Trying to swiftly and tactfully manage negative reviews is vital to maintaining a dealership's online reputation, and experts say the F&I office needs to be especially vigilant, given how difficult it is to resolve an issue once a deal has been closed.
"If a customer feels like they paid too much for the car, there's ways to go back and help," said Matt Woods, director of field operations for F&I company Service Group. "But in F&I, sometimes it's very hard to quantify a dollar amount."
A complaint about the service department, for instance, can be rectified with a discount, a free oil change or even a full tank of gas for the customer's trouble.
A dealer might have to get creative to resolve an F&I complaint, a process made more difficult if the comment isn't found online until 20 to 30 days after the deal was closed, Woods said.
Customers complaining online that they were cheated in the F&I office often won't provide context, according to Woods. For instance, if customers say they paid a lot more than a friend for the same vehicle, they may not include how much they initially put down or that their friend has much better credit than they do.
"There are things beyond the F&I office that it's good practice for [F&I managers] to be involved in. Is this a legitimate customer; when did they come in?" Woods said. "If it's substantiated, call the customer. If it can't be substantiated, call the customer anyway."