"That's an opportunity to explain what happened, here's how we're trying to fix it, and here's our commitment to the community," he said. Dealers must also be willing to put a public face on the dealership, either their own or that of a trusted manager.
Matt Rizzetta, CEO of N6A, a New York brand communications company that does crisis communications consulting, said dealers can establish themselves as trusted business and community leaders by participating in events and speaking engagements at local high schools, colleges and universities, trade shows, conferences and community events.
This gives them public platforms to explain their business philosophy and culture, their zero tolerance for workplace fraud and their need to sometimes retrain or even fire employees, Rizzetta said.
"When you go to trade shows, when you go to colleges, it's very sincere, it's very intimate," he said. "You're building the profile of the decision-maker and now you put a face to a name. It becomes a lot more credible, so to speak."
Woods agrees. He notes that putting yourself out there isn't easy, but do it anyway. "Some dealers may say, 'I'm not the kind of guy who does public speeches.' If you're doing damage control, you might need to start," Woods said. "It's going to be hard, it's going to change your schedule. It has to be done."
Max Zanan, CEO of Total Dealer Compliance in New York, said dealers should craft mission statements and codes of ethics — if they haven't done so — and post them prominently on their websites and in their dealerships.
Dealers should also pay attention to negative online reviews and reach out to customers to offer a fix, he said. Once the problem is rectified, ask the customer to do another review, Zanan said. "The dealership has to have a process where they encourage their customers to do that." c