really?
When I asked GM to be included in the mandatory reputation management program for dealers as a vendor 3 years ago, they declined.

I would like for anyone to tell me what their idea of the definition of Reputation Management is right here, anytime.
It has been a way to get dealers to spend money with no real record of who or why the review was placed.

I may take some shit for this but at age 57 and witnessing the fleecing of automotive and seeing ideas like Dealer Report Cards and tons of others from great minds in automotive be stolen, I don’t really care.

Snake Oil -Beware!

Dealers, wake up!

Kim Clouse

 

 

 

 

 

Dealer Report Cards Car Dealer Reviews FAQ

Posted by Kim Clouse | Posted in Dealer Report Cards, Reputation Maintenance | Posted on 12-06-2016

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  • What are the benefits of having a page on Dealer Report Cards?
    A. Car shoppers are going online to find not only pricing information on vehicles but also to locate dealerships who have a good reputation in the market.
    B. Dealer Report Cards helps you get visibility on the web by having a robust profile with good information.
    C. You will attract buyers in the market looking for a true professional to work with on their vehicle transaction.
    D. Consumers will be able to check your grade on Dealer Report Cards, and make a decision on who they want to buy from.
    E. We help promote individuals as well as dealers and we do not leak your customers to your competition like other solutions.

 

  • How does an auto shopper find my page?
    By zip code or they can also put your dealership name in to search. Your Dealer Report Cards grade can be viewed by consumers as well.

 

  • Do you put dealer or manufacturer logos on the pages?
    Yes, we do it for you with links for better branding.

 

  • When a consumer searches for a sales person how are the results ranked?
    Results are ranked by Dealer Report Cards grade. This gives those with higher grades an advantage, and motivates them to keep up the good work! It also helps those who need a boost to get with the program.

 

  • How does Dealer Report Cards insure that reviews are legitimate?
    We invite only your customers to review you. There are no random posts by
    non-customers.

 

  • What happens to my page if I leave the dealership and go to another dealership?
    The pages of the reviews for individual sales people belong to the dealer.

 

  • Can I embed any videos on my Dealer Report Cards page?

Yes, and change them at will.

 

 

Car Dealers Need To Think About Their Review Process

Posted by Kim Clouse | Posted in Dealer Report Cards | Posted on 04-05-2012

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Dealer Report Cards is not your everyday rating and review platform for car dealers. When Dealer Dimensions set out to design and build a solution that enabled car dealers to evaluate customer issues and respond accordingly, we decided to start with the one thing that all dealers needed to know about, their true customers experience. We understand that prospects are customers too, but CSI for most manufacturers of automobiles, is dependent on how an individual or business felt their experience was up to and at the time of purchase. After that purchase, the future service experience needs to be understood as well, and this is where Dealer Report Cards differs from all other reputation management solutions.

The fact that we focus daily on deals that are closed in finance and RO’s that have been closed in service allows us to cross reference all relative customer and employee data to automate the review process. There are companies who provide dealers with templates to send to customers and they work well but automation and a controlled posting environment yield better results. If you can control where reviews are posted and make that data cache above all other search results for “Dealer Name/Reviews”,  you are much better off. Here is an example.  If you don’t think so, go to all of your current review sites and see for yourself. With one or two exceptions, every single rating and review site that is viewed by your prospects has a complete listing of all your local competition, complete with links to their websites. It is like owning the billboard on your property and asking your local competition to put their ad there. Why would any dealer or group allow links on their websites that enable the customers they are paying to attract to go directly to any of their competition?  This alone proves how important reviews have become in todays automotive environment. Car dealers have been duped into thinking their reputation can be managed in this way.  Small problems that used to get swept under the rug have become paramount to determining monthly CSI and reputation because everyone is carrying the internet around in their pocket. Why not use it to your advantage?

Another thing, if you were the customer how likely are you to create a username and password and sign up for a service to review your store? I promise, when the OEM review gets there they may not bother with it even if they love you. We all know what happens when we only get four or five responses for a reporting period and two of them suck. On the other hand, if their experience was marginal they will get right to it. Wouldn’t you rather be pro-active and handle the issue before that happens? You need Dealer Report Cards   

There are no extra usernames, passwords or sites for the customer to sign in to and create an account just to tell the dealer they had a good experience or a problem. They get an e-mail, click on their answers to five questions and click submit. Then dealers get the results with the ability to respond and ask for a review update.

