How to Turn Exceptional Service into Outstanding Referrals
Business has changed from what it used to be. It’s a new era, and businesses are being faced with new challenges. Gone are the days when consumers turn to Yellow Pages when looking for a local business. Now, when consumers search for local window replacement companies, roofers, remodeling contractors, and other home services, they turn to the internet. That means marketing your business with business cards or Yellow Pages ads may not be the right approach to meet your potential customers where they are actually searching for your business.
However, as you battle with other similar businesses in your local area for customers, one secret weapon to have in your arsenal is “Referrals.” Yes, this is a tool that can make a huge difference in your marketing strategy. However, referrals today have moved from just one-to-one recommendations. It has extended to even online reviews.
To get more referrals for your business and win more potential clients to yourself, you need to take control of your business reputation and do everything possible to get your customers to say good things about your business. The easiest way to make that happen is to offer exceptional services that will turn your happy customers into referral engines for your business.
Are You Looking For Your Best Marketing Tool?
Most business owners are constantly looking for the best marketing tool to grow their business and help it achieve its goals. Unfortunately, most of them are looking in the wrong place. Your best marketing tool is not business cards, print advertising, cable TV commercials, social media, or online ads. Your best marketing tool is your customers. Yes, your customers!
For decades and on different occasions, referrals have proved to be more effective than any other type of lead. In fact, according to a study from Tom Hopkins, conversions from referrals average about 60% compared to just 10% from traditional marketing leads such as billboards, postcards, and print ads.
That may cause you to begin to wonder why referrals have such high converting power. Well, there are different factors responsible for this, including:
- They are less likely going to walk away without buying: Referred customers are most times ready to buy – that is why they were referred in the first place. So when they come, they are less likely going to walk away without becoming a customer.
- They are more likely to trust you: Trust is usually a powerful tool that drives conversion. Customers buy from you because they can trust you and your business to deliver. When a customer is referred to your business by a friend or family or probably followed a reputable online review site to find your business, there is built-in trust that easily helps convert them.
- They are often less price-sensitive: when customers know you will deliver just what they want – and even more, they will likely not care about the price. And when a customer is referred, there is this confidence that you will do a good job, and that trust will make them typically less concerned about price.
- They are typically cheaper: compared to other forms of advertising marketing methods, getting new leads through referral is more cost-effective. Then, if it costs less and yet drives the most conversion, you should pay more attention to it.
Now that you know how effective referrals could be to your business, how then can you turn your company into a referral machine? Begin by asking yourself these questions:
- How does my team approach each job?
Do they just focus on the job at hand, or do it thinking about the next? When you answer this question, now think of what you can do to get your team to take the long view on every project they handle.
How can you conduct your business so that you regularly give your customers an awesome experience that will cause them to refer you to their neighbor next door or around the block after their job is completed?
- Does my team ask for or encourage referrals?
We understand that sometimes, referrals happen automatically without pushing any button. But you don’t always wait for things to happen that way – it may not help you build your business in the way you expected.
So if you would want to enjoy the most from referrals, you need to learn how to ask your customers to refer you.
However, getting a referral is not free or as easier as you might think. It requires work. You need to put in some effort to make it work. But if you can commit yourself to giving everything it requires, you will definitely see that it’s worth it in the end. It brings a steady stream of new customers to your business.
So, how do you create an outstanding referral program that will power up your marketing strategy? Read on to see the steps to follow.
Step 1: Create the Best Customer Experience
A real referral is always born out of the customer experience. So ask yourself how the customer feels about your company. What type of emotional experience do you think your customers have after their jobs are completed. Do they think they have got the best experience they have ever had with any business of your type, or do they just see your company as one that provides jobs that are okay?
A consistent referral is a product of consistently providing your customers a great experience. However, the good thing about this is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to create a great customer experience. The cost is mostly the effort you put into it.
Here is how you can create an outstanding customer experience:
#1: Care the most
The most caring business wins the most customers. Everyone wants to do business with and refer a company that puts its customers first. So take time to check the type of customer experience people usually get in your industry. The best way to know this is to read reviews and online ratings about your competitors to know what people are saying about them online.
If you notice that there are lots of complaints about the industry, that should be an opportunity for you to make your business stand out from the crowd. For instance, the roofing industry is one that consumers research most online. Yet, it is among the industries that receive the most complaint from customers.
