Why Customer Referrals Can Boost Your Brand
Paul Boucherle explains how to convert net promoters for your brand through actions, not surveys.
In a recent column we explored the Net Promoter Score (NPS) management tool as a way to better understand if your customers are actively promoting your brand in the market. But what’s changed since NPS was introduced in 2003 that you may need to consider?
Well, frankly we get surveyed to death by virtually everyone we do business with today. That can have an insulating effect on even engaging in a survey. I may fill out one out of every 20 I receive. I may even give false high marks to ensure I won’t get a follow-up call that will take up more of my time. Unprofessional thinking, right?
The point being the possible results may reflect artificially inflated marks that give a false sense of brand performance, unless you close the loop for every response to ensure its validity. This isn’t the only challenge to NPS.
Make a Commitment to Communicate More With Clients
When was the last time you as the business owner called a customer to gain additional insights on their survey results? Better yet, how often do you personally call a new customer to see if they were happy with their experience? If you run a midsize company, how many phone calls would that be a month, 20-50? How much time would that take, maybe 180 minutes a month? How impactful would that be to those customers?
What is the caveat? Don’t over or under react. Listen, ask and promise to get back personally. That is what I want to hear as a customer. Over the past 14 years we as a society have become very rating conscious. It seems everything yearns for two thumbs up, five stars, or personal narratives. Social media is both a boon and bane for consumers. Some reviews are helpful, some are not, and some are just plain mean and unwarranted. Who do you believe?
Let’s think about a different way to help drive customer referrals. A personal senior management commitment to act and follow up is all it takes. Simple, yet so darn powerful and pretty cost effective. Think about how you built your business. The basics always work.
Your employees, your company culture and your business performance are where the real rubber meets the road. Make sure you focus inwardly first before placing undue weight on outward focused metrics that may unfavorably impact departments that have not been trained.
Ask your teams how they should measure their customers’ satisfaction. Sales, installations and service metrics are all different. I know, this may sound like Captain Obvious. However, don’t take things for granted. In our consulting experience we often find company culture and communication can be taken for granted, which is a surefire way to demotivate your teams, your customers and your referrals. A demotivated team will certainly demotivate your customers. Demotivated customers will generally not actively refer your brand to others.
Southwest Shows How to Earns Points for Trying
My favorite example of the gold standard regarding active referrals is Southwest Airlines. Their leadership sees to it they get it done on time, safely, for a fair price, and with a smile by their motivated associates. They breathe their culture all the time, from the boardroom to baggage claim. They do this by carefully selecting people to hire for company fit, train the heck out of them, and place the responsibility for customer satisfaction in every associate’s capable hands.
Southwest trusts and expects its associates to go the extra mile to make customers happy (alternately, how do you think United’s referral business is doing lately?). Here’s an example. I was flying from Phoenix to Chicago. An older gentleman was sitting on the aisle and realized he did not have his belt on. Pants belt, not seat belt. He demanded the flight attendant contact the TSA checkpoint people and retrieve it for him.
We had about 12 minutes until departure and there were three TSA checkpoints to contact. The gate agent made an effort but to no avail. This passenger got more and more agitated and demanded we hold the flight. We left on time — sans his pants belt, but with tremendous wailing and gnashing of teeth!
A Southwest pilot sitting in the back went into his own luggage and sent his spare belt up with a flight attendant to the old man. He brashly refused the belt and continued to whine for the next 2 hours and 58 minutes. The moral is that Southwest likely gained about 10-15 net positive promoters who sat within three rows of this guy by their actions, not survey results.
In the Marine Corps they taught us to judge by actions not words, color, creed or religion. That’s worked for me my whole career. Your employees are your best bet for developing customers into active net promoters. Be sure to cover your bases with the basics — “train like a Marine” or perhaps a Southwest employee — and prepare your team for challenges of converting customers to net promoters for your business. Think I just net promoted Southwest?
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