So, a review webpage for every employee who interacts with your customers, SEO, video, reporting and notification or, your competitors ads?

Sell well and be professional.

Kim Clouse CEO – Dealer Dimensions

Automotive Internet Evolution and Car Dealer Reputation

Posted by Kim Clouse | Posted in Helping Car Dealers and The Auto Industry | Posted on 28-11-2011

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Quite a few years ago, I remember working in my secluded office at the local Toyota dealership. I had chosen that office specifically because it had a private entrance and was once the “alternative finance office”. At that time in e-commerce it was the best place to control the entrance of the internet shoppers because we felt that they had to be handled differently and we were right. I know lots of you out there remember different articles and posts on the early blogosphere about it. Some of them were funny, some terrible, most were really good because the guys writing them were selling cars. We shared what worked and what didn’t because it was a new frontier and you did not want to be the outcast.
For those of you who aren’t as old as some of us, we had a word track to keep customers away from the showroom before you greeted them. Mine was, “Remember to pull in on the service entrance side when you arrive. If I am not waiting for you, walk to the service desk and say I need to see Kim”. That way, they would avoid being mugged by the vulture crew on the floor. And believe me, there was no limit to what I would do for those service writers. Lunch, keep their computers clean, whatever. As long as they pointed at the door right behind them, they had me in their corner. This was part of our early internet training because there were no internet departments yet, just guys who knew how to follow up and wanted to be part of what we thought was inevitable. Then there were those who were the only ones that could work with windows, and they were told to “just handle it”. We got paid for selling cars and just like most everybody else, straight commission. The early days were bad for a lot of great sales people because once the growth started and personal computers became more popular for the entire dealership, they had to deal with all the problems. Remember no pay plans, only commission, and now their workload was increasing. Since they depended on leads and repeat or referral business their pay was decreasing because they were changing ink cartridges or chasing network cable for vendors. I wonder how many truly awesome sales professionals departed automotive because of it.

Early on, if a person had a computer and sent a request it was platinum. Computers cost 3-5k and only people with money or credit owned one. There were very few e-mail providers so you knew if it was a company address to ask permission before you just called. We learned early on the importance of what we now call lead deconstruction.
There have been several different thoughts on this but if a request said e-mail only I did not call until we answered all of their questions and got permission. A lot of very good trainers have always said “if there is a number, call it.” Would you want a call if you asked for an e-mail response only? What about calling someone at work that is not supposed to be on the computer or phone and they do not answer, but their supervisor does. Oh yeah, we are selling two cars now right? Nope, they got reprimanded and your prospect is gone. Here is where it gets funny, the follow up call keeps showing up on a fancy to do list and you keep calling. The company employs 1000 people and has 200 delivery drivers in 3 surrounding states. They have their vehicles replaced every 24 months and they use your brand. How is your reputation about now? Just calling the number if it is there does not seem like the best decision to me.

This is the sickness that we deal with every day.
Let me say what I truly believe again: Dealers are responsible for their own reputation!
The GM, GSM, F&I, Parts and Service managers are trusted to make sure it is managed by the people who interact with prospects and customers daily. I know a lot of you out there have always taken the necessary steps to train employees and keep training them. Your repeat and referral numbers show it too. However, there are still far too many revolving doors at these stores. One of the 15 year professionals I spoke with the other day said it was like a war zone. He did not even want to know their name until they had been there 6 months. What can this possibly do to help dealer image in the community? How can a reputation management company change this?
They can’t.

I only use the term reputation management because of SEO. If you do not have it in your keywords, all of the people who read about it every day will not see you. They have been convinced that reputation management is a must have process that is new and somehow different. Selling cars is the same thing it has always been. In this age, internet requests are cherry picked because everybody has a computer. They carry them in their hands and since they have been taught to read every single thing they can about automobile purchasing; the reputation management, rating and review statements are read by whom?  It is like we are feeding piranhas for our favorite fishing hole, then throwing them in with our fish. We fish and all we catch after while are those piranhas.

Would you agree what we really need is reputation maintenance? Something that says, “Hey, here is a problem that needs addressed.” Then you let everybody see you acknowledged it. If it was a problem you handle it, make the customer happy, and show that too. It is called an “honest exchange.” The other side of this is useful when the customer is not being truthful or reasonable, show that too. Invite them to engage and be transparent because they have been taught to study automotive before they make a decision. The good thing is showing you make mistakes. It touches human emotion, is realistic, and believable. Dealer Report Cards allows you to do all of this.

