Many dealerships find it a pain to respond to customer reviews online.
But new data from Cars.com show it's worth the effort to write a reply below the review.
A study showed that stores that responded to reviews tended to get higher star ratings than those that didn't, said Greg McGivney, Cars.com vice president of strategy. Cars.com studied 10,000 randomly selected dealership reviews on its site.
For example, dealerships in Delaware had the highest star rating on Cars.com with 4.7 stars out of 5. In their case, they responded to 60 percent of the customer reviews on Cars.com.
Meanwhile, South Dakota dealerships had the lowest star rating of 3.9 stars. They responded to just 10 percent of reviews, the study found.
Finding time for responses is challenging for busy managers or Internet staff, McGivney said.
But responses tell consumers, who increasingly look at reviews when deciding where to shop or get service, that the store cares about feedback, and in the case of negative reviews, is willing to go to extra lengths to correct a poor experience, he said.
Many dealers only respond to negative reviews, even though best practice is to respond to all. About 38 percent of all reviews were for used-vehicle sales, 37 percent for new-car sales and 24 percent for service.
The Cars.com study shows that dealers are right to be wary of negative reviews. Customers who write them tend to be passionate about their experiences. In fact, negative reviews in the study averaged 150 words vs. 62 words for the total average.
In all, dealerships responded to about one in three reviews in the study.
Cars.com is a vehicle-shopping site that has aggressively promoted that its shoppers leave reviews about their dealership experiences. The site had 400,000 reviews posted last year.