Let’s face it, testimonials and reviews matter. They represent social proof. In fact, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations (BrightLocal). Before going any further though, let’s first get something important out of the way – a review is not a testimonial. They are markedly different, but frustratingly similar.
Dictionary.com defines “testimonial” as: “a written declaration certifying to a person’s character, conduct, or qualifications, or to the value, excellence, etc., of thing; a letter or written statement of recommendation”. It defines the review as “a critical article or report, as in periodical, on book, play, recital, or the like; critique; evaluation.”
Here at Tendant, we consider testimonials to be feedback from a customer or client that is controlled and managed by the provider of a product or service (or that otherwise worked with them in a business capacity). By contrast, a review is controlled and managed by the reviewer or a third party, and is beyond the influence or control of the service or product provider.
Testimonials work. They really work. Customer testimonials have the highest effectiveness rating for content marketing at 89%. (Social Fresh) The reality of it is that unfortunately, most of us do not use consistent strategies to get testimonials. Perhaps this is because we don’t want to spend the effort, believing it to take too much time. Or maybe we think asking is too invasive, or simply feels awkward and pushy. While no one wants to introduce awkwardness in a relationship, seasoned business people recognize that straightforward and honest feedback is “a good thing”. Smart businesses evaluate the nature of the feedback with a critical eye and work diligently to remedy issues while thanking the customer for their time, effort, and candor.
For those of us who struggle with asking for testimonials – we get it. Not everyone can maneuver through relationships with ease. That’s why Tendant is taking important steps to make the solicitation and evaluation of testimonials easier. No matter how good we are though, there are some important aspects to the process that are “on you”.
First, make sure you’re asking at the right time in the relationship cycle. Be patient and read the signals. Asking before a decision is made is not ideal timing – you’ll appear presumptuous. Even after a decision is made, asking for a testimonial requires the right timing. You may wish to ask yourself these questions about the customer to help gauge the timing:
- Are they happy?
- Has enough time transpired for the customer to be a credible reference?
- Was the solution delivered as promised?
- Have you addressed their needs effectively?
- Are there outstanding issues that require your attention?
By paying attention to these details, you’ll be in a better position to know the right time to ask for a testimonial. Now that said, you can proceed but you don’t have to be direct about soliciting a testimonial. Instead, leverage questions you can pose in a status interview, which is much easier to broach than asking for a testimonial.
Do you have a status interview format?
You can help your client relationship tremendously with a status interview which can act as the basis for a testimonial. The interview approach should tease out the information you hope to evangelize. There are nuances in every industry, so questions you draft should be appropriate to your situation. Here are some that you may contemplate to help jump-start the process:
- What were some of the challenges you faced before working with [your company] that we were able to help overcome?
- How did we help?
- What were some of the memorable and noteworthy experiences you had working with us?
- What could we improve?
- Did we meet your expectations and if so, how?
- Would you recommend us to a similarly situated prospect? Why?
Once you’ve collected this information, you can then very quickly, reduce it to a paragraph or two and simply ask the client to verify that what you’ve summarized is accurate. If they agree, then simply ask – “Would you mind if we post this [on our website, etc.].
It doesn’t have to be a major initiative
The extended interview approach is of course not for everyone. It works especially well in complex sales. However, for more transactional or individual buyer sales, you may wish to simply ask one question as opposed to conducting an interview. Here are a few to consider:
- What did you enjoy most about your experience in this transaction?
- Is there anything we did really well? If so, what was it and why was it memorable?
- Did you enjoy working with our team? If so, why?
- What specific problem have we solved for you?
- Would you recommend us to a friend or colleague? If so, why?
The answers to any one of these questions by and of themselves represent potential testimonials. The key is to get into the habit of not asking for a testimonial, but rather, asking for feedback that you can then turn into a testimonial. This approach is easier for the customer and will in turn be easier for you.
We hope the above will help transform the way you approach soliciting testimonials to help grow your business. Here at Real Capture, we’re working hard to enhance Tendant to make it easy for our users to solicit testimonials in a simple, easy, and effective manner with the goal of optimizing the relationship between providers and their customers. You can learn more about Tendant at tendant.com.