To help your business stand out from the crowd, you will need to:
- Care the most
- Be genuine. It is not that difficult for customers to tell when a company is “faking” it to get referrals
- Go above and beyond the norm in the industry
- Conduct yourself in such a way that you genuinely care for your customers
#2: Be There Always For Your Customers
If you ask any homeowner, for example, they would definitely have a story to tell about working with a business that didn’t show up on time, wouldn’t return calls or emails, or never answered their questions. You don’t want to be that business. So make it a point of duty to be there always for your customers – when they need you most.
Be there before the sale
Any time a lead reaches out to you, let them feel they are in the right hands by responding to them in a timely and professional manner. This can make a lot of difference between winning over the customer and losing it to your competitor.
Be there during the project
It is not enough to only be there when you have not gotten the job. It would help if you also were accountable even after getting it. During the project, show up on time, promptly reply to emails and return calls. This is not something common in most industries, so if you can raise the bar a bit and get that incorporated into your culture, you will be surprised how readily your customers will be willing to refer you to their friends and family.
Be there after the project
Not all services are “once done, forever done.” Issues with home services, for instance, often happen later on after the job is done. Whether the roof starts leaking during the first big storm or the window warps six months after installation, your customers want to see how responsible you are by answering their calls and replying to emails at that time.
Remember that customers are most likely to make referrals after the job is done. That means it is time you should care the most. Being there for your customer a couple of years after the sale will make a huge difference between you and your competitors, and that could win you lots of referrals – more than you could have expected.
#3: Acquire Like-Minded People
When it comes to showing utmost care to your customers, you and your employees need to be on the same page. It won’t matter if you care and look after your customer when your employees do the opposite. And that is the major reason you should get like-minded people on your team.
You are not the only one that forms your customer experience about your company. It is your company overall, including your employees. While you are delivering exceptional service to your customers, your employees should also be doing the same. In fact, they interact more with your customers than you do. So when you are looking to turn your company into a referral-generating machine by creating a great customer experience, ask yourself if your employees are also up to the task.
#6: Send “Thank You” Gifts to Your Customers
While this usually looks like a small thing to most local business owners, it can make a big difference in the way customers feel about your business. After all, this is not something you see every day in the marketplace. So make it a habit always to send “thank-you” gifts to your customers to make your business stand out from the competition.
The gift you send doesn’t have to be expensive. Just make sure you get gifts they can resonate with and one that will cause them to remember your business always. You can send out a gift to your customer one to two weeks after their job is completed.
What personal and memorable gifts can you get for your customers? Here are some examples:
- If your customer just had a new baby, consider getting baby clothes or a toy
- If your customer enjoys gardening, buying gardening tools or seeds would go a long way
- If your customer enjoys taking beer with your crew, you can get them a selection of craft beers
- Local specialty foods
Sending even a handwritten thank-you card or a $20 gift could look like a small gift, but it can come as a great surprise that would likely exceed your customer’s expectations. Of course, that will pay off in referrals and reviews. At the same time, that will help you create a personal bind with such a customer that will keep them coming back to do business with you.
#4: Develop an Employee Training Program
Training your employees on how to take care of the technical aspects of their job is not enough, though it’s part of creating a great customer experience. They also have to be trained on how to interact with customers. Remember, they would be speaking and interacting with your customer more than you will. So give them all the things they need to be exceptional at delivering the best experience – starting from how they communicate and conduct themselves before customers.
Will your employees be willing to provide the right answer and solution to a problem any customer might be facing? Or will they just brush it over? All these matters a lot.
So, take the time to make your employees understand your vision for the business and the customer experience. Train them regularly to bring them on the same page as you in achieving the goal. You can as well develop different programs to encourage and enlighten them. Give recognition, hold contests, and give awards to keep your employees motivated.
#5: Offer a top-quality product
When we talk about “product,” this is not limited to just a solid roof or an energy-efficient window you installed. Your company’s product includes the overall experience of the services you provide to your customers. How well do you package your “product,” and what does the product itself entail? All these go a long way to help create an amazing customer experience.
