Whether you are in a personal service industry, sell widgets in bulk online, or are somewhere in between, one of the most powerful marketing tools at your disposal is a well-crafted and sincere customer testimonial. We are social creatures, and even the most independently-minded of us like to know that the restaurant we’re visiting has lots of loyal fans, or that the yard service we’re thinking about hiring has a long string of positive reviews. Yet sometimes it can be difficult to ask for those testimonials. You may be unsure about whether your customer really had a great experience, or you might feel like it’s an imposition to ask.
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Read on to get the scoop on the best times to ask for customer testimonials, the right ways to ask, and different approaches you can take to yield the best outcome for both your customers and your business.
7 Tips and Approaches for Customer Testimonials
Identify Your Testimonial Candidate
If you don’t know whether your customer is happy with how things went, ask them. You don’t need to make a huge production out of this. A simple “So, did we do everything right today?” or “Are there areas where we need improvement?” is enough. If your customer has a bulleted list of the things you did wrong, they of course are not your ideal candidate. (You should also attend to that list, see if other customers feel that way, and if so, make some improvements). However, if the customer is filled with praise for your business then you have yourself a solid testimonial candidate.
Ask and Assess
One of the most effective ways to get a thoughtful and insightful testimonial is to ask for one personally—face to face if possible or over the telephone if necessary. This gives you the ability to accurately assess your prospect’s reaction. If you can tell by their body language or tone that the request is unwelcome (they tense up or start looking away from you, for example) then you will want to backpedal on the request—not all happy customers are comfortable giving testimonials, and an uncomfortable customer is not exactly a happy customer.
The way you ask for the testimonial will also cue the customer in as to what kind of feedback you are looking for. For example, you could say “We are really trying to inform people about how friendly our sales staff is, and I know that you and Carla have become pretty close, and I was hoping that you could give us a testimonial about how easy it is to talk to our associates.”
Ask Via Email Blast
Sometimes you are looking for a large quantity of feedback and you need it fairly quickly. You might be building your online presence and want some testimonials to optimize your Google My Business listing, or perhaps an unhappy client dropped an unfair one-star review on you and you’re looking to counteract it with positive reviews.
A carefully crafted testimonial request sent out via email to your past customers can bring in a flood of positive testimonials. A very thoughtful request takes a few minutes more to write than a scribbled “Hey, got testimonials?” ask, but will pay many dividends. One powerful hybrid approach is to write a generic (but warm and appropriate) main paragraph which goes to everyone, but preface it with a uniquely crafted line or two for each individual customer, referencing the work you’ve done for them and thanking them for their patronage.
The Email/Facebook/LinkedIn Ask
You might have a customer or client who you know is happy with the work or the product, but with whom you just don’t talk one on one. If email, Facebook, Instagram Direct Messaging, or LinkedIn (or some other online platform) is your primary communication channel with this person, then that’s the channel you’ll want to use to ask for a testimonial. Unlike the email blast, this request should be entirely personalized. This kind of ask is best divided into a two-phase approach. The first a very brief “Hey, would you be comfortable with giving us a testimonial?” then follow up their positive answer with details about the kind of testimonial you are looking for.
After a Disaster
It is counterintuitive, but some of the most powerful referrals can come from customers who at first were unhappy. How many times have you read a customer review that said something along the lines of “The bicycle arrived broken, but Larry and his team worked overtime to make things right. I was VERY impressed and will be back to their shop…”?
These kinds of reviews are absolute gold because everyone understands that mistakes are going to be made and accidents are going to happen—it is how a service provider or a store responds to the negative feedback that sets them apart. So sometimes you can turn a customer service nightmare into a powerful testimonial, if you handle the aftermath correctly and turn an angry customer into a delighted one.
This is probably the trickiest type of testimonial to ask for. First off, be absolutely sure that they actually are delighted in the end and aren’t just trying to get the whole experience over with. Then, it’s best not to directly ask them for a testimonial, which could set off the suspicion radar. Instead, mention casually that there are avenues for testimonials—something along the lines of “We really appreciate your business, and don’t hesitate to look at our listing on Yelp and let us know how we did.”
Ask the Right Questions
Few people want to be told what to say. Yet at the same time, asking broadly open-ended questions can cause the customer to clam up. To help your customer feel comfortable and to produce a testimonial that you will be satisfied with, ask directed questions. For example, if you want testimonials about the high quality of your work compared to your competitors, you could ask, “When you compared our work to that of other suppliers, what were the main differences?” If you’re looking for testimonials about your value to price ratio, you can ask “Did you find our prices to be competitive?” This kind of cueing will lead your customers to naturally talk about the kinds of things you want in the testimonial.
Customer testimonials and positive reviews are an essential part of marketing today. For a closer look at online reviews, download our free eBook below: