Reputation is everything for a home service business. Everything you do connects to the need to prove and improve your business’ reputation over time –from the tools you use to the people you hire, and the marketing strategies you employ.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to nurturing a reputation, one tactic that’s been generally reliable for me is to earn referrals. I’ve found that for all the effort I put into coming up with a great narrative, or great branding, there’s no bit of content I can publish that’s as persuasive as the word of a trusted friend.
This article will talk you through the steps towards making what I call a “golden chain” of referrals. Every business has a shot at generating referrals, which lead to more referrals, and so on… read on to learn how you can do just that. Hint: there’s no referral program needed.
1. Ask for feedback.
I’m a big fan of thinking in terms of numbers. Chalk it up to my background in accounting, but I’ve found that taking a quantitative approach to my problems and solutions really does pay off in the long run.
That’s why this first bit of advice is to make a habit out of asking for feedback on a scale of one to ten. It’s a requisite step when securing referrals, for reasons that’ll be clear later on in this article –but on a surface level, asking for feedback shows that your business is genuinely interested in connecting with the people you’re servicing. If your first wave of clients trusts you to take a real interest in delivering a service, they can trust you to take care of their friends as well.
This works especially well for smaller, local businesses that have the opportunity to become a community fixture. Lots of businesses would pay through the nose to have an effective community marketing strategy, but few consider the easiest and most basic step of having more meaningful engagements with their existing clients.
Have your employees get used to their preferred variation of the line, “On a scale of one to ten, how happy are you with our services?” until asking becomes second nature. And if your client answers anything from 1 to 8, follow up by asking what kinds of improvements should be made so they can give a higher score the next time.
2. Make Customers Feel Appreciated
Think about the last time businesses you’ve interacted with and the ones that you would refer. Chances are they made you feel warm and fuzzy, almost as if the business made you feel warm and fuzzy inside.
Most home service businesses leave that feeling out. Think about this, at the end of it all do your customers feel like they’ve been ran through your cash wringer, or do they feel that they are personally appreciated by your business.
Making customers feel appreciated isn’t rocket science, but it does require an operations team that puts customer satisfaction up there. Make sure the customer gets constant scheduling updates. Make sure your staff greets them with a smile and thanks them for the business. Ask for feedback at the end to ensure satisfaction. Respond to their online reviews; even if it is just to say thank you for the review.
3. Connect With Story.
Story builds a personal connection and differentiates you from your competitors. Make sure your customers know the story behind your company. This helps removes the mechanical business element and personifies the company.
Customers will remember the story and want to be a part of it.
Read the full guide on using a story in the sales process here.
4. Remain Connected Using Facebook Ads
After a project, it is difficult to remain connected to our customers. Life happens, we all move on, and customers forget who we are.
That’s the problem.
Some solutions are phone calls just to see how things are going or email marketing.
I’ve never been a fan of those here’s why:
- Phone calls and emails can often come off as awkward. Sometimes the customers don’t want to be bothered.
- If done manually they are time to consume (I still have not seen effective automated phone calls).
- They can turn things south. By emailing or calling a past customer unsolicited you open a direct line of communication. With a direct line of communication in place, customers don’t have to take any action to make complaints or warranty claims.
Let’s say you installed a faucet 3 years ago and it has now developed a very slow drip, however, the warranty was only for 1 year. The customer otherwise would not have thought to call in a warranty claim, but since they’ve got you on the phone, and clearly you want more business so you won’t turn them down, the customer now expects it to be fixed. You could attempt to turn it into a sales opportunity for further work, but by and large what the customer is going to hear is “no warranty for you”.
Facebook advertising to our past customers relieves these issues. The ads are subtly placed so there is no mandatory interaction like a phone call or email. You can publish content that is engaging. They’re automated; no making dials or sending emails. And they don’t open a line of communication.
By staying front and center on their minds you’ll get more referrals, and of course, you get the social synergy of social media.
5. Know When to Ask for a Referral
This is the part of the article where we take a more direct approach and talk about the art of asking for a referral. Everything before this point is a matter of setting the conditions, and you can only get this far if you follow the first two steps we’ve already discussed.
The trick to securing a referral without sounding desperate for more business (clients can smell desperation, and it’s bad for business) is to ask when you know your client is satisfied with your service. Now, if only we had a handy way of figuring that out, like hearing a rating of 9 or 10 when asking for a satisfaction rating…
You get the picture.
When you hear either of those magic numbers, you know you’re talking to someone who’s had a good experience with your business. Better still, when you hear a customer give you a 9 or 10, they’re primed to put their money (or, well, their friends’ money) where their mouth is and validates their positive scores.
6. Know How to Ask for a Referral
Knowing how to take advantage of an opportunity is just as important as being able to spot it in the first place. I’m going to give what I find to be the perfect way to ask for a referral, then break it down.
“Could you recommend one or two friends who might be interested in trying out our services?”
Simple as that.
When asking for a referral, be specific: ask for one or two at the most. There might not be anything inherently wrong with asking for “referrals” in general terms but think about how much more reasonable you sound asking for one or two. Putting a small, doable limit to your request increases the likelihood of getting a response.
Likewise, asking them for leads you could reach out to, rather than asking them to go sing your song for you is a more effective way of landing more business down the line. There’s no guarantee that they’ll actually recommend your business to anyone (and if they do, it won’t be because you asked them to), so take what you can get while the opportunity is around.
Let’s recap. The secret to landing a golden chain of referrals is to run with a process: ask for feedback, act on that feedback, use insights from that feedback to know when to approach, and lastly, approach with the right question.
Every step of this process has a purpose. Feedback lets you know what to improve and when to ask for a referral, improvements keep your business in top shape and worth referring, and the art of the referral itself guarantees more customers and first impressions –beginning the cycle anew.
Test it out for yourself, and don’t forget to tell me how it works out in the comments section below!