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August 4, 2023

The Most Common Negative Reviews For Auto Dealerships and How to Handle Them

Explore effective strategies for responding to common negative reviews within the auto world, turning challenges into opportunities for growth and improvement. Here are the right tools and strategies that can be used to your competitive advantage.

Buying and maintaining a car is everything from exciting to agonizing. While negative reviews are an unfortunate reality for every business, the high emotion associated with the auto industry makes them a fairly common occurrence for dealerships. 

On average, 10% of a new car dealership's reviews in 2023 are negative reviews, meaning it's important to respond appropriately. 

From tales of bad paint jobs to unexpected fees, negative reviews make it difficult to maintain a positive online reputation. However, with the right tools and strategies, they can also serve as an opportunity for your dealership to grow and improve. 

When you respond to negative reviews, you give your business a voice. You ensure your side of the story is told, while demonstrating to potential customers that you value the customer experience. 

In this post, we’ll explore some of the most commonly received negative reviews for auto dealerships. With experience responding to over 1 million reviews, our response team can provide some expert insight on how to best handle them. 

1. Too Expensive

One common complaint found in negative auto reviews is that prices are too high. If your customers feel they are being overcharged, you’ll most likely hear about it in your reviews.

To effectively respond to these reviews, it’s best to be as transparent as possible. Instead of refuting the reviewer’s claims or getting defensive, address the issue of pricing directly. 

Consider what factors may have influenced the perception of costliness. Maybe there was confusion during the negotiation process or the customer felt pressured into buying additional products/services. In your response, make it clear that you don’t run your business to take advantage of your customers, and offer to connect with the reviewer offline to address their concerns and help clarify the situation. 

For example: 

Reviewer A: “Received a quote for service for $5200 that I then took elsewhere and received the EXACT same service for $1000. Unreal how the dealerships try to take advantage of people.”

Response from the owner: ‘Reviewer A, this feedback is concerning to receive. We strive to keep our prices competitive and reflective of the level of service we offer, and it’s disappointing that we have left the wrong impression. I would appreciate the chance to speak with you so I can better address your concerns and help clear this up. If you are willing to discuss this further, please contact me directly. Thank you, General Manager”

In the end, some customers just won’t like your prices, no matter how competitive they are. That’s why it’s crucial to respond and offer your side of the story. 

 

2. They Sold Me a Lemon

One of the most distressing negative reviews a dealership can face is when reviewers claim they were sold a vehicle in poor condition – a "lemon." Handling these reviews requires empathy and swift action to address any complaints. 

In your response, acknowledge and empathize with the reviewer’s frustration. Offer them a sincere apology for any inconvenience they experienced and stress your team’s dedication to customer safety and satisfaction. 

Next, the best course of action is to offer the reviewer a way to get in touch with your team. Or you can call them directly. This helps avoid an escalation of the conflict online.  It also demonstrates a willingness to help that goes a long way in mitigating negative impacts and rebuilding trust. 

For example:

Reviewer B: “They sold me a 2021 Jeep Renegade and it’s turned out to be a lemon. 6 months after getting the car the gas pump failed and I couldn’t see how much gas was in my car. It took me 5 months to get it fixed because they said it was on backorder. Besides the gas pump, the car is breaking down on me with only 23,000 miles and they sold it to me with 9,000 miles.”

Response from the owner: “Reviewer B, we're very sorry to hear about the issues you're experiencing with your vehicle. We pride ourselves on providing our customers with truly great products that are built to last, and it's concerning to read this feedback. We would appreciate the opportunity to speak with you directly to better understand your situation and see what more we can do to help. If you're available to talk, please reach out to me at your earliest convenience. Thank you, General Manager”

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3. Bait & Switch, Unexpected Fees

Negative reviews that highlight a poor sales experience, such as a customer claiming to experience bait-and-switch tactics or receive unexpected fees, can significantly impact a dealership's reputation.

To effectively handle these reviews, it's vital to emphasize your business values in your response without getting defensive. Your team wouldn’t intentionally mislead customers, so affirm that your sales process is founded on transparency and clear communication, but don’t entirely refute the claims made by the reviewer. 

Next, invite the reviewer to reach out to discuss their situation with you directly. This shows that you value customer feedback. It also indicates to prospects that you are open to making changes to prevent any future miscommunications. 

For example:

Reviewer C: “Beware of this dealership's scam tactics. Their advertised prices are deceiving. I went through the trouble of making an appointment and driving 1.5 hours to see one of their used cars. After the test drive, I agreed to purchase the car for the advertised price, only to be blindsided by a guy named Ronnie, who claimed there was an extra $5900 accessory charge on top of the price. When I pointed out that their ad did not mention accessory charges, he showed me the fine print and insisted that every dealer does this. This is utter nonsense and not something ethical dealerships engage in.” 

