It is hard to overestimate the value of word-of-mouth recommendations for businesses. People trust recommendations by their friends and associates much more than they do the claims of marketers. Testimonials, the recorded experience of real customers, step beyond informal referrals to give what marketing experts call the 'social proof' of a business's offering. Unsurprisingly, a glance at the websites for any number of industry sectors indicates the value placed on testimonials.
What Then are the Six Main Benefits of Testimonials?
1) Testimonials foster trust in the business.
Prospective customers may look at any number of metrics provided by a successful business – accreditations, awards, years in business, and so on – but still not feel assured. Customer testimonials are effectively proof of your claims. They provide a deeper level of trust in the business that undergirds everything else.
2) Customer relationships are improved.
Asking customers for their feedback, and further, asking if it may be published is not only of benefit to the business directly. Customers who feel that their opinions are valued gain status in social media, and are more likely to shore up their position with further recommendations.
3) Customers whose testimonials are elicited are also more likely to repeat purchase.
Even if not all feedback results in published testimonials, the process builds trust and bolsters the referral process.
4) Testimonials bring learning opportunities.
Where testimonials are given honestly, with both positive and possibly negative aspects, there is much to be learned in product or service development. Critical, constructive feedback shouldn’t be whitewashed out of your testimonials – a 100% squeaky clean company can lack credibility. A more realistic approach is to demonstrate, in the testimonial, what project challenges were encountered, including potential problems with communication etc – and how effective measures from your business were able to overcome them and turn them into strengths.
5) Staff benefit from your customers' appreciation of their work.
Testimonials can be a real boost to employee morale, which in turn helps to improve productivity, service delivery, and customer relationships.
6) Business profile is boosted.
Testimonials increase the sense of public accountability for your company. The business becomes more credible, real, and grounded in tangible experience. Social media, in particular, is a great tool for propagating reputations in this way.
How to request testimonials…
It's not hard to send out mass emails requesting testimonials from all registered customers. However, some nuance is required to be most effective.
Contact recent customers to ask for feedback, after the completion of a successful project. If they have received great service from your business, they will be likely to offer some great comments.
Post-sales is a good time to ask, provided everything has gone well. If customers are buying a multi-stage purchase, early benchmarks may also be good moments. Look for the times when the customer is most satisfied and the product or service is uppermost in their mind. A good time to request a testimonial is either after completion of the first sale, or after the first repeat business. Alternatively, the request process could be instigated automatically after each completion – e.g. when an invoice is paid – and be automated to include a thank you message, special loyalty offers, a discount link etc.
Don't just ask for a free text response. For a start, many will find this daunting, so make it as easy as possible to leave a testimonial. It is also important to work in some specifics. Generalities like 'Great service!', even if true, are not particularly informative, and are easily faked. A Q&A feedback format may be the best approach. Be sure to include specifics and verifiable dates in increase credibility.
You’re venturing into very dubious waters by offering a direct financial incentive for leaving a testimonial, but people’s time is precious and there is no problem giving your customers something in return for their time and opinions. A discount on a future purchase or a small free gift can help to oil the wheels.
While automated email requests can be effective in terms of numbers, you may also want to consider personal contact for targeted customers. Choose your targets carefully based on status, scale of purchase and ongoing relationships. Customers who are contacted personally will be more likely to respond and with more detail.
Having procured some great testimonials, a final question is, what to do with them? Don't be too modest. A testimonials page buried somewhere on your website is fine, but make sure you highlight your customer relationships elsewhere as well. Blogs and social media platforms are all great places to give a little reminder of your trusted status. Also, don't forget email campaigns and print media where appropriate.
For more information about collecting and using customer feedback and testimonials in your sales and marketing – and what strategies deliver the best results – get in touch with one of our specialists today.
Image source: Pixabay