July 14, 2010
More business [revenue] is lost every year through neglect than through any other cause. One of the fastest ways to fan the fire is to be unresponsive and aloof to customer needs. In contrast, one way to maximize momentum in your business is to appreciate, empower and leverage your most prized assets – satisfied customers.
A growing and successful business will undoubtedly experience the rants and raves of satisfied – and unsatisfied – customers. One of the most neglected areas of businesses is adequate and intelligent Customer Service. The age old adage is true – ‘Customer Is King.’ It can seem overwhelming for most SMB’s [small to mid-sized companies] to manage the Customer Service element effectively. However, when businesses tackle this seemingly daunting task – the rewards are tremendous. Ultimately the results of effective customer relations will trickle down to the day-to-day feedback you receive from raving fans.
Let’s reminisce on the slight exhilaration that accompanies an email from one of your best customers. Or possibly the customer that was initially unsatisfied, but due to your exhaustive efforts was won over by excellent service, and is now a customer for life. These customers are fundamental to small businesses. And more often than not their feedback is unleveraged and underutilized. The solution is simple – listen closely to what customers are saying about your business. And if they aren’t talking yet – start the conversation.
Customer testimonials are powerful because they represent an unbiased 3rd party opinion as it relates to their experiences with you and your brand. Soliciting testimonials doesn’t have to be a begrudged task and can be accomplished in a few simple steps:
- List It. Develop a database [or excel file] of your customer’s business card information [Name, Company, Title, Address, Phone, and Email] – if you utilize CRM tools this will be an easier task. For those of us that are a fan of cutting edge tools and apps - test drive FileMaker Pro.
- Prioritize. Add a qualifier to each customer – albeit sales volume or the time/length of engagement with your company/brand.
- Develop the Questionnaire. The best customer testimonials are short, specific and ‘real’ [described in the language of your customer]. To ensure you receive quality testimonials, develop a short and concise questionnaire as a guide. Empower your customers – the use of unaided/free form questions will increase the likelihood of more qualitative and personalized answers. Checkout Mineful.com for some great examples of Customer Survey Templates.
- Engage + Gather Feedback. Start making face time with your customers. This part can be as elaborate or simplified as you choose and will differ based upon your industry and customer base. One of the most efficient ways to engage customers is via E-mail. On the other hand – one of the most effective methods is to contact customers via phone. Respect is paramount – don’t spam customers – review the Federal Trade Commission recommendation on email communication as it pertains to spam. Using an Online Form Builder such as Form Stack will help simplify and streamline the process.
- Get Permission. Always follow-up with an email to request permission to utilize their feedback in promotional and marketing efforts conducted by your company. A good example of a Testimonial Consent & Release Form can be found here.
Use the valuable information you have received to improve your businesses image and efforts in market. Undoubtedly you will run across those customers that adore your business and this is the perfect tool to maximize your potential. Customer Testimonials should be put to work for you – and this simply means, share your customer success stories with others. Several ways to get started:
- Include them on your website, letterhead and marketing materials
- Share great and ‘over-the-top’ testimonials on sales pitches
- Utilize them on Social Media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube
- Display them on signage and collateral at events and tradeshows
- Leverage them in the media by sharing them with your PR team to include in Press Releases
- Promote them when you engage in charity events or speak at relevant business associations
Ultimately, most potential customers will reference what others say and think about your business. Put your best foot forward and maximize the positive feedback you receive. Tell us your opinion on customer feedback. Have you found a great way to leverage testimonials for your company? Share your success stories with other YFS’s in the comments section below.