Response from owner: Reviewer C, we're sorry to read this feedback. We would never intentionally deceive or mislead our customers, and it’s disappointing that we have left the wrong impression. We apologize for any confusion or lack of communication regarding the accessory charge and would be happy to speak with you to see what more we can do to help straighten this out. If you are willing to discuss this further, please contact me directly. Thank you, General Manager


4. Delays, Mistakes, and Miscommunications 

Bringing in a vehicle for service is always a chore. It’s expensive, time-consuming, and never convenient. Because of this, your team wants to make the service process go smoothly. 

No matter how knowledgeable or professional your team is, the occasional mistake is bound to happen. It’s how you work to resolve things that matters. 

For reviews that mention delays in service or missteps on behalf of your team, start by offering a sincere apology. People want to feel like their time and experiences are respected, and apologizing lays the groundwork for reaching a solution. 

After apologizing, assure the reviewer that you will make note of their feedback. This helps show your willingness to make improvements and prevent future mistakes. 

Lastly, if there’s further action needed, and you’d like to offer a solution, ask the reviewer to reach out directly. By suggesting a one-on-one conversation rather than continuing communication in a public thread, you take control of the situation and are in a better position to work things out. 

*Keep in mind, when dealing with delicate situations such as vehicle damages, mistakes, etc., you should only present facts - don’t outwardly assume responsibility for a negative experience.

For example: 

Reviewer D: “I have had a terrible experience every time I bring my 2020 C-HR to this service center. They consistently damage my car, and unfortunately, I am too busy to go back and have it fixed. After my most recent visit, a severe noise began coming from the engine. As a result, I have decided never to return to that service center again. I would've given them 0 stars if I could.”

Response from owner: Reviewer D, I am disappointed to hear that you've had negative experiences working with us. We take this type of feedback very seriously, and we would never intentionally damage a customer's vehicle. I would appreciate the opportunity to speak with you further about your visit to see what more I can do to address these concerns. If you are willing, please reach out to us at your convenience. Thank you, General Manager”


5. Rude Staff 

Claims of rude staff or poor treatment by your team can be tough to swallow. Your team actively does its best to deliver professional and courteous service, but things happen. People have off days and opinions clash, and when they do, you might get a negative review. 

The best way to respond to this type of review is to keep your emotions out of it. While it can be hurtful to receive negative feedback about your staff, it’s important to stay measured in your approach.

First, apologize to the reviewer for how they were treated. Make it known you expect a higher level of service from your team, and assure the reviewer that their feedback will be addressed properly and with the right people. 

Second, make it known that you would like to speak with the reviewer to address their concerns directly. Addressing the reviewer’s concerns via email or over the phone is your best shot at remedying a personal situation, and it ensures your online message stays respectful and professional. 

For example: 

Reviewer E: “Did not have a pleasant experience with the sales manager I spoke with here. He was unhelpful and seemed like he did not want to sell me the vehicle. I thought about working with another salesperson at this dealership, but if that was the experience I had with a top-performing sales manager, the overall culture of the dealership is likely similar. This is not a place that I will ever do business with.”

Response from owner: Reviewer E, I'm sorry to hear about your negative experience. We strive to provide excellent and accommodating service and it's disappointing that we left the wrong impression. I apologize for the way you were treated during your visit and assure you that we keep this feedback in mind as we strive to improve in the future. Lastly, I would appreciate the opportunity to speak with you directly to see what more I can do to address your concerns. If you’re willing to discuss this further, please don't hesitate to reach out. Best, General Manager

While no two situations leading to a negative review are alike, there are a few general things to keep in mind when crafting an effective response. How to respond to negative reviews:

  • Respond promptly.
  • Empathize with the reviewer’s frustration - avoid taking responsibility for a negative experience.
  • Apologize when appropriate - show compassion and empathy for the reviewer.
  • Stay professional - keep emotions, politics, and opinions out of the conversation.
  • Take things offline as soon as possible - invite the reviewer to contact you directly.  

Overall, your goal in responding to reviews is to open up a line of communication with your unhappy customers. People don’t want to feel negatively about your business; they just want their voices heard. 

While it's often difficult to respond to and acknowledge negative reviews, it demonstrates accountability and an awareness that builds trust for your business and works in your favor. It allows you to offer your perspective in an otherwise one-sided conversation. It also helps you identify concrete areas where your business can grow and improve. 

Review management is the key to maintaining a positive online reputation for your dealership. To learn more about how to leverage reviews, see where your business ranks in the local market and gain a more comprehensive understanding of industry trends, check out Widewail's Automotive Reputation Index

Interactive Dataset  Automotive Reputation Index Explore (It's Free)

 

Emily Keenan

Originally from Scarborough, Maine, I moved to Vermont after graduating from St. Lawrence University, where I received my BA in English and Spanish. I have always been interested in writing and communication, which is what initially drew me to the Review Response Specialist position at Widewail. In my spare time, I can be found reading, playing electric guitar, or strolling/biking around one of Burlington’s many scenic trails. I always welcome the opportunity to talk about my work, and invite anyone with questions or comments to reach out or connect with me on LinkedIn.

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