Special Coverage

NADA Convention & Exposition

SAN FRANCISCO – Auto dealers should encourage staffers to visit online dealer reviews and similar social-media sites to see what people are saying about their stores.

So says Charlene Li, a social-media expert and author of the book “Open Leadership

“Put monitoring tools in the hands of every employee, not just managers,” she says. “Make them aware of what’s happening. Employees become tuned in to the voice of the customer. Allowing people to listen and learn can be fantastic.”

Li offers that advice at a Cars.com seminar during the National Automobile Dealers Assn. convention here.

An online automotive marketplace, the Cars.com site soon will include reviews of dealerships. Car shoppers can read the reviews and then quickly access a dealer’s inventory.

Whether consumers read reviews and then start shopping for cars at a particular dealership depends largely on the store’s ratings. Most dealership reviews are positive, according to research.

Those that are not give dealers a chance to fix a problem and explain on the review site what was done to resolve an issue, Cars.com says.

A dynamic review site also can serve as a suggestion box for customers to offer ideas for improvements that a dealership might not otherwise get, Li says.

Well-run dealerships should welcome review sites “as a way to build customer loyalty and strong relationships,” she adds.

Building those relationships is not always easy for a dealership because customer visits are relatively infrequent, Li says. “But it can be done.”

She also encourages dealership principals and managers to check out websites in which employees post comments and reviews of their places of business.

Li tells of one site on which an employee speaks highly of his employer, while another worker claims the same business is poorly run. Some workers might offer constructive criticism, “but not all employees want to tell the boss face-to-face.”

Li defines open leadership, the topic of her book, as having “the confidence and humility to give up control but still be in charge of an operation or a customer relationship.”

sfinlay@wardsauto.com