This is part two of a two-part series on customer service.
Getting Customers To Actively Share Their Stories Is Challenging – How To Crack The Code
In part one of this conversation, we talked about the various methodologies behind collecting customer feedback on your products or services.
In this article, we’ll talk about how to turn that feedback into reviews, references, referrals and customer advocacy tools that can be used to accelerate marketing and sales cycles.
The key, as we said in the first article, is operationalizing these business outcomes. Instead of leaving them to chance, you should consider creating the programs that turn activities into business outcomes.
Do a Google search for almost any business and you’ll find online reviews. In fact, you should do this for your business, because most people aren’t aware of the negative reviews on the web. Even worse, most reviews are negative until a company starts actively collecting positive reviews.
This is one of the first places prospective customers will go after they start the process of getting to know you. Even after they talk to you, they might check out your reputation online.
Still not convinced? Here is some data on reviews from earlier this year:
- Social commerce specialist Reevoo reports that consumers spend five times as long on a site when they interact with negative reviews, with an 85% increase in conversion rate. This aligned with other data that was reviewed. A near-perfect rating is less credible and leads to consumer skepticism if reviews are too positive.
- BrightLocal’s local consumer survey shows that 91% of consumers between the ages of 18 to 34 are big believers of online reviews, trusting them as much as personal recommendations. Another 20% said that they trust a review if it’s backed by several other reviews.
- BrightLocal’s research also found that, on average, consumers require a business to have 40 online reviews before they believe its average star rating. This is up from 34 in 2017, which may suggest higher expectations among consumers when it comes to the veracity of reviews.
- One study published on Harvard Business Review found that for every one-star increase a brand gets on Yelp, that business sees a 5% to 9% increase in revenue.
- Research by the Spiegel Research Center reveals that the likelihood of a product getting purchased increases by 270% when it gets five reviews.
- The same Spiegel study found that reviews have a much larger effect on purchase likelihood when it comes to more expensive items.
- Despite the popularity of including photos in reviews, 43% of shoppers still say that text-based reviews influence their purchase decisions most vs. photos (33%) and video (24%).
This is exactly why you need to go on the offensive and encourage your happy customers to leave you online reviews.
Let’s face it, even the best business or the best restaurant is going to have a handful of poor reviews. Someone was having a bad day, another person got off on the wrong foot and a third just didn’t understand or have the right set of expectations around the service. Any business can get a bad review. Some of the bad reviews aren’t even real in some cases.
But consumers are willing to look past a few bad reviews if most of the reviews are positive. Any restaurant with over 500 positive reviews and a couple of negative reviews is going to get my business. What’s important here is that you have 499 positive reviews, so let’s make sure you can get those for your business.
You can’t leave these to chance. You have to ask your happy customers to give you reviews. Actually, asking isn’t enough. You have to turn asking into a program.
What we do for clients at Square 2 is create the program components and then teach people how to use them.
First, with so many places for reviews online, it’s impossible to get customers to leave reviews in all of them. Pick a few that you want to focus on. For us, it’s the HubSpot Directory, Google and Clutch.
Then create the email tools that everyone in the company can use to make leaving a review easy. Give customers the links and tell them what to do in a step-by-step way. You might even want to suggest what they can say.
Finally, consider offering an incentive. It can be a $10 gift card to Amazon or some other token of your appreciation. So we are crystal clear, you’re not paying them for the review; you’re compensating them for the time they took to leave you the review. There is a difference.
Let everyone at your business know when to ask for reviews. One of the best times is after a client tells you how great you are. This could be after you’ve delivered, after they’ve seen value or after the project wrapped up successfully. This could also be after they needed help and you blew them away with your experience.
Once this starts working, set up a tracking mechanism to keep track of reviews and monitor reviews personally. It’s very likely that you’ll pick up some not-so-great reviews along the way, and you’ll want to respond to those so everyone else sees you care and want to help anyone who is not happy.
Actively managing reviews is now a mandatory part of the marketing operations playbook.
If your business has a complex sale with a long sales cycle and a high ticket average, it’s likely that references are part of your sales process.
As your prospects get deeper into their buyer journey and they’ve decided they like you and want to hire you, they’ll want to confirm that decision by talking to other people who hired you.
