Step by step: how to collect truly powerful customer testimonials
Customer testimonials are one of the most effective, but under-utilised marketing tools available. Here is the step-by-step process I use to collect compelling customer testimonials.
Most customers will trust word-of-mouth recommendations above anything you might say about your own business. But, do you know what the next best thing is? Real customer feedback.
Yet, there are LOTS of businesses who have never bothered to do anything about collecting customer testimonials or attracting reviews. You know what this means don’t you? It means that simply collecting great customer testimonials and displaying them prominently on your website and in your marketing material will put you ahead of most of your competitors.
And the great thing is, collecting these customer testimonials is so much easier than you think.
Step 1: Get your customer on the telephone
Just pick up the phone and give them a call. Ask if they have a few minutes to talk. If they don’t, arrange a suitable time to talk later. Keep a list of past customers that you (or your team) think might be good for a testimonial. Do this regularly.
"While your own marketing messages are important, it’s what your customers say that REALLY makes an impact."
Step 2: Gauge your customer’s feedback
Ask your customer how everything is going and if they are happy with the work your business has done/is doing for them. (If they’re not happy, change the purpose of this call and make it all about doing whatever it takes to make them happy!)
Assuming they’re happy, tell them that you’re looking for some customer feedback, and also potentially some customer quotes you can use in your marketing material. (If they’re a business, tell them if they’re happy to participate, it would also be great exposure for them as you’d be highlighting their business.) Ask them if they’d be happy to be involved and spend just a few minutes talking with you on the phone. You could either do it now or arrange a more convenient time to do it later.
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Step 3: Conduct the customer testimonial interview
Thank your customer for being involved and assure them that it won’t take much of their time. Also explain that you’ll ask some questions and will take some notes as you go. Then you’ll write up what they’ve said and send it to them to check.
Ok, so now you get into the actual questions. Even though you ultimately only want a sentence or two as the customer testimonial, you should ask quite a few questions to ensure you capture the most juicy comments they have. Here are some ideas for questions you can use:
- “What was your situation like prior to using our business? What drove you to start using our product/service?”
- “What convinced you to try our business?” (Instead of the other options available.)
- “What was your experience like using our product/service?”
- “Would you recommend our business? What would you tell other people/businesses in a similar position to you were?”
- “Since using our product/service, what sort of results have you experienced?”
- “Are you able to put some numbers around that? Even rough numbers can help a lot.” (Really encourage your customer to quantify the results they’ve experienced. These are often the most powerful statements. Think percentage improvements, cost savings, etc.)
- “What was the best thing about working with our company?”
- “What would you like us to change in the future?” (This question is more for your own customer insight purposes.)
That’s it! Make detailed notes and capture that actual words that they say (or record the conversation – but if you do this you need to get their permission first). Explain that you’ll write up notes and condense their comments over the next day or so and then you’ll email them to make sure that you’ve got it right.
4) Write the customer testimonial
Now, look over your notes and capture the juiciest phrases from your customer. You can change the order of things and add context to make sure it makes sense. Ensure that it truly sounds like it’s their words and not yours.
Don’t be afraid to include some parts that might sound slightly negative – otherwise they won’t sound believable. For example, a testimonial that starts with the following hesitation is very strong; “We were initially afraid to try xxx as we’d been burnt by others, but since we started we haven’t looked back. XXX has totally changed the way we…”.
Likewise, a testimonial that states one of the negatives about your business can also be very strong. For example; “Although XXX is not the cheapest, we couldn’t be happier with our new xxx. We’re using it every day and always get comments from our friends and neighbours.”
Or, as another example; “I had to wait three weeks for an appointment but boy, was it worth it! Since that first time, I come back every six weeks and I absolutely love…”
The customer testimonial should not be longer than a couple of sentences and sometimes you may want to go even shorter than that. After you’ve collected one or two testimonials, you also want to make sure that they each sound different from each other – remember, they should each reflect the voice of your customer.
5) Email the customer their testimonial for approval
Once you’re happy with the customer testimonial, it’s time to get your customer’s approval. To do this, simply write them an email thanking them for their comments, explain that you’ve condensed and paraphrased their comments, let them know that you plan to use this in your marketing materials and if they want anything changed, just to let you know. An actual email I have used successfully many times is as follows;
Hi <Customer Name>,
It was great to speak with you yesterday and I was so pleased to hear that everything is going well! I’ve now drafted up your comments and have included these below. Hopefully I’ve captured the essence of what you said, but if you’d like anything changed with this, please just let me know (or make any edits below).
<Include the actual customer testimonial here. Make sure you include the customer name and/or business so that you can be sure you’ve got these details correct as well.>
As discussed, once you’re happy with it we’d like to promote it in our emails, Facebook page, other marketing etc.
Thanks again for your help with this – it’s very much appreciated!
All the best,
6) Include a photograph if possible
Depending on how you’re going to use the testimonials, a photograph can add even more strength to your customer testimonial. I suggest you don’t bring this up until later though as sometimes this can become a stumbling block (lots of people are very shy about having their photo on display but once they’ve gotten most of the way through the process they’re more likely to relent!). If you’re wanting a photograph, simply ask for this in the email above. (Or, you could offer to take one of your customer yourself.)
7) Highlight your customer testimonials
Once you’ve got a reply email from your customer, voila! You now have a customer testimonial! Now it’s time to promote it and get it in front of as many prospective customers as you can. Think about including your customer testimonial/s in the following places:
- Scattered through your website (here is a great article with examples of how customer testimonials can be formatted on your website).
- On the homepage of your website (front and centre where no-one can miss it).
- On the order page of your website.
- In your quotations or sales proposals.
- In your brochures or other marketing collateral.
- On the back of your business cards.
- As Facebook, Twitter or other social media posts (eg “just received these lovely words from a customer…”).
- In your email signature.
- As part of your drip email sequence.
- You can even print them up large or frame them and put them on your office walls.
A hidden benefit of collecting customer testimonials
While you should collect customer testimonials for the powerful marketing impact they have, there is also another reason… the feel good factor for you! When you’re feeling a bit flat (or outright disheartened) about your business, just refer to your collection of customer testimonials and you’ll be sure to find your mojo again! Keep a “brag book” or a folder on your computer and read these over any time you’re doubting yourself or have forgotten why you’re in business!
Have you got tips on collecting customer testimonials? Please let me know in the comments.