General Motors is making it easier for its 4,300 dealerships to meet a mandate that they have an approved reputation-management vendor in place to fetch and monitor customer reviews.
GM has certified two more vendors for a program that began last January, to increase their choices to five.
The reputation-management products of Dominion Dealer Solutions and Reputation.com now are available to GM dealers. The vendors join the first group of approved vendors: Cobalt, Naked Lime and Digital Air Strike.
Dealerships that do not use one of the five approved vendors risk a portion of a GM dealership bonus program known as Standards for Excellence.
Reputation management vendors monitor social media and Web sites on which consumers post reviews to flag the automakers and their dealers when reviews are written about them.
Dealerships also rely on them to solicit reviews from customers and try to place them on the most visible sites used by shoppers, such as Google, Cars.com, Edmunds.com, DealerRater and Yelp.
Reviews influence where people shop for autos and what they buy, studies show. For example, Volkswagen of America stores rated by consumers as four stars or better in Google reviews get on average 32 percent more Web site visits than stores with two stars or fewer.
Ron Katz, operations director at Schumacher Auto Group in West Palm Beach, Fla., said he is glad to see the additional options.
A year ago the group wanted to contract all of its 10 franchises with Dominion's Prime Response reputation management software, but went with Cobalt for its two Buick-GMC stores because Dominion was not yet on the GM program, Katz said.
Now that Dominion qualifies for full dealership bonuses, Schumacher has switched the GM stores to Dominion for next year, Katz said.
Dominion does a good job of soliciting reviews from customers without interfering with the automaker's solicitation of customer satisfaction surveys, he said.
And Dominion has a system to direct consumers to review sites where they can be of the most advantage to the stores, Katz said. For example, any consumer with a Gmail account has his or her review go up on Google because those reviews tend to be seen by the most shoppers, and Gmail is a product of Google, he said.
Dominion's Prime Response costs each Schumacher store $295 per month. Katz said his stores are now getting about 85 review posts per month, up from 25 per month 18 months ago when the group contracted with a third reputation management vendor.
Reputation.com, which says it has more than 4,000 dealer customers, is selling its products for $199 per month, said founder and CEO Michael Fertik.
Fertik, 35, said Reputation.com's technology has been refined by servicing a number of industries.