The first email Jeff Dyke, president of Sonic Automotive Inc., opens every morning isn’t from a fellow corporate executive or a manager at one of the retailer’s 96 franchised or used-only EchoPark stores. Instead, it’s a message containing the latest online reviews from Sonic’s customers.
Dyke said he and Sonic CEO David Smith wake each day eager to assess the public dealership group’s results as compiled by Reputation.com, a software vendor that monitors online customer reviews.
“Tomorrow morning at 4:30, sure as heck, I’ll get three Reputation.com emails, and we’ll open them up,” Dyke told Automotive News. “There’ll be 100 in there or whatever, and [we] review them all. Anybody who puts something out there, we’re reading about it.”
Dealership operators weren’t always so obsessive about online reviews.
Before search engines and rating sites, customers who took dealership complaints to cyberspace were more or less shouting into a void. But increasing digital shopping activity and the proliferation of sites such as Yelp, DealerRater and cars.com now require auto retailers to place their Internet popularity among their top priorities. Reputation experts agree that retailers should treat each online review or comment as capable of elevating — or eviscerating — a dealership’s brand.