All About Car Dealer Ratings

Your dealership ratings not only play an important role in dealership car sales, but also shapes a buyer’s perspective. Research shows that 92% of car buyers research online before they buy, and manufacturers are studying your ratings as well. What will they see about your dealership? How can you affect those perceptions to get higher ratings? Read on to learn how to maximize your Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) and online dealer ratings from sources like Google, Facebook, Yelp, and more.

What is the car dealer CSI?

After every sale, the manufacturer sends a survey to the buyer, and those scores rate both your salesperson and the dealership. The survey asks questions about every aspect of the car buying process from the reception when they walk in the door, to the cleanliness of the dealership, to the selection of vehicles in stock.

Manufacturers rely on the information collected in buyer surveys to shape planning, outreach, and more. The better the dealership CSI score, the better “score” you’ll receive in terms of in-demand and limited vehicles. Naturally, those benefits have a significant impact on your dealership’s inventory management, bonus budgeting, and hiring processes.

Can you do a fair-to-middling job and still expect a high score? No; you must still exhibit the customer service excellence buyers have come to expect. Only then can you follow up with a request for a top score on your surveys. If a salesperson does a poor job, they don’t deserve top scores. But even if you cross off everything on your customer service process checklist, some customers will still look for more.

How to earn a good customer satisfaction survey rating

What is the secret to not only paving the way for the customer to complete the survey, but to get positive results? It ties back to your culture of customer service and staff training.

According to software company Zendesk, 90 percent of buyers say positive online reviews influence their buying decisions. Even before you can shake hands with a potential buyer, he or she has spent average of nearly 14 hours online during their search. By the time the potential customer enters your lot, they have a good idea of what to expect; this means you have to go above and beyond those high expectations to knock their socks off.

Assuming your service is excellent and your facility clean, bright, and efficient, your dealership can plant and grow an abundant crop of top CSI and online review scores by remembering three things:

  • Plant the seed: Mention the survey early in the process. Create a quick explanation your sales and service team can use requesting a positive review and practice. Host a contest to see who can memorize it best and deliver it.

  • Water the plant: Earn – and ask for – positive survey results for both the manufacturer survey (CSI) and online reviews. This is especially important with your end customer - 77% of consumers are willing to leave a review if asked. Have you ever been graded or rated on a curve by teachers or employers? The idea that everyone has room for improvement is ingrained in most of us, which is why some shoppers don’t automatically give top scores, even when they are happy. The key is to ask them to do so.

  • Reap the harvest: Follow up, thank you the buyer for their business, and check in to see if they have questions. Share your desire for top scores and encourage customers to work with you to ensure they’re satisfied.

Seven steps to increase ratings for your dealership

Customer satisfaction is not the sole responsibility of either the salespeople or the managers but of every employee at a dealership to improve the customer’s overall experience. For example, earning consistently high dealership ratings means putting a communications strategy into practice. The one-two punch of staff and customer training, combined with this strategy, is crucial to success.

When you put customer satisfaction first, you’ll build a loyal base of customers, who then in turn refer more buyers to you.

  1. First impressions count. Walk into your front door and look around as if you’re a customer. Is your front desk staff looking up and smiling? Is your floor clear and are your rugs and mats straight? These tiny details matter in an overall score. Imagine if you’re staying at a beautiful luxury hotel and you walk in the door to see mud on the floor and dust bunnies settled in the corners: it affects your impression, even if everything else is stellar.

  2. No hassle. Endeavoring to smooth out and streamline your buying process will pay dividends in the long run. Buyers don’t want to run the gauntlet to buy a car; they want your assurance that it will be as hassle free as possible. If your customers leave feeling that the time went quickly, your reviews and survey scores will reflect that positively. If, on the other hand, the process feels clunky and drags, they’ll remember that. Respect the customers’ time and they’ll notice.

  3. No pressure. Your staff should understand that customer service excellence takes priority over upselling. That’s not to say that you can’t have a plan and script for upselling, but it’s imperative that the conversation is natural and follows the path instead of trying to shoehorn it in. Buyers like to feel they’re leaving with more than they expected.

  4. Leverage your knowledge. According to J.D. Power’s 2016 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) Study, buyers who worked with both a salesperson and a product specialist were typically more satisfied than buyers who worked exclusively with a salesperson. Product specialists can help customers better understand new technology features and explain functions within the vehicle, which affects the way the buyer feels about (and then rates) their experience.

  5. Show you care. A Wunderman study discovered that nearly 80% of consumers prefer to do business with a brand that shows it cares about them. One best practice is to use the customer’s name frequently; as best-selling author and salesman Dale Carnegie wrote, “Names are the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” And don’t forget to thank them for their business. Buyers like to feel appreciated, just like anyone in our personal lives. Even in this era of email and text messages as primary forms of communication, handwritten thank-you notes show clients how much you value them as people.

  6. Pave the way. Do your customers know where to go to post reviews? If you funnel their attention to particular review sites and lead them to key review sites, you’re showing them that you care about their opinion. And you’re maximizing the impact of positive reviews in your favor. For example, does your web site feature an invitation to post a review at Google, Yelp, or Facebook? Does your weekly/monthly newsletter? Pave the path and make it easy, and your customers will follow.

  7. Follow through. Speaking of thank-you notes, they are great vehicles for requests to fill out a survey. Coach your team on proper letter writing so that your notes all inspire that warm, fuzzy feeling that convinces them to leave a rating. Respond to every review, knowing that person took time out of their day to write it. If it’s a negative review, ask what you can do to improve that. And call the day after the sale and again a week later to see if the buyer has any questions. Knowledge is power, and your follow up may help the customer with an unanswered question that might leave room for a less-than-perfect CSI score or Yelp or Google review.

Now you’ve planted a garden in which stellar CSI scores and online reviews can grow. And with those five stars and perfect 10s, your dealership will thrive.