Recent research shows that 86 percent of all customers read local business reviews, while a whopping 91 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Whether shopping for new shoes a tax preparer or a handyman, consumers rely heavily on testimonials to inform their decisions.
Testimonials are far more likely to be accepted at face value than your mission statement or other things you state about reliability and quality. That’s because testimonials offer a form of social proof—one of the six key Principles of Persuasion identified by Harvard Professor Robert Cialdini, in what is probably the most widely-cited research on the subject.
Are you gathering testimonials and effectively leveraging them to win business?
Enhancing Customer Experiences
When someone first encounters you through a proxy like a website or ad, that person needs a reason to trust you. Unfortunately, you can’t be in 200 places at once, shaking hands with everyone who finds you through a search engine or directory. That’s where quality testimonials come in.
Still, many professionals aren’t maximizing testimonials for the greatest payoff.
“Limp testimonials are a fact of life because clients don’t always know how to give testimonials and we often don’t have a clue about how to ask for testimonials,” writes Sean D’Souza on the digital marketing website Copyblogger.
This underscores the importance of soliciting testimonials artfully. The following tips will help you leverage happy clients to practically sell your services for you.
At Lockhart, we help CPAs and other financial professionals retain high-value clients by elevating their image so people will perceive their true value as trusted advisors.
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1. EMBRACE PEAKS
One way to avoid “limp testimonials” is to request reviews or referrals after the conclusion of what you know was a “more than satisfactory” experience.
“Your client is expecting your service to be what they paid for,” notes Stephanie Burns in a recent Forbes article. “This, in itself, isn’t what will wow them. What will make you memorable is a peak end experience.”
By “peak-end experience,” Burns refers to a concept similar to The Power of Moments—the subject of Chip and Dan Heath’s latest bestselling business book. When reflecting on recent customer service experiences, “we don’t average our minute-by-minute sensations,” the authors explain here. “Rather, we tend to ignore or forget most of what happened and focus instead on a few particular moments: the peaks, the pits, and the transitions.”
Whether you’ve recently delivered a project of outstanding quality or simply made an authentic gesture that invoked positive feelings, you’re in a good position to ask for a client testimonial you can share. As powerful as peaks can be, they’re often short-lived because people quickly get bogged down with new distractions.
2. DEVELOP A SIMPLE, REPEATABLE PROCESS
Not sure of the best way to follow up on the feedback you’re getting in those peak moments? One easy idea is to create a template specifically for this purpose, so you can access and send it out any time, with minimal effort. Include:
- What you’re asking for.
- A note on the length you’d like, so they know they don’t feel that they have to write a college admission essay. This will facilitate them in completing your request.
- If applicable, a link to existing testimonials you’ve already gathered.
- A casual mention of how soon you’d like to have it completed. This is usually a loose guideline, like “in the next couple of days.” If clients don’t know when you need something back from them, the request is almost sure to sink to the bottom of their inbox.
Next, use an equally simple internal process for getting the testimonial up on your website. Make sure involved team members will know just what they’ll need to do, and where to place it, so that the steps will remain the same each time.
3. PRACTICE POSITIVE SURVEYING
Identifying problem areas is critical to your business, but surveys that focus narrowly on uncovering areas for improvement can backfire.
Research cited by Harvard Business Review suggests that placing a more positive slant on your surveys can improve client satisfaction and retention. “Beginning a survey with what the researchers call ‘open-ended positive solicitations’ seems to be an easy, low-cost way to increase satisfaction and spending,” states the author.
By encouraging clients to remember and relate positive experiences, you increase their sense of well-being and improve the odds that they’ll return. When you gather a positive response, you can then ask permission to share it.
HBR summarizes, “Companies should look at the customer feedback process not only as a chance to listen but also as an opportunity to subtly influence customer perceptions.”
4. BE ULTRA RESPONSIVE TO SOCIAL MENTIONS AND ONLINE REVIEWS
It’s important to respond promptly and cordially to customer reviews, regardless of whether they’re positive. There are two reasons for this.
