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Car Dealers, are you guilty of review-gating?

Marc Lavoie

3rd Base Coach
Jan 3, 2019
First Name
A practice commonly referred to as “review gating”, it’s normally done by sending customers a feedback or survey form — through email, SMS, landing pages, or social media. Based on their form responses, customers are then asked to either post a review on Google if they had a positive experience — or share details of their feedback privately if they had a negative experience.

Knowing that Google prohibits this kind of practice, but is having a tough time embracing it, do you think it can help or hurt a car dealership to do so?


One of the good guys
Apr 20, 2009
First Name
It is interesting to me that this is still being discussed. I wrote about the negatives of this practice extensively here on Refresh when I worked for DealerRater... sheesh... 10 years ago! Where does the time go? I haven't followed the space in many years, but I'm glad to hear that Google is discouraging this practice. My thoughts haven't changed much:
  1. You NEED some negative-ish reviews
    1. Nobody believes EVERY customer has a 5-star experience. It doesn't pass the smell test.
  2. A negative review is an opportunity
    1. A negative gives you the chance to show you are human, and more importantly, you work hard to fix problems IF they happen
  3. A negative is an opportunity for improvement
    1. Look for patterns. Negative reviews will help you identify and correct the parts of your CX that can be improved. It is too easy to turn a blind eye to consumer pain points when you use a review gating system that literally sweeps them under the rug for you.
  4. "5 words and 5 stars doesn't sell cars"
    1. The whole approach stinks. A gated system puts all of the emphasis on the stars. Consumers don't resonate with stars, they resonate with stories. Your ask should never be for stars. Ask your customer to tell their story and you'll get content that motivates others to buy from you too.
I used to have 10 points, but it's been 10 years. ;)

The industry, and business at large, went through ALL of the different methods of "gaming" reviews over the years. The first few years were full of these ideas:
  • "I have a service that makes online reviews out of my surveys"
    • interestingly enough, this is the same kind of filtering that gating does, it was just manual at the time.
  • "Let's just make our employees write reviews for our store"
    • Google's first revision of their TOS for reviews added this as a no-no explicitly
  • "Let's set up REVIEW STATIONS IN-STORE and have the customer write a positive review BEFORE they go to the finance box"
    • that was quickly followed by "um, can we get away with using 4G iPads? Google is blocking our IP."
    • My question at the time was, "um, is the interaction with finance NOT a part of the experience, or just not a part you want to be reviewed?"
  • "Let's offer a gift card IN EXCHANGE for a positive review"
    • That one carried a $25k fine from the FTC
  • "Let's tie the salesperson's comp to a certain number of reviews each month."
    • See "let's just make our employees write us reviews" above

It was the Wild Wild West...

I had the pleasure of presenting at all of the conferences, once with @Jeff Kershner, on the topic of reviews during that time. I believe that I ended every session with the quote from Socrates that you'll find in my signature. Maybe I'm naive, but I still contend that it is much harder to game the system for an artificial result than it is to treat customers in such a way that you look forward to their authentic response, and the benefits of the latter FAR outweigh those of the former.


Super Moderator
May 19, 2011
First Name
There's a vendor I know of that, as part of their onboarding process, sent that 5-star email to your customers from the last 6 months.
All 4-5 stars go to their tool, all 1-3 stars go to a feedback form.
They take clients from 0 reviews on their platform to hundreds of positive reviews in less than a week. They do not offer reviews for clients who don't pay, which means all their clients have positive reviews.

Dealers up here dropped DealerRater like a hot potato to sign up when they came around, because all they cared about was more 5-star reviews at a lower price than DealerRater, who took the honest approach to soliciting and verifying real reviews.

Dan Sayer

Dec 4, 2009
First Name
If I recall, @Ryan Everson gave me a heads up on this years ago after one of his, or a friend's store, had all their Google Reviews removed by Google after getting caught gating. We did this in the early 10's thinking we were genius but have since gone away from that practice. We use Podium now and our biggest challenge are Service reviews that pull down our overall. Been a great exercise for the fixed GMs though and they are actively pursuing all reviews (which is great to see).


3rd Base Coach
Apr 13, 2012
First Name
Perhaps a human form of review gating we have seen work well, using the GMB short name, text to happy customers while in store or shortly after. Include photo for sales GMB review posting also. Target your best, most happy customers, but be hesitant if another customer is irritated, or overly particular.. 10-12 new Google reviews per week in some cases.
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John V.

Jan 15, 2015
First Name
All I'm gonna say is I'm a 4.8 with 2500+ reviews. Works for me. Let it roll baby!
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Reactions: craigh