Many businesspeople are under the impression that if they provide good customer service, people will automatically refer business to them. Of course, customer service is important. But good customer service is just a prerequisite; it is a minimum expectation.
Think about it. Would you refer somebody to me if I provided lousy customer service? Of course not. Your own credibility would suffer.
Good customer service is part of what the prospect expects when you refer them to me. If you are recommending me to them, I must be something pretty special, right? And if I want to keep that customer coming back, I have to provide more than the minimum expectation of simply good customer service. I will need to provide great, outstanding, memorable customer service to really stand out.
The Misconception about Customer Service
In my book, The World’s Best Known Marketing Secret, I say that some people are under the delusion that good customer service alone was enough to enable them to build their business through word-of-mouth. This misconception about customer services is one of the delusions people have about networking and referral marketing.
People don’t refer business to you because you meet their minimum expectations. They refer you because they expect you to do a good job which, in turn, enhances their relationship with the person they are referring to you. They expect you to provide outstanding value to the prospect. They want that person to come back to them and say, “Thanks for sending me to Joe Trueblue. He had just what I needed, and the service was great. You sure know some outstanding people!”
Your referral source has a strong interest in making sure everyone comes out a winner. They know that when the happy customer comes back to you again and again, you are more likely to send business their way when the need arises. The great service you provide to the customer comes back to you in the form of a stronger relationship with your referral partner.
My friend Bob Burg, author of Endless Referrals and The Go-Giver, shares his view on what it takes to consistently receive referrals:
Of course, having an excellent product is important. However, technology today has made that commonplace and expected. In order to have qualified prospects “beating a path to your door,” you must be able to network and to market yourself and your product or service in such a way that it makes people want to do business with you and refer you to others. You need to provide them with such a great buying experience that they know they made the right decision. However, to get them there in the first place, it’s the networking and marketing that’s most important.
Being in a referral group like BNI is one of several important parts of an effective word-of-mouth marketing plan. One of the things these groups emphasize is that you need to be very specific in what you do and in how your product or service is uniquely valuable. If you use general terms, you’re at the lowest level of competitive effectiveness. And if you say, “customer service,” that’s not what people are buying.
In the book Truth or Delusion, we say that you don’t sell the process; you sell the result:
Talking about what you do does not motivate people as much as what happens to their client or friend as a result of what you do. I used to sell copiers, and I never met anybody who was buying good customer service. They were buying the ability to make photocopies quickly and reliably. They weren’t shopping for customer service, because that’s a prerequisite. It is part of what creates that end result.
The Importance of Testimonials
Referral networks often feature third-party testimonials, in which someone who has used your product or service tells the group, “I’ve used Maria’s products, and I’m here to tell you, they’re the best I’ve ever found.” Hearing it directly from someone they know is often enough to get people to believe it and act on that belief.
Testimonials are crucial to the referral process, especially within referral and networking groups. When you stand up and say, “I’ve used this person’s business, and you should use this person too, because . . .” and then go on to explain why, it is powerful and can change how people view that service provider. Your experiences become my experiences. This makes it much easier for people to refer that provider–even if they haven’t personally used their services yet.
Remember, unhappy customers are 11 times more likely to talk about your business than happy customers. Good customer service only reduces negative word-of-mouth; it doesn’t necessarily increase your business through positive word-of-mouth. Build an effective network of strong business relationships to increase your referrals.