There are a lot of opinions about reputation management.
Here is mine: If your dealership is doing the right thing, you are managing your dealers’ reputation and you should be. If not, you need to find another place to work because nobody can change the damage bad habits do to grass roots marketing. If a reputation management company tells you to get rid of dead weight and who it is, I am cool with that. If they are hiding customer remarks online and delaying the response for you to do better, how are they keeping them from talking at the barber, beauty shop, the mall, or when someone asks them; where did you get your new car?
They aren’t.
Then they are stealing your money.

I had a BDC manager tell me the other day” We just tell people to go to Google and write a good review about us.
Who tells them, who is we? The sales people might, but they may make follow up calls too. F&I? When they are tracking 40k and it is the 3rd week of the month, yeah right. The BDC? If there is a problem, how do you know? Who caused it? What day? Is it fixed? They are trying to develop business by maintaining reputation?

This is what happens: Go to Google at your convenience, and give us a good review please. For 2 weeks every day in an email until it gets dropped. If they have a problem that is when you will get most reviews in this scenario. That is because you follow up and ask “Did you go to Google and review me?”  I think there are customers who will brag about a great experience even without being asked. Which do you think is more likely?  

Why were these rating sites created?  Share your opinion if it is different than “money”.

There is a better way, come find out at www.dealerreportcards.com .
Other great stuff at www.dealerdimensions.com and it will keep coming.

SMALL CHANGES FOR BIG RESULTS IN MORALE AND PROFIT

Posted by Kim Clouse | Posted in Dealer Process | Posted on 14-08-2011

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Over the last few years, I have been away from writing my usual opinions about processes at car dealers. Of course, we all know that I have been a champion for dealers to practice over the top customer service. It was the topic of several of my speaking engagements at various events and I would like to thank those of you who attended those events to listen to me rant. Several new buzz words have emerged over this time from the flood of new automotive consultants and vendors. I thank them for making my previous points about customer satisfaction and employee retention valid.

 

It seems the more things change, the necessary adaptation by dealer principals, general managers and fixed operation managers is getting better. We really had no choice; every single entity who listed our inventory, labor time guides, and overall manufacturer information, listed it with everything available they could get their hands on. It was also advertised on those manufacturer sites, social, and every available PPC slot money could buy. There is nothing wrong with that because once the consumer got a sample of how they thought us dirty car dealers and sales people were stealing from them, they starved for it. Thinking about this is what tossed me back into the world of voicing my opinion. Those of you who know me know how much I love sugar coating and snake oil. In a bit of a twist, I decided to land on our customers for a change just this once.

 

This kills me and we have all heard it; you have other invoices (although it is printed on the sheet they arrived with,) the internet says my car is worth another $2000.00 (we lie if we explain, even though it is like new, we have to inspect it to sell it.) The dealer across town offered me a better deal, on and on. Fine; if the customer does the math for just a mini deal paying sales $200.00 minimum and with the special rates finance gets $200.00 without products. A 10 car month yields the salesperson a whopping $2000.00 plus any bonuses. Wow, we are really taking advantage aren’t we? Sure, there are dealer incentives and management driven spiffs but not enough to raise wages to the next tax bracket for a sales person or perhaps even management. Most people who are complaining about this would never work for the money they are demanding we settle for. That brings me to the title of this post about small changes.

 

Money motivates people, even small amounts. Just put up a $10.00 spiff for verified appointments that show and see what happens to traffic. If we work the formula at the dealer principal and general manager level, we can determine how many extra cars we need to sell above our average to offset any amount of payroll increase. If we do this in small increments over time and adjust to the trends we do more than spend money. Our sales go up and overall morale right along with it. Good morale translates to better customer service which translates to more word of mouth and increased sales storewide. More sales, more profit, more money = better morale for everyone involved. On the other side of this coin, if I am a general sales manager, GM or used car manager there is no way I am sharing my income with the asshats that just wait all day on something. Fire their ass, quit hiring people that can’t type or at least spell check. Make your veteran salespeople train the ones you need to keep to earn the extra cake. If they do not take to the training or the Pro’s do not want to teach, do not give them incentives. Make it mandatory! Process and policy are nothing without consequence, good or bad. They are just more words that pass right through their head. I feel these small changes will improve the overall status of your store. Then we can display it on Dealer Report Cards.com to prove it.

 

KC

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