As of this past September, and for the first time in 25 years, my wife Linda and I no longer have any children or pets (assuming there’s a difference) living in our house.
I have to admit, although I do miss the daily buzz of activity we enjoyed over the past few decades, there are some positive points to this new phase of life.
- No one is waking us up at 1:00 am in the morning.
- No half-eaten bowls of cereal discovered days later in the basement.
- No returning home at the end of the day, only to find every single light on in the house (even though I’ve told you a thousand times to turn them off when you leave the room, and by the way, we’re not made out of money over here and); I’m sorry, what was I saying?
But the most notable change is the freedom. We can come and go whenever we like, whether that’s out to dinner, a music event, or even the occasional last-minute overnight excursion, all without needing to coordinate with anybody else’s schedule. And so lately, we’ve been talking about taking it up a notch and spending a few weeks next winter in beautiful Costa Rica. Linda and I both work for ourselves (insert solo professional cheer here) and can pretty much work from anywhere.
All of which got me thinking I should probably brush up a bit on my Spanish, by which I mean, learn some – I don’t speak a word. Even though Costa Ricans are world renowned for their friendliness and patience, I’d like to be able to interact a bit more organically while we are there.
So I downloaded an app – the SpanishPod101 app, to be precise. I like it a lot, and over the past few days, I’ve logged in several times for lessons, vocabulary and grammar tips. Today, I received a push notification that read: “How are you enjoying the app?” It displayed three icons: a frowny face, an indifferent face, and a smiley face.
I chose the smiley face, at which point I was immediately asked to rate the app and given a direct link to do so on the App Store. To which I say, with just a hint of a tongue roll, brilliante!
Not only have they put a system in place to capture user testimonials, but they’ve also added a screening question: They make sure I like them (i.e., the smiley face) before asking me to rate the app. I’m confident that had I chosen the impassive or frowny face option, the app store link would not have appeared.
Has it helped? Well, they have a 4.7-star rating across roughly 5,000 reviews, so they appear to be strong in both quality and quantity.
Testimonials are essential for us too
I am continually surprised by the number of professional service colleagues and clients (of all types and sizes) who view testimonials as random, “nice if they happen,” events.
To me, that casual approach is a mistake – and a missed opportunity. Remember, engaging the services of a consultant or professional service provider feels risky; potential clients can’t touch, feel, or sample us.
While it’s important to have credentials, experience, an ability to clearly explain what you do, etc. we still represent a roll of the dice.
When others sing your praises it reduce that fear. (Hint: Frightened people are slow to take action.)
With that said, two suggestions…
First, be systematic about asking clients for testimonials. Sure, some people will do it automatically, but for most, you have to ask. I send an email (shortly after a project is complete when everyone is still basking in each other’s wonderfulness) saying, “Would you mind writing a few words about our work together that I could share on my website?”
Second, you need to make it as easy as possible. Most people don’t enjoy writing, and they may have no idea what to say. So while I invite them to write whatever they want, I also give them a few leading questions.
- What did you learn or how did you benefit as a result of our work?
- What two things did you like most about the process?
- What two things did you like most about working with me?
- Would you recommend me to other people? If so, why?
- What hesitations did you have about hiring me?
You get the idea. Simple and open prompts that result in specific feedback about the experience and the benefits.
Here’s the bottom line. Testimonials are very powerful. When I see or hear someone who “looks like me” provide specifics about how wonderful it was to work with you, I feel confident that I may very well have a similar experience.
But, like getting your kids to turn the lights off in the basement, it doesn’t just happen. The more systematic and helpful you can be, the more customer reviews you’ll amass over the months and years.
Michael Katz is Founder and Chief Penguin of Blue Penguin Development. He specializes in helping professional service providers talk about their work in a way that is clear and compelling. Sign up for his free newsletter, The Likeable Expert Gazette, here.