Customer testimonials can go a long way in helping others feel comfortable doing business with you the first time. However, it can be difficult to get quality references, with real names.
Think about online rating systems popular with millions of users. Yelp, for instance, often has some of the most detailed reviews of local businesses, but people have to be compelled to comment about a particular business on their own.
Other forums, like online auction website Ebay.com, almost make it a requirement to leave “feedback” about a transaction, but those results are often quickies like “great seller” designed to meet the requirement and move on.
Gathering Quality Customer Feedback
So, if you’re running a small business how can you gather quality customer feedback?
One good place to start is to Google your company name and find out if existing customers are already saying things about your business on social media sites like Yelp, Facebook or Foursquare. Read through comments, and consider if they’ve already posted a detailed review it may be worthwhile to ask them if you can use that review in your marketing materials.
If you have a larger customer base, and more distant relationships with customers, you can still illicit feedback by incentivizing customers to leave a review. Remember the ye olde suggestion box? The concept has been around for years because, even though it’s a little hokey it works – especially if customers see you take their suggestions seriously.
One way to get customer testimonials flowing is to offer incentives for quality feedback. Make it worth their time by offering customers a small discount for providing a review. Also consider giving customers the spotlight.
For brick and mortar retailers, what if you had a little note next to a product highlights customer feedback? If you own an e-commerce store, do your product pages offer customer review submission and visibility options? Once you get a few customer reviews in place, others may want to participate due to the interactive nature of your efforts — empowering your customers.
One company that executes this strategy well is the vintage-inspired online retailer Modcloth. The online store actually re-stocks items based on customer demand. Users browsing the store can request items if they’ve run out of stock or a given size, and if others agree, the store will notify customers via email that it’s back on the shelf. This simple interaction with customers undoubtedly helps the retailer cut down on less popular stock and empowers customers.
In comparison, if your small business is service driven you can turn this concept on its head with a polite follow-up contact. For instance, if you are a website designer, once the project is complete, check in a few weeks later and find out how the website was received both by the client and their customers.
To be effective, ensure to make the conversation all about them and your interest in making their business better. At the same time gather feedback about your own services. Once the conversation is complete, if there are a few lines in there that you’d like to post for your testimonials page, simply ask for the customers permission to do so — and follow-up via email.
The Value of Authentic Customer Conversations
Building your customer testimonial page from unforced conversations about your product or service is one of the best ways to authentically enhance your brand — using honest assessments and valuable testimonials.
Think about it; if you just someone for a review and if they like your company they might overlook some things they weren’t impressed with just to avoid hurting your feelings. While it may be nice, who does that really help? Instead, eliciting customer testimonials from more productive, candid conversations means you’ll get quality feedback and show potential customers a real track record.
This article was prepared by Funding Gates contributor, Bailey McCann. Funding Gates in the online accounts receivable software for small businesses. Allowing businesses to track, organize and manage receivables all with simple clicks, Funding Gates is helping small businesses get paid faster. Funding Gates’ advice can be seen on AMEX Open Forum, AllBusiness, SCORE and many other small business sites.
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