After finishing John Jantsch’s “The Referral Engine” at lunch one day, I immediately implemented something he wrote about. I e-mailed my list of InventRight customers and thanked them for the support they’d given me over the years. I asked them to let me know if they ever needed help. The response was overwhelming. I even had colleagues e-mail me about the message, commenting on how random and thoughtful it was. “Wow,” they said. “You weren’t selling anything.” I guess I can liken it to buying your wife flowers when it isn’t Valentine’s Day or her birthday.
I’m a huge advocate of customer service. I honestly believe it is one of the best ways to distinguish your business and retain customers. But “The Referral Engine” caused me to think even more seriously about customer service, about how I can improve mine and why I should. If you’re not convinced, let this interview with author John Jantsch sway you.
Jantsch regularly interacts with small business owners, having given lectures to crowds of all sizes for many years. He found the inspiration for his book after encountering the same disturbing gap in logic again and again.
“I always ask the crowd, ‘How did you build your business?’ Over 90% of people I ask respond that when they were just getting started, they relied on word of mouth. They did some good work, their clients told friends, and their business grew. And then I ask them, ‘What are you actively doing now to stimulate that?” I receive a bunch of blank stares. They’re not doing anything. I want to change that,” explained Jantsch.
Jantsch identified 100 companies that are highly referable, relying on references from other people or ones he discovered himself. He set out to discover what sets these companies apart. What do they do that makes them so referable? He found that there are few specifically tactical ways: it’s much more about making the entire experience for the consumer that much more enjoyable.
“It’s not necessarily any one thing. It’s about creating a better experience. It’s about having no gaps in your message or service. A big piece of the book is about trust. Because it’s easier than ever for customers to write and say negative things about a business through the Internet, tremendous customer service is more important than ever. If you get that right, you aren’t going to need to spend nearly as much time and energy generating momentum in other ways,” argued Jantsch.
He explained some specific ways to improve the customer experience. After a consumer agrees to become customer, you should immediately be able to show them how you’re going to provide for them. You should have procedures in place that measure the value a customer got from your service. Make sure that the people you employ understand the value of being referable and are positive and service-oriented. There’s no single way to ask for referrals, says Jantsch, but all of these aspects add up.