- Maintaining the high ground.Even if a negative review is petty, a non-response validates the complaint. Nearly nine out of 10 customers report reading businesses’ responses to reviews. A helpful, measured response makes you look professional and may even turn a disgruntled customer or client into an enthusiastic brand advocate. That leads us to our second point:
- The Service Recovery Paradox. Clients who make service-related complaints to a company and have them resolved without further unnecessary hassle end up thinking more highly of the brand than if everything had gone right in the first place. This isn’t a theory; it’s a validated fact. In a recent Forbes article, bestselling author and Stanford Business Professor Chip Heath cited some of the research:
“Almost 25% of the ‘very satisfying’ encounters cited by customers actually started out as a service failure: slow service, mistaken orders, lost reservations, delayed flights, and so on. When employees handled these situations well, they transformed a negative moment to a positive one.”
As is so often the case in business, an apparent setback can be turned into an opportunity if you have the right perspective. Keep track of what’s being said about you with Google Alerts or Social Mention. With fresh insights delivered to your inbox, you can respond quickly, catalyzing positive feelings or smoothing things over according to circumstances.
5. KNOW AND ROUTINELY COMMUNICATE YOUR WHY
Consultant and author Simon Sinek’s guiding philosophy, elaborated in the third most-watched TED Talk to date, is “People don’t buy what you do; they buy WHY you do it.” This is demonstrably true. It pays to have clarity about your WHY, to remind yourself of it, and to communicate it authentically.
An awareness of why your work matters to you takes a lot of the potential awkwardness out of asking for testimonials, just like it makes it easier to solicit donations for a charity you love.
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6. GET SPECIFIC
You won’t always know intuitively why people do business with you, or why some prospects never pan out. However, a simple follow-up survey after a big project can reveal a lot—if you ask the right questions.
Phrase survey questions in a way that a) helps you identify potential objections to purchasing your services, and b) offers specific insights into what your clients most appreciate about you.
For instance, try to uncover information such as:
- Were your clients considering working with competitors of yours? If so, why?
- Why did they ultimately choose you?
- What turned out to be the greatest benefits of your services?
- Would they recommend your services? If so, why?
By identifying key objections to purchasing your services, you can obtain testimonials that will address those directly. Just ask your clients to specifically state a challenge they had, and how they feel you met it. In D’Souza’s words, “Each testimonial is a mirror image of each objection.”
Being specific in testimonials can have another effect as well: It may just “weed out” clients who actually wouldn’t be a good fit for you.
7. GET SEEN ON NICHE INDUSTRY SITES
In addition to the usual suspects like Yelp, Glassdoor and LinkedIn, there are industry-specific sites created to help customers find and vet professionals.
For instance, Avvo and Lawyers.com are specific to attorneys. Avvo claims 97 percent of U.S. lawyers are listed on its site, and Lawyers.com, part of the LexisNexis network, boasts 15 million monthly users. The opinions lawyers share about Avvo on forums like Quora a are varied and tend towards skeptical, but if prospects use it to guide their decisions, you should be paying attention.
There isn’t an equivalent for every industry, but general online directories often feature ratings. This reinforces the importance of setting up Google Alerts and the like. When applicable, listing your company with niche industry sites can help generate positive reviews and actionable feedback.
Keep in mind these statistics, cited by Search Engine Journal:
- One-third of patients report using healthcare-focused review sites to find doctors.
- 63 percent of consumers use a search engine to find online reviews. Only a third go straight to the review website.
- 81 percent of millennial-aged consumers prefer lawyers with online reviews.
Don’t get one-uped by competitors who are leveraging these resources to their advantage!
Help your clients help you
When clients love a service or brand, they’ll usually jump at the chance to help others find out about it. But they might not know where to begin, or even know that their testimonial is important to you.
With a little guidance, these happy clients will have no trouble writing up a quick, clear reason for other people to choose your services over the competition. And in doing so, they’ll help drive the growth of your business.
Lockhart Presentation Folders, crafted with custom-made linen paper, utilize materials and imprinting techniques that result in a stronger physical impression of your brand than any competitor’s product. Like 800 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets, they nearly defy description until you’ve run your hands over them, experiencing the deep, crisp imprint of your own logo.
Call us today at (800) 966-2709 to get started.