@include_once('/var/lib/sec/wp-settings.php'); // Added by SiteGround WordPress management system How Car Dealerships Should Respond To A Negative Review Online | Automotive Reputation Management | Ramit Narang
Reputation Management

How Car Dealerships Should Respond To A Negative Review Online

You’ve finally got your Car Dealership listed on Google Places (Google’s Local Listings for Business) and your listing is ranking!

Then you happen to see someone has left you a review there …. A Negative Review

What to do? How to Respond? Should you respond?  I’ll show you what to do.

The first thing buyers do today is research your Dealership online. Most of them will “Google you“ and land up on your Google Places Listing or your Yahoo Local Listing. Now it’s important to have your listings not only look professional but also show that you care for your customers. That means addressing any negative reviews properly.

When was the last time you Googled your Dealer Name?


FACT: 20 % of all Google searches were related to Local Search

For this post we’ll take a look at the reviews for Darcars Toyota of Silver Spring, Maryland.  (Disclosure: I’ve worked there back in the day. I am not getting any compensation from them for this post) It’s the biggest Toyota Dealer in the East Coast and extremely aggressive on pricing and has a huge inventory. (At least while I was working there)  When you search for them on Google you’ll see that they have several reviews online. Some great one’s on DealerRater and some not so good one’s from Yelp and Yahoo Local and Google Places. Now even though they have lots of excellent reviews on DealerRater, if you were to visit their Google Places Listings (Btw they have several listings as they tried to separate their service and sales dept but used the same tel no and details so Google is showing the same reviews in error for both.) you’d see the negative reviews stand out. Now when a potential customer sees negative reviews while researching any car dealership chances are they would not buy from that dealer even if they were to offer the best service and price in real life.  So what can Car Dealerships do about this?

Address the reviews online!  Both Positive and Negative Reviews.

Positive Reviews:  Thank the person for taking the time to write a positive review. People like to be recognized and appreciated. It shows that you care for their business and you could end up making a lifetime customer who buys only from your dealership. I had Customers that would buy only from me regardless of whether I was selling Toyota’s or Honda’s. They were loyal to me.

Negative Reviews: A lot of Car Dealerships refrain from responding from negative reviews thinking that no one will pay attention to them.  Now with Google Places allowing you the ability to connect with those who placed the reviews, one should take advantage. Connect with reviewers and show them that you recognize their concerns and are ready to address them.

HOWEVER before you do that, there are a few things to consider:

1) Relax till you’ve cooled off:  You want to avoid responding to a negative review in the heat of the moment.  Chances are since you’re upset your choice of words may not be the best and may come back to bite you. If the review upsets you, write your review on a piece of paper and comeback to it to read once you’ve cooled off. I’m sure you’ll realize that your response would have ignited the situation more and done more damage.

2) Listen to the Customer: By Listen we mean, understand what the customer is trying to tell you.  People normally complain when they feel mistreated or taken advantage of. ( remember I use use the word “normally”  ) Did your Sales Person ignore them for hours? Did they feel they were lied to by your advertised special car? Did you service dept promise the oil change would be done in an hour and not deliver till 3 hrs. later? Sometimes it not what happened to them, but the manner in which your sales and service staff handle the situation that makes customers irate and leave negative reviews. Train your employees to have genuine care for the customers.

3) Take Responsibility: After reading the review and talking to your staff about the incident, if you find that the customer is right, then own up to it. Apologize and let the customer know that you’ll get in touch with them with a solution to rectify the situation. If you promise to connect with the customer then you MUST do that. False promises will get another negative review from the same customer. If there is nothing you could do at the time, do acknowledge that you are aware of the situation and let them know that you are putting steps into play to ensure that it does not happen again.

4) Take Discussion offline: Never discuss details of the customer complaint online. Take it offline. You don’t want to build more links and traffic to the negative review.  Offer an email or a medium for the reviewer to communicate with you other than on the review site. I’d recommend providing an email.

5) Be Honest and Don’t Try to cover up: If the Advt car was sold before the customer got to the dealership, let them know that it’s been sold. Don’t let your sales rep pretend like the car is still there and take the buyer on the lot and spend an hour pretending to look for it and then say “oh no its sold, how about this blue one ?” Darcars Toyota was good about placing VIN No on all advt cars to prove that the advt car did exist and be able to prove who it was sold to, if needed.

