Astute Planning, Flawless Execution,
Delighted Customers

Issue #125

Tuesday, April 16, 2008

 

The Importance of Referrals
by Craig Bailey

In this newsletter edition, we introduce the topic The Importance of Referrals. Referrals are important for consumers and business owners/managers. In this issue, we will cover how consumers can access and use referrals to select the best service providers. We will also begin to address how businesses can leverage referrals as arguably the most effective customer-generation tool.

For the Consumer

Selecting the right company to replace your roof, build a new addition, clean the carpets, etc. can be challenging. The key questions that likely go through your mind include:

  • How do I know for sure that they will do what they said they would do?
  • Will they provide good value for my investment?
  • Will I have to monitor their every move in or outside my home?
  • Can I leave them alone while we are away?
  • Will they treat me / my family with respect?
  • Will they clean up after themselves and leave things better than they were?

Simply turning to the Yellow Pages or an internet search engine to identify providers of services that you are looking for will ONLY give you a list of possible candidates to choose from. And, this would be a potentially partial list at that. To identify "qualified" companies and take much of the guess work out of selecting the provider for you can be as simple as seeking input from others you know or better yet leveraging a consumer advocacy service.

Seeking input from others you know can often result in obtaining the name of a service provider that did good work for someone you know. Not a bad thing. And, you are certainly encouraged to continue obtaining input from others. The key drawback to this approach results from the fact that you have only one customer's perspective. Is your friend or relative lucky in that they received great service from this particular provider but many others have been left dissatisfied?

As such, besides seeking input from others you know, you might also consider a consumer advocacy service like Angies List. While the service isn't free (nor is it in any way cost prohibitive considering what is at stake), it is a resource that you can leverage to obtain unbiased reviews and rankings on service providers in your area.

And, one of the things that we've all had to deal with (as consumers) is addressing issues with service providers that didn't meet our expectations. There are a number of things that you can do in this situation including:

  • Reporting the company to the Better Business Bureau
  • Initiating a lawsuit
  • Putting a sign on your lawn that says "XYZ Company doesn't deliver"
  • Leveraging "Angies List"

Leveraging Angies List to address your "service issue" starts by providing a testimonial about your experience and ranking the company accordingly. Based upon specific criteria (relating to negative reviews), Angies List will place a company in what they call "the Penalty Box." You have to believe that this would be one of the last things that a business owner would want to see happen. You now have leverage (of a consumer advocate / network) to get your situation rectified. Visit Angies List to learn more.

For the Business Owner (or Senior Manager)

If your business is like mine, the #1 source of new customers comes from the existing customer-base via referrals. Have you thought about the fact that this is also the most cost-effective way to acquire new customers? Think about it. You spent zero dollars in public relations, marketing and/or advertising to have your customer share their praises about you, assuming, of course, that you delivered an EXCELLENT experience to the customer.

I've had numerous marketing and lead generation companies try to get me to invest tens of thousands of dollars in their services. Why would I do that if my phone rings and I receive emails from prospective customers contacting me because they heard about the great job we've done for others?

The objective is to harness this EXTREMELY effective approach within your customer acquisition strategy. How do you do this?

The first step to getting referrals is to deliver an EXCELLENT customer experience. Are we only talking about the (customer service) people who answer your phones? NO! This includes EVERY touch contact your firm has with the customer. In summary, delivering an excellent customer experience involves doing what you said you would do, ensuring you take care of the details and identify ways to exceed the customer's expectations by addressing needs that they may not have even known that they had.

In our next edition, we will conclude the discussion of how businesses can capitalize on referrals to increase their customer base by covering the following topics:

  • Providing methods for your customers to share their experience
  • Leaving something (useful) behind as a reminder
  • Partnering with firms that augment your services
  • Addressing less than stellar performance

In the meantime, if you "aren't" delivering an excellent customer experience, feel free to contact us. Numerous firms have engaged us to perform a Customer Experience Assessment to identify what they are doing well (and ought to keep doing), opportunities for improvement, and a pragmatic road-map for increasingly improving the customer experience. Finally, we also drive your continuous improvement programs to ensure traction on your customer-focused initiatives.

Visit our website for additional information and resources on delivering an excellent customer experience.

Customer Centricity Recommends
I recently engaged the services of a cleaning and restoration company for my home. Prior to doing so, I had to go through the process of selection. This included contacting numerous firms, having them visit, scope out the job, discuss options, timeframes and estimates. Thankfully, a close friend referred Soilaway. From the first visit, until the job was 100% complete, I was truly impressed. Impressed with the big things and the little things.

During the initial visit the owner purposely left his cell phone in the truck so that he would not be distracted when meeting with me. Through-out the job (lasting several days) I received calls from the owner who checked in to see how things were going from my perspective and to provide an update from his. I had direct access to him via cell phone. If I called and he wasn't available, he would promptly call back.

The service tech assigned to the job checked in at the end of each day to let me know how things were going and provided an estimated time of arrival for the next day. If something came up (snowstorm, etc.), he would call to let me know they'd be late. We were never wondering when they'd show up!

The entire Soilaway team (the owner, service techs and office staff) was very personable, courteous and professional. This even went so far as our feeling comfortable enough to leave them in our home when we couldn't be there due to work and parenting schedules.

They treated me and my entire family with the utmost in respect.

In summary, Soilaway can be trusted to do what they say they are going to do…and more!

Contents

+ The Importance of Referrals

+ Score Conference
 


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Score Conference

Please join Customer Centricity's President Craig Bailey at the 6th Annual SCORE Conference, taking place May 13-15, 2008, at the World Trade Center in Boston. To learn more and register online, visit the SCORE website. Craig will be moderating sessions taking place on May 15, including the much anticipated panel discussion entitled Driving Operational Change to Get the Most Out of Customer Feedback.

About Customer Centricity, Inc.
We strengthen overall company performance through better service delivery and management.

We boost efficiencies in front-line customer service and technical support teams, order processing, fulfillment, field service, logistics and other key operations functions.

In short, we align the resources of your organization to exceed your customers' expectations in the most effective and efficient manner possible.

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