For any business, credibility is key in maintaining a high level of customer service and, in turn, a high level of customer loyalty. This is especially important for the automotive sales industry, the long-time favourite butt of many a joke aimed at the quintessential “used car salesman” and his well-greased “what do I have to do to put you in this car today, sir-or-madam” approach to business. How then is a dealership best advised when it comes to building a reputation that the consumer will trust? Focusing on the area of online presence, this post will outline a few of the steps you should take (or, frankly should have already taken) to help ensure that the legend of the sleazy car lot doesn’t haunt your reputation on the net!
Test Your Mettle: The Value of Testimonials
Encouraging testimonials and reviews on your website is a great way to build an archive of positive public endorsements that’s easily accessible to new users near the upper lip of the purchase funnel. Hosting reviews on your website shows customers that you’re a transparent business with enough confidence in your organization’s integrity to provide a public platform for sharing opinions. This is all about generating social proof, and glowing, positive reviews on your website speak to those not yet acquainted with your business. Of course, not every customer review is going to be positive—sh** happens and things fall through the cracks from time to time. Negative reviews offer an opportunity too, however. Responding to all client reviews in a timely and personalized manner is important, though it’s especially important when it comes to those that reflect a poor customer service experience. In handling negative reviews, it’s crucial that you show the public that you’ve made a conscious effort to address the issue and to take it offline; leaving dissatisfied reviews to smolder on-site with no visible attempt to rectify the situation risks making a mountain out of a molehill and could turn a mildly miffed person into a complete troll.
Third Party Ads Stay Away!
This one’s more for the smaller dogs. Look, as a more modestly sized dealer, you might be tempted by fistfuls of green into running third-party ads on your website. Short answer? Abstain. Whatever the short-term boost in revenues might be, sullying the look of your business online isn’t worth it. You want to talk about things that kill credibility? Think about how desperate and unprofessional your website will look as a post-it board for other people’s ads. Remember, this is a website and not a downtown streetlight standard.
Update Regularly and Update Often.
Stick your head in any lunchroom fridge on the last day on the month. After you’re done dry-heaving and you sit back down to finish reading this post, you’ll understand what I mean when I say stale content stinks from a mile out. Sites that haven’t been updated in weeks or months aren’t fooling anyone and while, for some business, weekly or even monthly updates might not really be all that necessary, you cats in the car game know that this industry is fast-paced. That means being on top of your blog, ensuring that research landing pages are updated as information changes, and making sure your contact information is highly visible and current.
Site Speed: Strap a Turbo on that Snail!
When organizing your site, keep the goal of a frictionless user experience top-of-mind. Did you know that Google once experienced a 20 percent drop in traffic because of an extra five seconds in load time? Are you better than Google? The lesson here is that every second you can work to claw back from the time it takes to load your website is worth it. At Strathcom, we think aiming for a load time of one to three seconds is the benchmark our clients ought to set. That means dropdown menus of a sensible length, that means reducing the sizes of on-site images files, and prioritizing your most important content so that it loads first! You should use your site to highlight your strengths, to showcase what’s truly important to your dealership. Not only will you be able to lead with what you do best, but customers will appreciate that you aren’t trying to do everything. Because, after all, if everything is important then nothing is.
What’ve you Got to Hide? It’s all “About Us”.
Think of your dealership as the online face of your business (if it were a person). Hard to do, yes, but the point we’re driving at here is credibility through humanization. How do you humanize your business to consumers? Introduce yourself properly with a well-built, full-bodied About Us page. Give potential customers a background of your business, your connection to your community, and introduce your team. As consumers increasingly dote their loyalties on businesses with a vested interest close to home, it’s important that yours comes across as accessible, friendly, and community-minded. Accreditations help too— if you’re affiliated with your region’s local Better Business Bureau, you’re going to want to cheerlead that! Make your membership known; it’s an easy win in assuring the consumer and creating peace of mind.
In the interest of not making a novel out of this post, we’ll stop here. The truth is, there’s a lot you can do to bulk up the credibility of your online presence. Most of the recommendations we’ve made are easily actionable; just stay on top of these things, and the wins are all but guaranteed. It’s important to keep a public relations-minded approach to your website design, not only in the interest of basic customer-service, but in the long-term project of building long-lasting credibility that your business can rely on well into the future.