The website allows users to review car dealerships and their salespeople, and it releases an annual list of the highest-rated dealerships in each state.
The recognition is given to dealers each year for their performance during the previous year. Larry Hill Ford was given the honor in 2012 based on reviews written in 2011 and this year for 2012 reviews.
Larry Hill Ford has been in business with its current name for nine and a half years. Hill purchased Town and Country Ford in 2003.
“Since we bought it (the dealership), we’ve expanded the display area for cars,” Hill said. “We also bought what used to be the Jeep-Chrysler dealership next door and opened Larry Hill Imports.”
He said that drastically increased the amount of space the dealership had to display vehicles. It also allowed the dealership to increase its inventories of pre-owned vehicles as well as better separate its imported and domestic vehicles.
As it has expanded, customer service has remained a priority.
Hill said he is proud of ratings like the ones Larry Hill Ford has received on DealerRater, because it means customers were happy with their service.
“It’s not us talking about the service we’ll give the customer,” Hill said. “It’s them saying what service they received.”
The dealership’s staff were familiar with the website before it received the first state Ford dealership of the year recognition in 2012. Hill called it the “premier” site for automobile dealers.
Hill said he believes having high reviews is good for business because many people will look at reviews before they go shopping.
“I know I do personally,” Hill said. “I don’t make any significant purchase without looking at reviews.”
Hill said the dealership’s salespeople each have cards on their desk advertising the DealerRater website so they can review their experiences after they go home.
Customers are encouraged to review the dealership, but not required to do so. He said he believes that has motivated the staff to provide the kind of service that warrants high ratings.
“We discuss it frequently,” Hill said. “If we’re going to suggest to people they share their experience, it definitely keeps people on their toes.”
Reviews cannot come from the dealership’s computers because of the website’s rule that reviews cannot come from dealerships’ Internet IP addresses.
Hill said that if a customer was so eager to review the dealership that they asked to use a computer there, any review submitted would not be accepted by the site.
Hill said he hopes reviews on websites like DealerRater will continue to make sure all employees recognize the importance of customer service.
“We’ve got one primary objective,” Hill said. “[It is] that every customer leaves totally happy.”
Car dealers in many areas of the United States have been hit by the poor economic situation.
He said Larry Hill Ford has continued to do well.
Hill said the dealership’s number of pre-owed vehicles and involvement in the community have played parts in Larry Hill Ford’s success.
The dealership supplies local high schools with cars to be used for driver’s education classes, co-sponsors an annual Fourth of July fireworks event with Mount Olive Church of God, sponsors students going on church-related mission trips and donates to various organization in the community, including local chapter of the American Red Cross.
The fact that Cleveland has a university, headquarters for various church-related organizations and various manufacturing industries has also had a positive impact on business, he added.
“I don’t know who’s responsible for that, but it’s very good for our economy,” said Hill.