A good word in a prospect's ear counts for a lot. Discover how to improve customer service and get referrals — speeding up the sales process and growing revenue.
Almost every time I've asked a client where their best customers come from, the answer is the same.
'Our best customers come from referrals.'
Gartner put together some numbers around this, in what they called the ‘balance of trust’. Before purchase, people are 65% more likely to trust a third party (a referee) than they are to trust your marketing and sales messages. After purchase, it flips the other way, with customers being 80% more likely to trust what you say.
Clearly, a good word in your prospect’s ear from one of their colleagues or business partners could save you months, even years, of relationship building. A referral already trusts you when they pick up the phone. So how do you generate more of them?
How a customer's experience impacts your ability to get referrals
To understand how to get more referrals, we need to understand what makes a promoter.
As people, we’re a communicative lot. We like to talk. Social skills like this are one of the reasons we evolved into the dominant species on the planet, equipping us with the language we needed to communicate, collaborate, and share essential survival tips.
Our tree-swinging days might be behind us, but communication still serves to give us a competitive edge today. We are more likely to buy based on an impartial recommendation than from any other source. And when we do, we usually spend more, stay around longer, and make more positive referrals ourselves.
On the flip-side, nothing travels faster than bad news. This too has its roots in our ancestry. If we discover something bad, like ‘this company doesn’t deliver', or 'there’s a tiger behind you', we warn everyone who will listen (over Twitter or in the primeval jungle, respectively).
How to improve customer service and get referrals
1. Build a positive culture around feedback
We all hope that our customers will say good things about us to others. But actually asking for feedback is something that many of us are understandably reluctant to do, as we believe the impact of a bad review can far outweigh the benefit of a positive one.
Chasing feedback is also perceived by some as being crass or desperate. But without that impetus, many customers won’t be as vocal about a good experience as they would if they had a bad one (the tiger is a more pressing concern than the pat on the back, so to speak).
It’s easy to think that excellent service does not warrant praise because it should be the norm. Yes, we should strive to exceed customer expectations whenever possible, but that doesn’t mean that everyone feels that way—or that everyone succeeds at it. And when you do, that deserves shouting about.
2. Request written reviews
Customer reviews could be the missing piece to your wider inbound strategy puzzle.
Today, we do a lot of our communicating online. The uplift in businesses embracing digital and social has made it increasingly difficult for everyone to reach their target prospects. This calls for alternative lead generating techniques such as customer referrals and reviews.
Customer reviews are the easiest way to provide the reliability and authenticity your prospects are looking for. Reading relatable reviews enables prospects to put themselves in previous customers’ shoes, making the process of moving further along the buyer’s journey more seamless. Much like a verbal recommendation, a positive review fosters trust between the reader and your business.
3. Invest in your customer service delivery
Quality customer service delivering an experience that meets or exceeds expectations is central to maximising the value from your existing database and keeping your customers happy. The customer service experience shouldn’t be an afterthought; today it encompasses strategy, activity, and technology and is an integral part of your business growth flywheel.
If you are already thinking about how to incorporate these tips into your sales and marketing strategy, you have that base covered. Planning around their implementation is the next step to making sure this core activity is completed month on month. Who is responsible for making sure feedback is gathered and reviews are posted? How will you track the impacts of this, and what qualifies as success?
What technology could you be implementing to improve the customer service experience? HubSpot’s recently launched Service Hub is one example of specialist service technology designed to turn customers into promoters and service into business growth.
The bonus tip that will really boost your potential for positive word of mouth?
Building trust in your community.
One of the greatest things about inbound marketing is that it has to start with helping people.
If you can reach out and help people in your community without them having to buy from you first, you can establish a reputation that enables people to positively recommend you. If you actively help from the first engagement then the subsequent trust which develops really makes a difference.
There's a good chance that the people who you help, will tell others and they will become a referral who will begin their journey with you in a much more positive mindset than if they'd found you themselves.
How to improve customer service overnight
Being as flexible and receptive as possible to customers’ feedback and ideas demonstrates your ability to truly listen and provide solutions unique to their business.
Your business should always have the following questions in mind: who are you selling to and what will that target buyer consider great customer service? The quickest way to improve the customer service experience is to listen to your customers and take immediate action.
We can all claim to understand the importance of tailored customer service but how many of us actually act on this feedback? Showing the customer you have listened—now there’s a way to make an instant, lasting impression.
I'm a content writer and blogger with a love for everything monochrome.
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