With so many retailers hustling to capture the digital shift, it’s easy to let the details suffer. Unanswered customer complaints is one common example, particularly for companies that are new to amplifying their online channels. A new category is starting to grow around this area of online reputation management, with Lexus one of the latest brand names to embrace it.
"At Lexus, we have always held guest experience as our top priority. Now more than ever, our customers are interacting with our dealerships online. With thousands of customer interactions happening each day, we need a solution for our dealerships that is of the highest quality, personal and cost-effective," said David Telfer, national manager of digital marketing at Lexus, in the announcement.
The company announced yesterday (May 26) that it will partner with Widewail, an automotive reputation management and social media engagement solution.
“Widewail's Engage solution, which delivers online customer review monitoring and response management for local businesses, will be paid for by Lexus on behalf of subscribing dealers for one year beginning August 1,” noted the release.
As Lexus dealers grapple with the business impacts of COVID-19 and aim to improve the online experience for customers, the Widewail solution enables them to monitor and respond to reviews in real time. According to the release, “the solution leverages automation and industry expertise to monitor and respond to consumer reviews.” For example, when a negative review is posted, dealers are notified via text with a suggested response to publish or edit.
According to Widewail, even before the pandemic, reviews served as an indicator of business health. And reviews dropped roughly 65 percent from the 2020 review volume peak to their lowest point. The decline happened over the span of approximately six weeks and lasted approximately three weeks.
According to car buying aggregate site CarGurus, online reputation management is a key “area of opportunity” for car dealers during the pandemic. Feedback collected from CarGurus’ shopper surveys showed that nearly 70 percent of car buyers check online reviews before contacting a dealer. The same study revealed that a positive online reputation can be a key factor in customer acquisition, with a quarter of respondents saying it is the most important factor in choosing a vehicle.
Online reputation is tougher to manage than on-premise reputation due to the multiple angles consumers can take – and it is complicated by the current wave of eCommerce in all categories.
“Building a reputation is increasingly difficult in a world with social media platforms, review sites and live video options that allow consumers to share their opinions with millions of people with just a few clicks. While a positive viral post can draw attention to your company at its best, the online community can just as quickly showcase your brand at its worst,” said Paul Koulogeorge, vice president of marketing, advertising and public relations at The Goddard School, in a Forbes report. “It’s best to think of today’s customers as investigative reporters – they do their extensive research, talk to their friends and family and take a brand’s product for a test run – who can share what they know, or think they know, with their followers instantly. Through the vast reach of social media, anyone can be an influencer, and companies should treat all customers accordingly.”