Customer Testimonials: How to Get Them and What to Get in Them
Editor's note: Previous articles (see Related at left) have emphasized how important customer feedback is to business. Among its positives are the aid it provides to search engine optimization (SEO) and rankings on search engine results pages (SERP). Here, Bill Fridl provides marketers with suggestions about how to urge customers to provide the right testimonials.
My dentist emailed me last week. Actually, he wasn't really a dentist when I knew him. He was a dental student at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Dentistry, where I go for dental work (because I'm cheap!).
So, as I was saying, my dentist emailed me last week. He asked me to post a reference on Yelp. He had graduated and was starting up his practice and thought a few testimonials would help. It was easy for me to agree because I was quite pleased with his work.
Here are my thoughts on testimonials:
1. Ask for them. Otherwise you won't get them. One of my current "businesses" is marketing a vacation rental using VRBO.com, one of the websites dedicated to this industry. This has been a fun project and is proving to be a profitable use of my time.
Let's look at this business. From the renter's standpoint, a vacation rental is the perfect example of a risky purchase. They are required to pay a deposit before actually seeing the place. When they arrive, even if the property was totally misrepresented, there may be no other options for accommodations.
The VRBO website attempts to remove some of this risk by inviting renters to post reviews for properties they rent. When shoppers search for properties there is a bold number near the top of each listing that reflects the number of reviews submitted for that property. Visitors can click on the number and read all the reviews.
Though I sense that owners can stack the reviews (having friends submit, etc.) it's still a powerful differentiator. The shopper sees pictures that look reasonable, the price is in line with similar properties, and—wow—this particular property has reviews that are numerous, recent and positive.
My rental just came into existence three months ago. As I write this, I've had 12 completed rentals and 10 reviews. This may not sound impressive, but there are properties that have been rentals for years that do not have 10 reviews. I did not get these reviews because my property is better than every other property out there; I got them because I asked for them. I also got them because, when the guests checked in, I told them I would be asking for a review. And when they checked out, I asked if the stay had been fine and followed up by mentioning that I would be grateful for a review. And if I don't have a review a week after they check out, I follow up again.
2. Mention, BEFORE providing the service, that you will be asking for testimonials. I touched on this above, but let me add a thought: If you tell customers early that you're going to ask for reviews, they will be attuned to your performance. If you suck, that's not good. But if you deliver what you promised, your customer will be pleased.