It could be a little scary to ask your customers for referrals. You could be missing out on new leads. But what if you ask to early and your client becomes an unhappy customer?
Many of our customers ask how to get new leads and how to ask a customer for a referral. With small business owners the challenge is not to perform the work but how to obtain prospective customers. Often owners are not sales experts, making it difficult and almost unnatural feeling to ask customers for reviews or referrals. Rest assured this is a normal routine practice that all businesses do. The question is, when is the best time to ask for those referrals and when is it appropriate not to ask?
The perfect time to ask for Referrals
Simply, when they are at their most happiest time with your company. When is this? your might ask. Depends!
When your prospect becomes a client they go through a customer journey. This journey will have its own unique stages that usually starts with the initial purchase, continues with the exchange of offering (product or service), then a follow up after the order is completed.
Within these stages customers usually will have high volumes and low volumes of satisfaction. Its best to find the highest satisfaction moment within the journey towards the end of the transaction. Think of the journey as a sound wave, throughout the stages customers tend to have high points and low points. Your goal is to ask for that referral or review at the end of the wave but at its highest point.
Asking too early
Looking at the sound wave example. If you ask a customer in an early stage of their journey its not yet possible to distinguish if they are a potential happy customer or an unsatisfied one. In the initial stage a customer may seam satisfied but soon may become unhappy due to outside personal issues or from unsatisfactory workmanship, or even from issues out of your control like material shortages and lack of labor to complete the project by its due date.
When your still in the early stages of your customers journey its best to give fantastic customer service and nothing else until your towards the closing of the transaction. Asking too early sometimes tells customers to evaluate your work throughout the process and if they're satisfied refer you. By providing great customer service at the beginning, middle and end of your transaction you produce a welcoming and trusting environment to your customer. This would be an ideal time to ask for that referral.
Asking too late
So, your all finished up with your service and received payment. You get in your car or truck and start to drive away. Then you think "should I call and ask for a referral?", its probably to late.
Everyone forgets from time to time. When the transaction is finished and the customer is paid up, in their mind everything is done. There is no need to hear back from you unless something needs to be fixed. That sound wave has flattened and is over.
Choosing a time when the hype is over and the feel of excitement about your company has left is not the ideal time to ask for referrals. Often clients are referring friends, family or co-workers, people they personally know. If you want them to willing give those peoples contact info up they should be really glad your doing business with them.
The last high point
Asking a customer to provide a referral or to refer you to people they know can be a sensitive issue for some. Its best to find an optimal time to ask.
We've found that the ideal satisfaction time is usually right before the transaction is finished. This is usually when the customer receives what they paid for but still has a connection with your company. For example; if a home was renovated and the customer just saw their brand new kitchen. They're excited and happy with the brand new stove, tiled floor and marble countertops. Once they approve of all the workmanship and answer yes to being satisfied, then ask for the referral or review.
When a client is fully satisfied there is no objection not to refer you or write a positive review. The transaction is completed but the ending conversation is still present. There has not been a disconnect with your company and the customer journey although almost complete is still on its last stage.
Final note: Keep in mind following up with customers is always a good idea. You should allow at least a couple days or so prior to following up. This allows them time to soak in the sale and think of questions they might have. You can also revisit those referrals and ask for reviews from customers you missed.
Pro tip: Ask for emails from your customers to build a contact list. You can later use this list for email campaigns. Sending monthly promotions or general company info is a great way to keep your company in customers sight.