So think of effective ways you can improve your product to the quality your customers would love and will be willing to refer. This can include:
- Tweaking your process to offer your service in the best way possible without disrupting the homeowner
- Maintain a clean work area at all times
- Keep your customer informed about the time they should expect your crew
- Keep noise down to the barest minimum
- Be kind and conduct yourself in a friendly manner.
Step 2: Develop a Referral Program
You will likely be having more referrals come to you naturally when you stay committed to delivering an outstanding customer experience. When that starts happening, then it’s time to set up a systematic process for your referral program. Having such a system in place will help you consistently achieve success with generating referrals for your business.
A referral program using triggered emails has been proved to be an effective tool for generating new business. And it is what you can automate to save you time and effort. Emails are triggered based on some actions your customer has taken in the past.
- Start by sending your customer a thank-you email after completing each job
- Follow up with another email requesting that they refer you to their friends and family
- Follow that with an email encouraging the customer to leave feedback on your business
However, while sending these emails, you will want to make it easy for your customer to be able to write online reviews or give you referrals. Therefore, add links that customers can easily follow to perform these tasks in your email. This can be a link directing them to your profile on important review sites or your social media profile.
If you think your customer would like to get text messages in addition to the email you have sent, don’t hesitate to include that. Your goal is to regularly keep in touch with your customer even when their job is completed. That way, when someone that needs your services comes around them, your customer will be able to refer you straight away because you have been on top of their mind all this while.
More Tips for Getting Referrals for Your Business
Partner up with other service providers
To get more referrals for your business, you can approach some other companies in your local area that offer complementary services and talk to them about becoming forces for a referral program. For instance, if you provide roofing services, you can approach a window installation business to cross-promote your services.
You and the company can offer referred clients a discounted package on your service or that of your partner. You only need to sell the partnership to prospective customers as a way of getting all they need in one place. Let the two of you put up a recommendation page on your websites outlining the different partners and complementary services you offer.
Educate your clients about what’s possible
Unfortunately, many people don’t know what they want until some else shows them. Even if it is not exactly what they want, educate them about your products and services and let them see why each is valuable.
Don’t assume your customers know all they need to know about you. If you provide multiple services in your company, let your customer know about these services once their job is completed. Even if they don’t need it at the time, chances are that they will refer you to others they know that may need it.
Be remarkable; remind your customers why you are special
There is a reason your customers always want to use your service. Build loyalty around that and make your customers refer you. Don’t just provide excellent services, but engage your customers on social media and go all out to meet their needs, and provide resources in the form of blogs and other content to bring solutions to their challenges. When your customers see how committed you are to helping them, it won’t be a problem for them to refer your business to their friends, too.
Give lots of referrals too
It is not just enough to wait for your customers to refer you after providing exceptional service. Although that’s a natural way to earn referrals for your business, it might not just be enough. So regularly put yourself in front of your customers so they will easily think of you when someone around them needs your service.
One way to do that is to be someone that also gives lots of referrals. You need to make your customers see you as that person that is always looking out for them by regularly referring useful businesses to meet their needs. This is more like a win-win thing. The more you refer other companies, the higher the chance of also having your clients refer you too.
Offer a referral commission
You know how beneficial referral could be to your business. Then, why not fuel the source to get more of them for the business? Encourage your customers to refer your business by offering referral commission or other incentives for referrals. This will show that you appreciate what they are doing for you and will hence encourage new referrals.
This commission doesn’t have to be something expensive. It could just be a free product or service. The goal is to give your customers a reason to always refer your business to their circle. So having a referral commission is like rewarding them for going out of their way to tell people about your business.
Provide valuable content to make referring easier for your customers
There are different ways you can draw people to your company but offering useful resources in terms of high-quality blog posts and tools. Potential customers are more likely to use free resources you share before making any purchase or deals. So think of a useful tool or information you know will resonate well with your customers, then share it with them.
The more relevant your resources are to your customers, the higher the chance that they will also share with their friends. That way, they will also be putting your business in front of their friends who are likely going to be doing business with you any time they need your services.
Referrals are a powerful tool that can help you generate new business all the time. But one important thing that determines your customers’ readiness to want to refer you is if they had a good experience with your business. Excellent customer experience involves caring for your customers, looking out for their interests, training your employees to be on the same page with you. sAll this comes together to increase your customers’ trust in your business, making them ready to recommend you to someone else.
Put in the work and effort, and you will be surprised how well referrals can help your business grow.