Responding to Customer Reviews in the Automotive Industry

How to Respond to Customer Reviews for Car Dealers

The year is 1999. 

The internet is young and still figuring out what it wants to be. E-Commerce is on the cusp of exploding, and a new age of digital retailing has been ushered in.  And with it: 

The Online Review.

Back then, the roster of retail entities which allowed online reviews were small (Amazon and eBay were among them — and yes, I feel old thinking about how long they have been around). But these days, with the advent of Google, Facebook, and Yelp, online reviews (and how they are handled) are a critical aspect of ANY company’s culture and brand personality.

Especially car dealers.

It is not an exaggeration to say that your auto dealership or auto dealer group cannot afford to ignore or underestimate the all-powerful online review. 

Car Dealers Need to Take Review Response Seriously

Let’s be honest with ourselves here: car dealerships don’t tend to have the most stellar position in the consumer’s mind. The automotive industry has long suffered from preconceived notions of dishonesty, time wasted and getting the runaround. 

Dealership dread is REAL. But we’re correcting those perceptions and are striving to do better in the realm of the customer experience.

frustrated customer reviewer


Perception is Everything with Review Response

Car dealerships must learn to manage (and change, ideally) negative perceptions. Customer experience has never been more important or necessary in the automotive industry than right now.

How important is online review management? According to a 2020 consumer review survey by BrightLocal:

  • 93% of consumers used the internet to find local businesses. 
  • 87% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses — up from 81% in 2019. 
  • Automotive is in the Top 5 of industries customers are most likely to read and heed reviews. 

These are staggering statistics. Given these percentages, you should tailor your dealership’s customer experience and review management approach as if 100% of people read reviews about you. 

6 Tips For Responding To Negative Reviews (And Positive Reviews, Too) 

Negative reviews aren’t fun. They can bruise the ego and act as a red flag to other potential automotive customers. It’s understandable to feel upset or flustered over a bad review, but don’t let that reflect on your review response.

The last thing you want to do is compound the situation with unprofessionalism or play the blame game — that is, a signed, sealed, and delivered death sentence. On the other hand, you definitely don’t want to take a negative review lying down. 

The following are best practices you can follow as a car dealer who is faced with a negative review: 

1. Be personal.

Now is not the time for generic, hollow follow-up (on second thought, there really is no time for that anymore). Show your customer you’re listening, and address them directly. In other words: treat them like a real person with feelings.

Most of your reviews will be through some service platform like Google, so there is no excuse not to address each customer by name.

2. Show gratitude.

Regardless of the nature of the review: always thank the customer for taking the time to leave feedback, bringing something to your organization’s attention, etc. 

Being gracious also gives some humanity to the response. And anything that helps you distance yourself from suspicion of being an automated response is welcomed here. 

3. Apologize and display empathy.

Apologize. Sincerely! And avoid apologies that imply the customer is irrationally upset. That customer felt slighted: so own up to it. If you abide by the “the customer is always right” principle, this should be easy. 

“We apologize that your experience was not the best it could be. We strive for high customer satisfaction but clearly fell short here.”

This is an excellent example of owning an apology and highlighting that your intention is genuine. 

4. Hold yourself accountable and take responsibility.

These virtues go along with the previous point, but it deserves its own mention. Accountability is key. Humans make up our organizations, and humans aren’t perfect. As such, organizations and their processes are imperfect as well. 

Admit to making a mistake, even if you feel you’ve done nothing wrong. That customer’s experience — their perception — is valid and should be treated as such. Own the situation, apologize, and provide reassurance. 

5.The best apology is changed behavior.

Communicate changes you will implement and offer to make things right (if possible). Be detailed in recounting the customer’s concerns back to them, and highlight solutions where you can. 

How you handle and follow up on negative reviews highlights your willingness to have a dynamic conversation about the situation and do better next time. Other customers can, and will, take note of this. 

6. Take it outside of the reviews.

This might be the most crucial part in putting your best foot forward in the face of a negative review: Talk directly with the customer. Offer a direct line for the customer to follow up with you to discuss matters further. 

The advantage to this is two-fold: one, you get right on the customer’s level and make yourself available as a resource. And two, you take their activities offline to prevent any further visibility while you mend your side of things. 

Stay on Top of Review Response and Reptutation Management with ActivEngage

  • Get access to one easy to use platform to respond to all third-party reviews.
  • Utilize a dedicated and customizable landing page that directs reviews to the sites that matter most to your dealership.
  • Stay on top of incoming reviews with custom alerts.
  • Encourage more reviews through a variety of channels:
    1. Chat/messaging
    2. Email campaigns
    3. SMS campaigns
    4. Widgets/buttons for email signatures and your website
    5. QR codes and print materials
    6. Opt-in forms for customers and your teams
  • Comprehensive reporting helps track reputation/trends over time.
  • And so much more!

Don't have the time, personnel, or bandwidth to handle this important task yourself? Let ActivEngage manage the responses and your reputation instead! After all, we do know a thing or two about empathizing with dealership customers. 😉


Learn more about reputation management with ActivEngage.

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