A good or bad online review can make or break a business these days. Therefore, it’s not surprising that so many businesses are desperate to encourage their customers to litter the web with positive reviews. It’s just a shame so many people are really bad at asking for them, and as a result, are more likely to encourage negative feedback. Here’s a recent example of how one sales manager’s insistence that I leave a positive review left me considering leaving a negative one instead.
This story begins with a late-night knock on the door — never a good starting point. Our neighbor stood outside, shaking like a leaf. “I’m really sorry,” he said. “I think I’ve just destroyed your car.” Long story short, after a few phone calls to our insurance company, we went shopping for a new family car.
I’ll be the first to admit that I know very little about cars. As a result, car shopping puts me on edge. The fact is, I’m wary of being taken for a ride by fast-talking salespeople. Car dealers need to take their time with me, explain everything (twice) and be ready for lots of “stupid” questions.
A Word of Warning
If I ever buy a car from your dealership, you’ll have to forgive me because I’ll be on the defensive from the very start. I’ll also not react well to being pushed into something I’m not 100 percent sure about.
Actually, I’m not going to apologize. Next to a home, a car is probably the second-biggest purchase most people are likely to ever make in their lives. When making such a big purchase, car buyers need a little respect.
As such, there are certain things I don’t care about:
- Your sales target: I will not be pushed into making a quick decision because you really need to make your numbers. I will, however, make a quick decision if you give me all the information I need to make a purchase.
- Your relationship with your boss/head office: I am not a pawn in your game of office politics or a willing participant in the good cop/bad cop routine you think is going to pressure me into making a decision.
- Enhancing your reputation: Of course, I’ve checked out all the online reviews before entering your dealership — but the review I may or may not leave for you online is the furthest thing from my mind when I’m buying something. This might sound selfish, but as the customer, this is all about my experience — not yours. Besides, I couldn’t possibly comment on how I feel about doing business with you until after we’ve completed the transaction and I’ve had a little experience with your service.
An Awkward Conversation
People buy from people they like and trust. Some people connect well, and others don’t. Now, I’m sure our sales advisor was a very nice person, but we didn’t really hit it off. She didn’t seem interested in showing us the car we wanted to look at and instead focused all her efforts on a model we knew we couldn’t afford.
Halfway through her pitch, the sales manager joined in the conversation, told us how great the salesperson was and reminded us that we should leave a positive review online of our experience in the dealership.
The fact is, we were getting nowhere with the sales advisor, and by highlighting the lack of confidence we had in her, the sales manager made us feel slightly awkward.
He then told us our sales advisor was going on vacation the next day, and so if we wanted this great deal she was offering, we’d have to hurry. We made our excuses and left. Given the choice, we wouldn’t have gone back.
The thing is, we had really set our hearts on a particular vehicle, and this was the only dealership in town — so we didn’t really have a choice but to return.
With our sales advisor on vacation, her manager took the reins and carved out a deal for us.
During the negotiation, he made lots of promises based on us leaving a positive online review. Sadly, none of these promises were realized when it was time to sign the paperwork, meaning we had to push back time and time again before signing.
Note: As an experienced salesperson myself, I’m used to negotiating the best possible deal. However, I wonder how many people in this situation would have felt pressured into signing something they felt uncomfortable with.
The monthly payments were higher; he insisted that this was because his calculations were based on a price per week and that because most people get paid weekly (not in my experience) I should have known this. We were ready to walk out the door when he ran after us with an offer to reduce our down payment.
The paperwork itself, which we had been promised had already been prepared and would only take 20 minutes to complete, hadn’t even been printed, and so three hours later, we were still sitting in the dealership.
We eventually took possession of the car and noticed the promised full tank of fuel had not materialized, forcing us to wait another 20 minutes while someone drove it to the fuel station. The excuse for this oversight was a lack of staff due to sickness and vacations (another thing I don’t care about). I don’t know what the two other salespeople who stood staring into space for the duration of our time in the dealership were doing — but surely they could have pulled together and helped out.
Not a Great Experience
We left the dealership pretty happy with our new car — but pretty angry at the way we had been treated. As we drove off the forecourt, the last thing the sales manager shouted after us was: “Don’t forget to leave us a positive review online.”
Now, I’m not normally one for posting online reviews — but I’m so glad he reminded me.
The Right Way to Ask
An online review should only ever be solicited after the successful completion of business. A hotel wouldn’t ask for an online review before the guest had the opportunity to check out the facilities for themselves — so why should a car dealership (or any other business)?
An online review isn’t the place a business should learn it has customer service problems. By forcing the opportunity to leave a review, the business owner might just influence a disgruntled customer to leave a negative one.
Instead, you should do everything in your power to ensure the service you offer is as good as it can be, give your customers the opportunity to let you know directly if the service has fallen short and then make sure they leave your premises or website 100 percent happy.
I’m reminded of a sign that used to hang in a shop I worked in as a teenager. It said: “If you are happy with our service, tell others. If you are not happy with our service, tell us.” This is the only thing that needed to be said during our car-buying experience.
Selling can be difficult — but it is not a battle between two rivals. Surely, both parties can leave having had a positive experience?
A Positive Review
So what’s the best way to ask for a positive review? How about a series of emails following up with a customer asking if they are 100 percent happy with the service they have received, giving them the opportunity to iron out any problems and then (and only then) asking for a review.
Positivity breeds greater positivity — so stop bullying, nagging or cajoling your customers to leave positive reviews. Treat them well and do the right thing, and the positivity will flow.
How do you encourage customers to leave positive reviews? Has it ever backfired on you? Share your comments below:
This post first appeared on the iContact Email Marketing Blog.