Positive feedback can boost the spirits of any salesperson, and for some businesses it can mean even more. Telling the tale of a job well done could turn into a customer testimonial.
Lots of businesses are in constant search for feedback, but in a detached and impersonal way. Slapping a “Tell us how we’re doing” note on a store receipt sounds nice, but most of us overlook it, like a “How’s my driving?” message on an 18-wheeler’s mud flap.
Then there’s the phone method, when you’re on hold with a company and a cold, electronic voice invites you to “stay on the line” for a survey about your experience. How enticing! Or perhaps it’s a random call from a customer service center, asking if you have a few minutes to discuss your recent car repair. (Yes, that’s exactly what I’d like to do right now. How did you guess?)
When earned properly, customer feedback can be put to good use in marketing and promotion. Here are five tips for getting and using customer testimonials:
1. Timing is everything: Skip that out-of-the-blue phone call, which could border on being intrusive. Amanda Jesnoewksi, owner of Velocity Media + Communications, wrote a piece recently for startupsmart.com, and says to ask after a sale has provided a client with value. “It could be saving them money, reducing their expenses or stress, or making their life easier,” she wrote. “Don’t make the mistake of asking them just after they’ve signed up. Not only will you face more resistance, the testimonial you receive won’t be as specific or powerful.”
2. How to ask: Personally seeking out testimonials is a better method than those random phone calls, if a sales relationship with a client is strong enough. The actual method of providing the feedback can be tricky, however. As Colleen Francis of Engage Selling Solutions wrote recently for eyesonsales.com, some might feel intimidated at the prospect of writing a recommendation. “The real power of testimonials comes from the fact that they’re not polished,” she says. “They’re authentic and from the heart. Show the client other client testimonials as an example. That should set the table for them. Next, ask your client the following: ‘Finish this sentence in 25 words or less: I really like (product/service/person) because …’ This really works because it gets right to the point about the feelings people have for you, for what you do and for what you’re selling.”
3. Aim for specifics: Ideally, customer testimonials are current (no one will be impressed by a recommendation from two presidents ago) and compelling. Generic praise won’t impress anyone, but something more substantial might. As Francis notes, the best testimonials include specific benefits (more revenue, reduced costs, streamlined production). “A testimonial that simply states: ‘Company ABC is great to work with!’ doesn’t capture a buyer’s attention, create emotion or encourage anyone to work with you,” she wrote. “Instead, use a testimonial that is more detailed information. Made over, the ineffective testimonial would be: ‘Working with Company ABC has saved us time and money. Our teams work one hour less a day because we have reduced duplication and all corporate files are in one central location that everyone has access to.’”
4. Be polite: Some of the best feedback is unsolicited. If someone felt strongly enough to write a positive letter or email about your service or product, chances are you’ll want to share it with others. But there are two important points that go with that, as detailed by Derek Gehl on entrepreneur.com. First, ask the customer’s permission before using a testimonial on a website or sales material. And second, don’t edit the feedback. “If you can’t post a comment ‘as is’ and feel comfortable with it, it shouldn’t go up,” Gehl writes.
5. Think multimedia: An audio or video testimonial can also be effective, in which the client describes the sale, transaction, customer service and overall satisfaction. Author and consultant Barry Farber wrote a piece for inc.com that includes an anecdote of using an audio testimonial in a sales presentation. If a potential customer raised concerns about price or support, he would reply with, “‘I can appreciate that. Many of my current customers felt the same way. May I show you what they said after doing business with us?’ I would then play the audio testimonial. (I also had copies in print, on the customer’s letterhead, on the table). When your customers are talking passionately about your products, a prospect can’t help but catch their enthusiasm.”