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Some dealerships go to great lengths to ensure happy customers take to their keyboards.

Brian Bush, vice president of e-commerce for the Tom Bush Family of Dealerships in Jacksonville, Fla., created an incentive program for dealership employees in a bid to boost positive online reviews. He credits the program, which began in 2013, for dramatically improving the retailer’s online scores.

“We were decent before,” with the group’s six stores and body shop averaging a four-star Google rating, Bush said. Today, the group averages a 4.7-star rating.

Employees initially were paid $50 per positive review left by their customer. After a year, Bush decreased the incentive to $20. In 2016, the stores adopted Podium, a vendor that connects to the store’s customer relationship management software tool, DealerSocket, to message customers links to review sites. Bush decreased the incentive to $10 per review, acknowledging that automating the process increases the number of reviews each employee receives.

To lead to an incentive, reviews must be at least four stars and mention the specific sales or service employee who worked with the customer. If an employee gets a customer to post on multiple platforms, the incentive is paid for each review.

Since launching the program, Bush says he’s paid out $137,000 in incentives. One salesman, Steve Garcia at Tom Bush Volkswagen, thrives on the program, to date earning $18,000 in review incentives.

“He gets asked for all the time. He is consistently our No. 1 salesperson in the whole company,” Bush said, adding that Garcia’s sales numbers rise every year. In 2019, Garcia sold about 360 cars. Tom Bush Family of Dealerships, meanwhile, sold about 5,800 new and used vehicles in 2018

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“It creates a self-fulfilling prophecy, not only for our store but for our salespeople,” Bush said. “A big part of that is reputation, both online and referrals.”





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