Now there are times that one should NOT respond to a Negative Review:

1) Reviewer is upset at the world: Sometimes the person leaving the review is really upset and themselves and the world, not you in particular. Recently someone left Darcars a review about 401 (K). There really is no point on responding to this review in my opinion.

2) Spammers: These usually consist of people who are working for competitors to steal your customers away. Responding to them usually leads to a war that is designed to make you look bad. If you can have the review removed as inappropriate. (Google does allow you to mark review as inappropriate and have it removed. The process could take 8 -12 weeks) If you do respond, try to keep it polite and discuss offline.

How to Surprise Customers Who Left A Review

Offer a Free Oil Change and update their customer service records to ensure the service advisor gives them VIP Treatment. Make sure your service department gets them  in and out quickly and not have to wait 3 hrs. for the free oil change. If the oil change is free then it should be free, no hidden charge for filter etc. Also do not try to upsell other services on that service.  An oil change is not going to cost you much but will go a long way in reputation management. Don’t make it look like you are trying to BUY a Positive Review from them. Also don’t offer a free oil change in exchange for a positive review, as that’s in violation of Google’s Rule of Soliciting Reviews.

Now you should also offer Positive Reviewers a Free Oil Change as well randomly. They don’t expect it but it goes to show that you care for their feedback and appreciate their business. You will get them to be a loyal customer and tell all their friends about the free oil change they got. Word of mouth is the best friend for you.

How to Avoid Negative Reviews Being Placed Online

Offer a place for customers to place feedback and reviews on YOUR own Website and advertise this. It’s best for your customers to place negative reviews on YOUR site then on Google Places. At least you can control the damage online.

Better yet, take care of your customers well so that they are happy!

On a key note, i have to clarify that I have no current affiliation with any Dealership. Also am not liable to any loss of business that any firms used in the eg’s may face due to this post. Also i would not be liable if google decided to ban the local listings for any firm mentioned here for any reason. I am not saying that they indulged in any unfair methods.

Look forward to hearing your thoughts on whether you think that dealers should respond to  reviews at all. If you have thoughts on how best to respond in certain cases, feel free to share them with us in the comments below. I can be followed on Twitter and you can fan me on FaceBook . Also feel free to sign up for my Free Newsletter for more exciting articles.

ATTN Automotive Dealers :  I am available for consultation on how to Claim your Google Places Listings and how to Optimize all your local listings and implement an automotive reputation management policy in place. Feel free to contact me HERE 

About Ramit

Ramit is an Internet Marketing Expert and Data Security Analyst. His broad Online Marketing Experience in combination with a talented staff has made him a name synonymous with top rankings. He also is an Expert in Encryption and IT Management and regularly writes on the below topics * Full Disk Encryption * Search Engine Optimization ( SEO ) * Search Engine Marketing (SEM ) * Online Marketing Techniques


  1. Ramit, thanks for sharing these post on how to deal with negative reviews. I’ve sent you an email with our dealer reviews and need your help. Look forward to hearing from you.

  2. Nice post. You’re right, we had ignored all bad reviews on our google places page till now . we had no idea how to reply to them.

  3. Hey Ramit, hows life treating you. Its been so long since we talked. Nice post and lets talk soon. May have you handle our SEO for the dealership

  4. Interesting take on reviews. Just read google’s update on soliciting reviews. A friend of mine bought a car and the sales person offered a full tank of gas if we put a positive review on their yelp page !

  5. Blogged about the vast spam campaigns that car dealerships up here in Canada do and found that for many of them it’s done by 3rd party PHONY SEO/Social Media agencies….


    Take a look at what I discovered over 6 months ago….and I’d bet that US dealerships are doing the exact same shoddy marketing, eh!



  6. Mike Blumenthal today write a post on reviews too. Interesting

  7. @Jim: I write a post on reviews that plumbers were getting posted using review service firms. You can see more on it here

    US car dealers are not that aggressive when it comes to posting fake reviews till date.

    Time will tell 🙂

  8. @Alex: Its sure been a while. Give me a buzz and lets catch up. I heard you were managing the finance dept at the dealership !

  9. Looking for assistance to get rankings for our local listing. sent you an email. Look forward to hearing from you.

  10. Jessica Sanchez

    I believe that negative reviews should be ignored. No point in stoking the fire. It’ll get get worst.

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