In the World of Securing Referrals, Little Things Go a Long Way
Referrals are often ‘hot’ leads for new customers because they come from a trusted friend or relative.
All business owners love referrals. It is basically a “free lead,” and generally it came about because the company did something worthy of earning the referral. A referral is considered to be a “hot” lead because the prospect is often calling on the recommendation from a trusted friend, neighbor or family member. In a sense, the referring person has already vetted the company to the prospect. Because of this, the closing ratios tend to be much higher on referrals versus other lead generation sources.
Any business, whether a traditional alarm company or a high level commercial integrator, should place a premium on generating referrals. And in the world of generating referrals, little things mean a lot to customers. For example, many businesses express their thanks to a new customer by sending an E-mail or maybe even a nice card with typeset language inside. While those things are certainly meaningful, I believe that taking the time to write a hand-written note of thanks to the new customer has much more impact. E-mail can tend to be impersonal and a typeset card is nice, but that customer knows that every other new customer got that same card. But a hand-written note means that the business owner took time to compose his or her thoughts and to put them on paper, and hand-written notes are generally much more appreciated by the customer.
Every customer touch point is an opportunity to either create friction with a customer or to endear that customer to the company. When a customer has an issue, this can be an opportunity to turn lemons into lemonade.
Let’s assume that an end user customer just got an alarm system installed and a week later a door contact won’t work and they can’t arm the system without bypassing a critical entry point. Let’s look at two scenarios:
- The customer calls and the receptionist answers and sounds put out by the call and immediately puts out a negative vibe. The receptionist curtly states, “We’re really busy; we’re probably looking at two weeks to get out there.” They schedule the service call but they also make it clear that he or she is bothered by the whole situation.
- The customer calls in and the receptionist is extremely friendly and apologizes for the issue and assures the customer that they are of utmost importance and states that they will get a tech out there at their first opportunity.
It is easy to see which scenario will lead to a referral, but I am shocked at how many businesses are not paying attention to who is answering their phones, or they simply do not care. From my own personal experiences, I have been a party to scenario 1 more times than I care to count. It creates a sense of “buyer’s remorse” and it can lead to the dreaded “negative referral.”
This is precisely why I refer to all phone receptionists as “Directors of First Impressions.” The experience on the phone with the company representative is paramount and so many companies are either not caring or not paying attention to where that experience is concerned. In scenario 2, however, the customer is more likely to think, “Well I did have a problem but they were so understanding and so courteous and apologetic, I am happy I chose them.” If the scenario 2 call is followed up by a visit from a professional, friendly technician who shows the customer respect and appreciation, that customer’s sense of satisfaction will be higher than if they never had an issue with the system. And that is how you turn lemons into lemonade and create referrals. I would ask all readers to stop right here and ponder, What kind of experiences are my customers having with my company?
There are other little things that mean a lot to customers. For instance, installers should ask if they need to remove their shoes in residences. All installers should clean up after themselves; leaving a mess at a home or business is a sure way to get a negative referral. Looking professional goes a long way toward having the customer believe they are dealing with a professional company. That’s why uniformed shirts and some kind of policy on appearance is important.
I also believe that all employees, from the receptionist to the installer, should be trained on how to professionally interact with customers. Never undervalue the referral potential generated from the customer interaction with the company. It is imperative to make sure that customers are having positive and professional interactions with your company’s representatives. From my perspective, this seems to be one of the most important but overlooked aspects of doing business in the modern era.
I am also a firm believer that companies who do good work should never be shy about asking for referrals. It is common in the industry to offer the customer free months of service, or a gift card, or some stipend to the existing customer to refer a new customer. This can be accomplished as part of a newsletter or via an “invoice stuffer.” Technicians and installers should also be trained to ask for referrals and should explain the company’s referral policy.
The referral is the most inexpensive lead the company will ever generate and it will generally have the highest closing ratio. For all these reasons, I strongly recommend that all companies evaluate if they are doing everything possible to generate referrals.
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