Sunday, July 09, 2006

Getting Customer Testimonials

  • "BT has delivered on all of the objectives we set out at the beginning of the project, the most important of which was the high availability of the network."Craig Donald, Veritas
  • "BT gave a new meaning to the word Service. This is very clear in BT's SLAs." Bart Kerkhofs, BDO
  • "Without the help of Infosys, we would have had to postpone large projects for years. We would have suffered as a result." Terry Morgan CIO and Senior VP, Food Lion
  • "BT takes a flexible approach to our requirements, providing us cost-effective solutions with intelligent migration strategies."Hubertus Schilling, Rodenstock
  • "We have found in BT a strong and competent partner who meets our requirements to the fullest."Robert Neumaier, HypoVereinsbank
Introduction

People buy things/services from whom they trust. The most effective way to convert prospects into first-time buyers is always testimonials from satisfied customers. This business knowledge is almost a common knowledge. So I am not going to write about the value/benefits of customer testimonials in this article. Instead lets take a look at how one should go about collecting customer testimonials and What should these testimonials say?

Solicited & Unsolicited Testimonials

There are only two types of testimonials - Solicited & Unsolicited. Unsolicited testimonials come at your door step with you asking for it. Customer takes the initiative upon himself and tells you what he thinks/feels about your product/service - and has no reservations on quoting him on that testimonial. Today the most popular way to get unsolicited testimonials is via E-mail or over a phone conversations and in a few cases by snail mail.

Unsolicited testimonials are common when the product/service is new and often is also forms a new category. Under such circumstances, customers will be delighted that somebody had solved their long latent needs. Services such as Vonage, Ebay, Napster etc., got a lot of unsolicited testimonials in their early years.

These unsolicited testimonials are often lost within the company and are seldom used. Given the potential of testimonials to create demand in a new category or a new product, many marketers find it surprising that these testimonials are lost or not used. But in business reality, it is hardly surprising. Firstly these were unsolicited testimonials - i.e., nobody was expecting it. Therefore nobody bothered to collect, document and store it. The person who received the testimonial may not know what to do with it. Moreover if the product or the business is new, then the organization may not have the systems in place to deal with unsolicited testimonials. So it often gets lost.

My recommendation in handling unsolicited testimonials is to collect it & send it to marketing department. All employees must be informed as to what they should do with such unsolicited testimonials. Next, the marketing department should collect, categorize and document it. Judiciously select the best of these unsolicited testimonials and use them liberally wherever it is appropriate: Website, Newsletters, emails to customers, brochures, handouts etc.

Solicited Testimonials

Unsolicited testimonials are common in new products or services. But a vast majority (>95%) of businesses run on existing products/services. Here, marketers have to sweat it out to get good testimonials. It takes a lot of work: planning and execution to get testimonials.
Organizations will first have to plan on how to get these testimonials and from whom and what it should say. The best way to collect testimonials is to encourage the customer to give one via:
  • Feedback forms: E.g.. Comment cards at restaurants, retail stores etc. or customer satisfaction survey for B2B products/services
  • Website comment section
  • Post-purchase customer survey or phone calls
  • Warranty cards or registration form
The above methods of collecting testimonials may be useful - but the results may not be favorable - i.e., the testimonials given may not be usable - due to inappropriate wordings or too banal statements. For example, the most popular testimonial at a restaurant or a small business are: "Excellent Food", "Excellent service", "Better than what I expected" etc.
Though these testimonials are real, they are unusable - because it does not tell anything to a prospective customer.

The best way to collect testimonials is to call on a customer and press upon him to give one. This is particularly useful in B2B environment - where one can get CEO, VP, CFO CIO or other high ranking executive to give a favorable testimonial.

This raises the next question: Who should write the testimonial??

Since most of the top executives are busy people, they will not be having time to sit down and write an eloquent and appropriate testimonial. This implies that the marketing department must write a series of good, eloquent and appropriate testimonials and then allow the customer to select one or two among them and if needed work with the customer to edit the testimonial you prepared for him.

Remember that it is important to get a better testimonial from the customer than the one you wrote. So encourage your customer to write a better one than the choices made available to him. The best way to do that is to have a set of testimonials at the top of the page, and at the bottom have an empty section titled: "I can do Better than that: __________________"

This encourages the customer to think and write a very good testimonial. By making the customer write a testimonial, you will gain a bigger mind share of the customer and that increases your chances of repeat orders.

Requirements of a good Testimonial

Now that we have figured out how to get a testimonial, the next question is to decide on a good testimonial. A good testimonial should have four characteristics:
  1. Name & designation attached to it. Designation is very important for B2B products or services. E.g.: "Terry Morgan CIO and Senior VP, Food Lion"
  2. Brevity: Testimonials must be 3 sentences or less and less than 15-16 words. The message should be short, appropriate and sweet. E.g: "BT has delivered on all of the objectives we set out at the beginning of the project, the most important of which was the high availability of the network."
  3. An Emotion: An emotional statement captures readers attention. E.g: "Without the help of Infosys, we would have had to postpone large projects for years. We would have suffered as a result."
  4. Clearly Defined Benefit: The reader must see the benefit you are offering. Otherwise your prospect may not register the testimonial in his mind. E.g.: "We have found in BT a strong and competent partner who meets our requirements to the fullest."
Closing Thoughts

Testimonials are one of the most powerful tools in your marketing toolkit. Use them when you want to establish credibility, gain trust or generate word of mouth for your business. The right testimonial, placed strategically will go a long way towards closing a deal.

2 comments:

HikingStick said...

I have two questions on unsolicited testimonials. If you receive one from a customer, 1) should you correct spelling and grammar if/when the comment is published, and 2) do you need the customer's permission to use the testimonial?

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