Dealer Web sites are more important than ever

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We’re living in the digital age. As such, online search engines, like Google or Yahoo, have virtually buried the traditional sources, like yellow pages, when it comes to attracting new customers. More and more people now let their eyes “do the walking” on a computer screen.

So says Pete Blackshaw, author of “Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends – Angry Customers Tell 3,000!” He is also executive vice president of Nielsen Digital Strategic Services. He contends businesses that fail to have a really strong Web presence today virtually eliminate a large number of customers and potential customers.

In addition, Blackshaw argues that a strong Web site is an excellent defense -- a good way to protect a brand or a reputation. Specifically, an interactive Web site offering a customer the chance to air a concern gives the company the opportunity to address any complaints before they can turn viral.

The importance of such direct contact with an angry customer can’t be overstated. It can prove to be a real plus in keeping a complaint from suddenly being let loose into cyberspace via such vehicles as YouTube. If it hits big there, potentially millions might see a caustic posting by an unhappy customer.

Just ask United Airlines, recently stung by a song and video entitled “United Breaks Guitars!” It was cleverly created by an unhappy passenger whose guitar was broken by United’s baggage handlers. The airline clearly failed to satisfactorily address the problem with the customer. So, he went on to post his music video on YouTube and, because we live in a wired world these days, it was viewed by millions around the world making United look unresponsive and cheap . . . not how you want people to know you!

Closer to home, then, because our industry has been in tough economic times, it’s likely many dealers have been putting off adding to or updating their Web sites. But, as we’re now seeing, it’s become very important. Moreover, since there are some signs of a turnaround ahead, this may be a very good time to thoroughly review your Web site, looking to make additions, updates and site improvements. While we’re still trying to define exactly what the “new normal” will be for our industry, there is no doubt the Internet will be a prominent part of it.

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