What’s the most effective form of advertising? The kind you cannot buy – word-of-mouth from your best customers. About 90% of people believe brand recommendations from friends and colleagues, and that’s a number you cannot ignore.
The good news is that you can encourage people to talk about your products and services through a few consistent and intentional practices. Read our tips below and let us know what’s working for you to get good word of mouth for your business.
“Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You”
The comedian Steve Martin shared that advice in his autobiography. It sounds obvious, but the bottom line for getting good reviews from your customers is that the experience they have with your product must be excellent. That means your product must deliver excellent value. Fail to deliver, and people will talk; deliver the best, and people will talk about that, too.
Ways to ensure your software product is really good:
Storyboard new user interface features and share the storyboards with your best customers. Getting them involved in the design process helps ensure you give them something worth talking about.
We always believe half of the product is the product itself, and the second half is all the people behind it. That’s why our goal at X-Formation is to respond to user requests within 24 hours, and ideally much sooner, so we can make sure they get what they want. Speaking of which…
Give your customers what they want. Maintain an active database of customer enhancement requests, track them, and let people know when their requests are implemented. Get customers involved in the design process.
Talk to your best customers – and your worst. Building relationships with your top customers pays off in many ways. Talk to your top users and listen for ways in which you can help them be more successful in their businesses. Talk to your dissatisfied customers, too. They will help you spot the issues you need to fix. By enlisting them in the process, you may well turn the most difficult customer into one of your best.
At X-Formation we work hard to get feedback, and no feedback is more important than what we get from unhappy customers. They show us where we’ve tripped up and help us ensure we get it right the next time.
Deliver Top-Notch Customer Service
To deliver the best customer service is to plan for it. And it begins with your employees. To quote Sir Richard Branson, CEO of VIrgin Airlines, “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” Model the behavior you expect from your staff and show them what real customer service looks like.
Ways to ensure your customer service is top-notch:
Create exceptional value. Focus your customer service team on creating exceptional value in every customer interaction. Quick, detailed responses go a long way to making a customer feel like your company really cares about their problems.
Customers respect knowledgeable, timely answers. We make it a practice to answer all X-Formation customer emails with an internal 6-hour deadline (though we tell our customers 24 hours to ensure completeness). We always want to deliver more than our customers expect, and they appreciate our prompt, straightforward answers.
Have a process that tracks customer feedback – both positive and negative – and develop a strategy for responding to both. Create a library of resolution tactics you’ve used in the past to help customer service representatives have resources they can use to soothe a dissatisfied customer.
We give every customer an option to share their feedback on every interaction with the X-Formation team by sharing a survey link at the end of every email. They tell us how we did, and we share the positive ones with the team to let them know a good job has been done. We take negative responses even more seriously, and use them to improve our processes to eliminate future mistakes. This is a big part of being a learning organization.
Deliver everything you promise. Many companies have fallen out of favor simply because they failed to deliver on their promises. Honesty is paramount when working with customers. Keeping them informed about what can and cannot be done sets appropriate expectations and prevents disappointing results.
Bugs happen! When we discover a bug, we inform our customers of what’s happened and let them know as soon as a fix is available. Hiding problems is not good customer service! The X-Formation approach is to resolve bugs quickly, and to never sacrifice quality just to ship something out the door.
Above all, be human. The more you focus on building good business relationships, the happier your customers – and your business – will be.
Ask for It
The best way to get good word-of-mouth for your products is to ask for it. Make asking customers for feedback a core component of your customer service process. When you get really good feedback, post that on your website and any social media sites your organization uses (such as LinkedIn). Treat every customer interaction as an opportunity to build more good will.
Ways to get more customer feedback:
Survey select customers periodically to rate your customer service. Always include the opportunity to rate every customer service interaction.
Two things you can do right now to make it easy for customers to send feedback. There’s always a link in our X-Formation emails and our website footers to give our customers that ability. And because customer feedback is crucial to making progress, we also have our “Feedback for the CEO” page to give our customers every opportunity to give us feedback.
Conduct quarterly roundtables by invitation with select customers on key accounts. What’s working for them – and what isn’t? Use the information you gather to create blog posts, newsletters, and informational webinars.
We don’t wait for our customers to contact us at X-Formation – we frequently ask our biggest customers for their evaluation on our progress. Without them we are nothing, so it’s important to us that we ensure their happiness. Nothing beats a “Thank you – it works” comment.
Interview customers and create case studies that highlight the successes they are having with your product. Let them tell you how they’re getting the most out of it. You can do case studies in an informal podcast or webinar format, or create a case study article you can use for newsletters, blogs, and marketing handouts.
Here at X-Formation we use blogs and customer meetings to ensure all feature requests get evaluated and taken seriously for future improvements. We’re big believers in customer-driven development. By letting our customers tell us what they really need, we can keep a clear focus on creating the right features.
Customer word-of-mouth is one of the most valuable marketing tools you have at your disposal. Create good relationships, deliver exceptional value, and communicate with your customers and clients as part of a planned process built into your customer service organization.