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Online reputation management companies are having a good year

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Online reputation is everything to car manufacturers and dealerships in today’s increasingly competitive market.

With more and more consumers going online to buy their vehicle, it has never been more important for a dealer or manufacturers to have a strong digital presence.

One of the biggest game changers to enable this has been social media and the use of mobile devices to access the internet.

That’s why online reputation management companies have excelled in the past 12-18 months.

JudgeService has been at the cutting edge of the industry, winning a substantial number of contracts, ranging from regional businesses to commercial vehicle suppliers and car supermarkets. These include Vantage Group, Wessex Garages,
Northside Truck and Van, Man Truck and Bus, and Fords of Winsford.

The review and customer satisfaction specialist also last year launched Micro Reviews, a real-time review tool enabling car buyers to post online feedback about their customer experience in franchised dealerships. Posted instantly to Google or
Facebook, the comments are then sent to the relevant party to address if necessary, without having to scour the internet for every single review.

JudgeService’s founder and managing director, Neil Addley,0 said the company’s main focus has been on analysing the links between what drives customer satisfaction, stock turn and profitability in order to help dealers understand the value of high- quality customer service and the inter-relationship between the three factors. The next step, he said, was putting what it has learned into action.

“We have been investing in account management to make sure that we’re holding the client’s hand at all times, thus enabling them to maximise their resources,” he said. “In order to do that, we provide them with the specialist insight and granular detail they need to put that into practice and give their customers the best experience online.”

As well as helping dealers, Addley said Judge-Service has launched a survey of its own business to get feedback from clients on how to improve. Among the key issues highlighted were interaction with sales people and explanation of paperwork, he said.

“As a result of our findings, now we are working with dealers to improve loyalty by looking at what makes a customer come back and buy their next car from the same dealer,” he said. “This should be maximised particularly in small towns or geographical areas where there’s limited choice of dealers, and while there is strong brand loyalty in new cars, there’s definite room for improvement with used cars, which is what we’re working on.”

Another company that has enjoyed exponential growth is Trustpilot. The consumer review website has added more than 30 dealer groups operating across hundreds of locations in the past 12 months, the most recent of which was Keary’s Ireland.

It has also extended its partnerships with Auto Trader and Motors.co.uk to syndicate reviews from its platform onto theirs.

The company also has a new product development, which provides dealers with their own TrustScore for each location that they can then measure against their group score and take appropriate action to improve if needed.

Neil Bayton, partner director at Trustpilot, said the company’s rapid growth was down to becoming the trusted brand for car reviews. It’s also being driven by the increasing importance of reviews and more consumers doing their homework online.

“Trustpilot has seen that customer experience has become more important in the car buying process, along with the propensity for consumers to research online,” he said. “The feedback that reviews give, firstly to car dealers on how they can improve their business and secondly, the valuable insight they give to consumers researching their next car purchase, mean that franchised dealers with the best reputation are winning the race to win the consumer.”

Such has been the success of Reputation.com that it has had to double its workforce over the past 18 months in areas such as data sciences, engineering, support and professional services. Globally, it now has around 500 employees working across eight offices in four continents.

New developments include its Premium Google Partnership. Now a Google Seller Ratings, Premier Google Ads and Featured Google My Business partner, the company has reinforced its Google services to enable franchised dealers to rank higher in local searches by focusing more on the areas that matter most for consumers.

Reputation.com’s mobile app has also been enhanced with new features, allowing dealers to manage their entire online reputation from the palm of their hand, both in the showroom and remotely. The main improvements include the ability to review alerts on the go, respond to reviews from a phone, social media management and social posting.

“Car manufacturers and dealer groups can also use Reputation.com to tap into the large volume of unstructured data available online about their brands and organisations, combined with survey and direct feedback, to analyse customer sentiment and find areas of improvement at all levels,” said Reputation.com’s managing director for EMEA, Anthony Gaskell.

“These operational insights, driven by machine learning and artificial intelligence, allow both dealers and manufacturers to take data-driven decisions,” he added.

Feefo has also advanced its strategy over the past 12 months, targeting manufacturers. It has created a bundle of products and services tailored to the needs of the automotive sector, delivered by its team of in-house specialists.

Among its big contract wins was Vauxhall. In August, it also announced a new partnership with Mazda UK to provide a customer insight platform across its UK operations, including more than 100 dealerships, all through the use of fully integrated product and service reviews.

The platform enables users to read opinions and consumer reviews from verified Mazda owners. Since it went live in May, Mazda has received more than 1,000 certified reviews with 97% of owners scoring their vehicle four or five stars, averaging 4.8 out of five.

“Any franchised dealer partnering with Feefo can use the artificial intelligence built into our platform to see in near-real-time where they are excelling and where they may be falling short in serving the needs of customers,” said Feefo’s chief executive Matt West. “They can respond to individual customers quickly and transparently, gauge customer sentiment and spot emerging trends more rapidly and reliably.

“If required, franchisees can request feedback from customers at more than one stage in the buying journey and relate it to individual branches. In addition, we will give franchises the ability to measure the return on investment from the use of insights in marketing and to see how many Net Promoter Score detractors or neutrals will become promoters if specific steps are taken.”

With the evolution and development of all these new technologies driven by an ever-increasing demand from customers for an instant product, the next 12-18 months look set to be the most progressive in the sector’s history yet.

But only those companies willing to innovate stand to benefit from this fast-moving online revolution of the automotive industry.

ALEX WRIGHT



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