Satisfied Customers Are Your Strongest Advocates
Have you wondered how companies and organizations grow their business in a digital age? It is an age-old practice: they build a good reputation. Instead of relying on word of mouth (which is still a great way to generate leads), they tap into social networks online to reach a broad audience.
When you have a satisfied customer their endorsement is invaluable to establishing your credibility. So many people feel icky asking for that endorsement. When done the right way at the right time, this awkwardness evaporates. A satisfied customer is often happy to provide a good review.
When and How to Ask for an Endorsement
I once worked in an organization that provided a service to potential clients through warm market leads. When we presented our solution to people we closed by asking them for the names and contact information of ten friends they thought would benefit from this complimentary consultation. That always felt transactional to me and I hated asking for that as my closer. That kind of business model may be an effective way to build leads, but can damage a company’s reputation.
Many lead-building strategies come across as pushy and transactional because they ask for the endorsement at the wrong time in the wrong way. In the previous example the request violated two primary values: trust and privacy. Trust was violated because that person had already welcomed us into their home and given their time and some personal information for which we delivered a complimentary solution THEN stipulated another obligation on them because–as we reminded them–we had presented this as a complimentary service they said they found helpful. Privacy was violated because we imposed ourselves into the relationships they had with others.
Only Ask for an Endorsement When the Customer is Satisfied
Your customers become advocates when they are convinced your service has substantially made their lives better. If you have not successfully met your customer’s expectation do not sour the relationship by asking them to put in a good word for you. Wait until your customer compliments your work and recognizes the value of your service. THEN you know it is time to invite them to share their endorsement.
Invite Satisfied Customers to Share their Endorsement
When you ask your customers for leads you put them in an uncomfortable dilemma. You do not want your customers to be soured by such an imposition. Instead, provide opportunities for customers to share their endorsement. Just like giving clients business cards and brochures to share with others (by the way, business cards and brochures still work) sharing links to your social network accounts which they can endorse, rate, and share gives them something they can do voluntarily.
How to Rebuild a Tarnished Reputation
When you have disappointed your customer you must not put further demands on or make more requests of them. Instead, work on rebuilding that relationship as much as possible. Granted, some relationships cannot be salvaged when one party has been let down. Still, it is important to systematically approach the challenge with authenticity and humility.
1. Review What Went Wrong
Whether it is a bad review, a negative rating, a mishandled order, or a malfunctioning product, as the vendor you are going to bear responsibility when a customer is dissatisfied. Even if you did nothing wrong–even if the complaint is misdirected to you or your organization–take a step back and look at what went wrong. Document everything. Get as much background as possible.
2. Seek Advice
At this point it is very important you understand your liabilities. Legal advice is always important when you are at risk of admitting liabilities or rectifying a wrong. You may just want to do the right thing but get yourself in deeper trouble in the meanwhile. Your mentors and peers are also valuable in sharing their experience and advice. Especially important is the feedback of anyone in your organization involved with or affected by the situation at hand.
3. Come Up with a Plan
Take time to outline what steps you will take to make things right. Be sure to follow step #2 first! Script, role play, edit and–if you’re so inclined–pray on it. Be sure you have buy-in from anyone on your team involved with the situation. Make sure your message, tone, and facts are all in line.
4. Communicate Humbly
Stick with your plan. Do not rush this. If necessary, revisit step #1. Avoid confrontation, defending, or debate: you will lose. Remember you want to resolve the issue so you can get back to forward movement with your organization’s goals, not to win.
If you need to publicly address the issue (whether responding to a negative review or issuing a public relations statement) communicate humbly and authentically. Get it over with as quickly as possible by avoiding back-and-forth with detractors. Let your statement stand and the dust settle.
5. Avoid Repeating the Situation
As much as it is in your control, initiate systems to avoid repeating the situation. It may mean adjusting your processes, rethinking how you communicate, dropping a product or service, renegotiating contracts, changing personnel, or extra training. Make it right so you can get back to doing what you do well, serving your customers, and building your reputation.