Written by Chris Lambrinides
CHAPTER 19 - REFERRAL SYSTEMS
A happy customer tells a friend; an unhappy customer tells the world.
We have all heard that quote before, and it’s true, especially today. With the Internet and social media, word spreads fast. The obvious takeaway from this is that you should always do a 110% outstanding job all the time. Don’t slip up, and be on point. Always assume the word of your work and customer experience is up for critique by the world.
The not-so-obvious takeaway is what great news this is. Leverage this to your advantage, and create an incredible referral system for your clients.
Benefits—Why They Are Awesome
Referrals always convert higher. When a client refers you to a friend or colleague, the friend or colleague is presold. The client would not have passed your info along if they didn’t have a great experience with you. When the friend or colleague calls you, they are not calling to inquire about your services. They are calling to schedule your services.
They are also likely not price shoppers or hagglers. Chances are that what you charged was part of the initial discussion between them and your client.
And, of course, a referral is low or no cost. Aside from a thank you and maybe a small gift, a referral is always free.
Two Types of Referrals
The first type of referral is a one from a strategic partnership. Please see chapter 19, “Networking,” which dedicates a whole section to the topic.
The second type of referral is from a customer to friends, family, or colleagues. These are great. If you make sure you always do a great job and that people are happy, these referrals will come in organically. It’s a given that you will get some work this way. Ordinary companies leave it at that and take what work comes in.
Expert companies, on the other hand, toss fuel on the fire with an in-depth referral marketing plan. It’s so instilled into the way they do business that it’s not even on the marketing calendar. It’s built right into the internal business systems. Read along, and I will lay out for you the simple steps you need to ingrain one into your business. Once you’re finished, your business will be a referral machine that spits out leads on a daily basis.
But first, here are some tips. These should be a given, but I’m going to mention them anyway. To ensure you are always referable, make sure that you always do the following:
1) Always be awesome. Do an excellent job always, and deliver more than you promise.
2) Wow customers! Aside from going the extra mile, surprise them in some way.
3) Be consistent. Deliver a consistent experience to your clients. Do things the same way each time. Predesign the whole customer-interaction process to deliver the same results always.
4) Turn customers into advocates. When you treat someone the right way, they will go out of their way to tell the world how awesome you are.
5) Remove the guilt. Ask for referrals in a way that doesn’t make customers feel like salespeople.
Your Precrafted Referral Strategy
Ask and reward
Have a page on your website about referrals. Mention that referrals are important to you and your business.
Don’t mention any monetary exchange for a referral. Just mention that referrals are important and that they help keep your prices low. Mention that the greatest way to say thank you isn’t by telling you, it’s by telling a friend. That’s it.
Ask for them five times
Five times? Really? That sounds like a lot. It is, but if you do it correctly, it won’t seem like overselling; it will seem helpful. Here’s how you do it:
1) Ask at first contact. Why not ask when the client calls you for the first time? You don’t need to come right out and ask. But you can mention on the initial call that you do offer a neighbor discount. Maybe someone on their street wants to book at the same time?
Build this right into your phone scripts. Make it part of the process.
2) Ask when they book the appointment. “OK, thanks, Miss Smith. We will see you Tuesday afternoon. Don’t forget, we do offer a neighbor discount. If you know someone who wants their windows cleaned the same day, just let us know.”
3) Ask after the job is complete. As you are wrapping up the job, build a referral request into your post job wrap-up procedures. Just as you should have procedures in place for cleaning up a job site, you should have a procedure in place for you or your crew leader to ask your satisfied customer for a referral. This is the best time to ask. Customers should be at peak happiness from the amazingly clean windows.
4) Ask in the follow-up call. Yep, always do a follow-up call. It’s great quality control, but it’s also another opportunity to ask for a referral.
5) Ask on the follow-up postcard. Yes, you’re going to follow up again. Clients will tell you more on a postcard than they will to your face or over the phone. Postcards are essential for quality control, customer service, and asking for another referral.
Track, Measure, and Pay Out
You should be keeping track of the lead source of every person who schedules an appointment. This will allow you to know on a day-to-day basis who is and who isn’t referring work to your business.
Pay them out! When someone refers someone to your company, and you schedule and then complete the work, thank that referrer with a gift and a note. Have a stack of ten handwritten thank you notes and ten $25 gift cards in your office at all times.
When you complete a job from a referral, send the thank you note and gift card right away. Immediately after job completion, have a process in place to trigger the delivery.
Thank the referrer profusely. Did they refer you two people? Send the referrer two $25 gift cards. Send one out for every single job booked. I promise that if you make this a practice, your referrals will skyrocket. You’ll have more work than you know what to do with. Keep paying out your referrers over and over again.
Do not send them a gift certificate for your service. Send them a real gift card from a favorite local restaurant or Starbucks or maybe even for wine.com. Amazon and Best Buy are also great options. Tailor what you send to the client and their demographic. This is not a bribe; it’s a sincere thank you from the bottom of your heart.
I have also experimented with other variations of this, such as refer five people and get a free service, or refer us X clients and get your next cleaning free. But nothing has proved to work better and foster more referrals than a $25 gift card. The whole key is to make it something they will appreciate. Make it special.
Automate The Process
The steps involved in producing the referrals must be part of your company’s DNA. Hardwire them into your company culture and systems. All facets of your business should touch this.
1) Sales team—The process is built into their scripts and is part of the system.
2) On-site crew—As with the sales team, it is built into the process.
3) Finance—They track the referrals and authorize the disbursement.
4) Marketing—They send the thank you letters.
If you set it up as part of the process and bake into it what you do, the whole program will take on a life of its own. You can bring in a nice amount of work from referrals. And you can bring in even more by systemizing and incentivizing it.
Watch the Trends
On a monthly basis, do a more in-depth analysis of your revenue report sorted by the campaign. Highlight your top referrers. Stay in touch with them more often, and give them deeper discounts in the future. Befriend them on social media, and stay in contact with them as often as possible. Engage with them, and maintain the bond. Continue to thank them and appreciate them, and the referrals will continue to flow in.
Do you want really rich customers? The super-high-end customers are going to be completely immune to most forms of advertising you throw at them.
They are not going to respond to your direct mail piece, and they aren’t going to call you because they saw your yard sign.
But they will call you on a referral from a friend. Realistically, someone on the superrich person’s staff is going to call.
With this type of clientele, a referral is going to be your only way in. Referral programs and precrafted strategies aren’t going to work with these people or cause them to go out of their way to refer you. They operate on a different level from you and me. You just have to be likable and do a phenomenal job. You have to deliver them a great experience. Remember that the next time you score one of these jobs. Go the extra mile with these people. Pamper them, baby them, and give them a tremendous experience. And if you do, they will refer you to their other wealthy friends.