Customer Referrals to boost business

“Merely satisfying customers will not be enough to earn their loyalty. Instead, they must experience exceptional service worthy of their repeat business and referral. Understand the factors that drive this customer revolution” ~ Rick Tate

Customers are the lifeline of any company. Not only does their business mean success, but customer referrals greatly boost any company and transform a struggling one in to a highly profitable and reputed one. It may take time, money and sustained effort for a company to reach a level of customer service and offerings that urge customer referrals, but when that does happen the returns are startling and extremely profitable. Word of mouth can be especially encouraging for new companies or new launches. Of course the importance of customer referrals cannot be undermined for large and well-established firms as well. In fact, the reason these companies remain well-established is because their customers are a set of highly satisfied, brand ambassadors.

The best part of customer referrals is that they are the most cost effective method to grow business. Happy customers will tell their ‘circle of associates’ recommending your services and endorsing your brand or brands. This eliminates the lengthy and painstaking step of marketing and selling and gets new prospective customers lining up ‘outside your door’ based on the personal recommendation of a happy customer. Such new customers arrive with a certain confidence and level of trust in your company – it’s like climbing a ladder from the tenth step up or starting a race from mid-point! Chances of winning are far greater.

In previous market conditions when companies called the shots, great products and or service would suffice to get customers excited and spread the ‘good word’. Now, in the current fast paced digitized environment, unless such offerings are coupled with outstanding customer service, it would be near impossible to get any customer referrals. However, these together make for a great policy to make the basis for customer referrals. The truth is harsh – for customers top quality products and excellent customer service are now a given. Anything less and they will disappear faster than you can imagine. Of course, they are most likely to make a serious dent in your reputation if they are even slightly displeased with either the products or level of service.

Companies that wish to make or have made best use of customer referrals, have not relied on great customer service alone but put in to practice certain strategies to help them forge ahead and stay ahead.

– Think ahead and proactively. Before delivering the offering, send out a communication to your customer telling them that they can expect excellence in customer service and your company will support them through their entire journey. Tell them upfront that you are relying heavily on their positive word of mouth to gain competitive advantage. Doing this provides the customer with the feeling of being more in control and when they receive the desired quality and level of service, they won’t think twice to talk well of your company.

– Offer discounts and great offers for a limited time in exchange of which all customers need to do is provide introductions and references to other prospective customers who could use your company’s offerings and service. This eliminates the possibility of referral requests to be relegated or forgotten by the customer.

– Make it easier and more accessible to provide customer referrals. Have a pre-set form that could be sent to them and or made available on your website. This reduces the customer’s effort to think about what they should put down for you rather than having to use their imagination or apply too much thought recalling past incidences.

– Ensure that customers never leave your company angry. Even if the relationship doesn’t quite work out, the last impression the customer has of your company, could be a lasting impression. A token of appreciation is always well regarded and will go a long way in helping your company through the customer’s good word. It does not have to be anything of high value but must be of value to the customer.

– Never forget the importance of politeness. Thank the customer for their business. Encourage customer referrals through courteous and empathetic behavior. It is a small gesture but a handwritten note with a basket of goodies packs a punch in conveying to the customer that you are indeed grateful. In the digitized world, a handwritten note is probably the most sincere expression of appreciation and shows the customer that you indeed value their business and the positive words about your company.

– There are a million different things that companies are involved with at any given time. It’s always a good idea to have a system in place that reminds you to send out customized thank you notes, wishes to a customer or other small gestures. Losing track of these tiny but vital customer referrals ‘generators’ can cost your company heavily over time.

What’s your company’s customer referrals strategy? Set one up if you haven’t already and reap the benefits. Remember to consider these points when putting together this indispensable strategy.

– Be proactive not impatient. Choose the right time to ask for a referral – asking a newly acquired customer for a referral is bad timing, but building a rapport and comfort level and then asking for a referral is great timing. Of course, once you have asked for a referral and put in place the required form for a referral, wait for a considerable period to ask again. Constant reminders would be viewed as pestering, making the customer head for the door.

– The referral strategy must be beneficial to both you and the customer. Providing great products and customer service benefits the customer and the customer referrals will prove highly beneficial to the company. In fact, keep up environment that allows the tempo of customer referrals to continue unabated. More referrals would mean keeping your company in the news and attract more business without even trying too hard.

– Attract more customer referrals by giving away some serious incentives that have monetary value. Customers love to get rewarded by free meals, shopping discounts, cash coupons and the likes. Keep a close watch and whatever generates more interest, make that that your ‘weapon’ of choice.

– Remember to check with your new customer how they learned about your company. Use your Customer Relationship Management software, discussed in an earlier write up, to manage the large database of customers. Make it a practice to connect with the company that provided the referral and thank them for making it. Building a business, making relationships and encouraging customer referrals all take time. Work consistently and sincerely to nurture these ‘referees’ and ‘referrals’ and reap the benefits over time for a long time.

A wisely and well-crafted strategy is bound to yield results and through continuous customer referrals your company could find itself serving a large group of customers who know each other socially as well and would have more time to discuss how great your company is! However, this ‘friendly’ banter is limited between customers. As the service provider, your company must keep professionalism and confidentiality at the forefront of all your business dealings. Each customer is a separate identity and your company must respect those differences. Any breach of this trust, could lead to serious consequences and turn friendly customers to angry vengeful ones.

Building your business through rapport and customer referrals is probably the best way to do so. It provides a solid foundation for leading your business to new heights and also to remain sustainably successful. No amount of marketing strategies could compare with the power of customer referrals and testimonials and while marketing costs money, customer referrals are free thereby saving a lot of resources for your company.

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