These references can make or break your sales process. Mishandle these and you’ll kill your deal at worst and at best add weeks to your sales cycle. Both of these situations are 100% avoidable.
The key is to go on the offensive and be proactive. Notice a theme here?
There is nothing remarkable about having to check references. You give them your list. The prospect reaches out. The customer is mildly annoyed they have to do this for you. There is the dance of the schedules until finally they talk. If that goes well (and who knows if it will or not), the deal goes forward.
But a lot can go wrong while all that’s going on, not to mention the time it takes for a prospect to do this with three or four people.
Instead, serve up a reference reel. Here is an example of a reference reel.
Our research with our clients shows that using a reference reel cuts down the need for actual references by up to 50%. We’ve also found that when clients successfully produce and use a reference reel they can shorten their sales cycle by 5.5 days on average.
Producing a reference reel is not as hard as you might imagine, especially today. When our clients ask for help with this, we’re able to ship out a video tool kit. They use their smartphone and dial in remotely to the shoot. We help produce the shoot remotely and capture the footage remotely, and then we return an edited reference reel in about a week.
The biggest challenge is finding the customers, getting them on board, having them block the time and encouraging them to meet with us for a pre-production huddle. After that it’s all downhill for sure, and now sales has the video asset they need to move the sales cycle along much quicker.
Referrals are when people recommend you to other people. These are the hardest of the advocacy motions to proactively manage, but they are not impossible to manage if you know how to do it.
One of the big challenges around referrals is they come in sporadically. Not surprising, because they are spontaneous by nature. That means some months you can get no referrals and other months you might get six referrals.
This is one of the challenges with businesses that use referrals as their only source of new business. One easy step toward making referrals more scalable is to start tracking them. Set up a dashboard along with other advocacy metrics, but make sure referrals is one of them. This is a number that should be going up month over month.
The first and best way to get more referrals is to simply ask clients and customers to be mindful that referrals are an important part of your business.
One way to do that is in your email signature. Consider something like this:Mike Lieberman
Referrals are the kindest form of flattery. If you like us, please refer us!
Another idea is to create a landing page on your website for referrals. Customers can go there to give you the referral and then you can follow up. This makes it easy, allows you to collect and track the referral and then puts the onus on you and your team to handle the follow-up.
Finally, you can encourage your customers for referrals the same way you encourage them for reviews. Each referral they provide you earns them some type of reward.
As an example, we provide everyone who refers us with a bottle of gourmet root beer that has a custom Square 2 label.
Make sure you encourage your customers for the referral and not the closed business. That’s on you. I do see this mistake fairly often – clients won’t give the referrer anything until the deal closes. That’s not the right way to go. Give them something for going out of their way and making the referral. Regardless of qualification or if it closes, you want to encourage them for their behavior, not the outcome in this case.
Testimonials, Case Studies And Success Stories
Last but not least, another set of advocacy activity is just as important as reviews, references and referrals. That’s participating in the creation of testimonials, case studies and success stories.
These assets are critical for the marketing and sales machines. You’re going to need them on your website, to be featured in email campaigns and for sales to share with prospects early in your sales process.
You should have at least one for each vertical you play in, at least one for each of your products or services, one that shows a client using all or most of your products or services and at least one talking about what separates you from the competition.
Each of these should follow a similar format:
- What was the client’s challenge before you showed up?
- What did you do to solve their challenge?
- What were the business outcomes that resulted from you solving their challenge?
You’ll want these in a variety of formats. Printed or digital versions of the story are going to be useful, and video versions of the story would also be great to have. Both have their applications, and to have both versions for each case study or success story would be key.
Here is an example of a client case study for Square 2. Video is a great way to deliver these stories.
Again, you might need to encourage your customers to participate. These are much lengthier commitments than writing a review, serving as a reference or passing along a referral.
All of these tactics together make up a solid customer advocacy program and will drive the business outcomes associated with advocacy. It’s going to fuel your marketing and sales effort, as well as establish your relationship with existing customers. All in all, it’s a win-win for almost everyone.
Square 2 — Building The Agency You’ll LOVE!