Seeing an AccountingWEB UK post by Chris Barling called The Power of Customer Feedback inspired a good friend and client to email me today asking what I thought about "client feedback" and testimonials.
I thought I'd share my response with you, too.
Definitely an exciting aspect of customer feedback is using quotes as testimonials to help sales. The easiest way to display and leverage testimonials is having "recommendations" about you on LinkedIn. Don't use the "request recommendations" feature because that is cheesy to do. But when someone pays you a compliment on your service either verbally or by email, you might ask them if they'd be willing to say that via a recommendation on LinkedIn because it would really help you out in growing your business.
LinkedIn and other comments made by other parties in social media are actually the most valuable type because they are not written by (or controlled by) you, therefore they are more trust-worthy to the reader.
The key to dealing with "negative" such feedback, by the way, is drowning out the occasional gripe with sheer volume of positive comments. Social media definitely makes customer feedback--good AND bad--more visible than ever before, and almost entirely out of control which nobody likes to hear, but it is the cold, hard fact. It used to be that an angry customer could only reach a limited audience. Not so anymore. Now there's Twitter, Yelp, Sidewiki, and zillions of other places people to go describe what it's like to work with you. And they do. (Try going to Yelp.com and enter CPA and your city...see what you find...) You can read a lot more about all of this, and how to handle it and leverage it, in my about-to-be-released book, Social Media Strategies for Professionals and their Firms (end of commercial break!!)
You have the opportunity to use these informal or unsolicited testimonials (with permission of the persons giving them) or you can formally gather testimonials. Here is the step-by-step process that my company uses for Gathering Customer Testimonials.
Testimonials are wonderful to interweave in your website copy, your proposals, and any other sales-related documents. Always with attribution (or readers are skeptical of their authenticity).
They are particularly useful to underscore claims you might make that are otherwise "common claims" CPAs make such as "we are timely." That claim is a snoozer alone. But three or four statements like, "In 30 years, they've delivered early to me every single time," and your snoozer claim comes to life. Especially when the person who said that is someone the potential buyer respects, like the head of a significant non-profit board or large company in your area.
Sometimes, though, as I mentioned above, you encounter less than stellar feedback. What do you do when this happens? My blog post called Asking Means Acting discusses this.
And, just in case you need it, here are some much needed tips (based on how many customer service blunders I read about these days) on how to apologize (or not).
May all your feedback be golden. :)