How to get great testimonials and reviews
Your Aunty Kenda is here to help and this week we’re exploring love - and how to get your customers to tell you they love you. Yes, the confusing, conflicting and often totally unexplored realm of testimonials and reviews.
Maybe everyone is being too British and polite about it all.
Maybe everyone just straight up forgets. Or doesn't take it seriously. Or they feel arrogant.
Whatever the reason businesses up and down the UK (and possibly left and right too) are missing out on a valuable means of validating their work and winning new business.
Yeah, testimonials can be a bit cringe but a profit sheet that says £0 is worse.
So come on in and take a seat on the couch - grab a drink if you need some fortification - and let’s get agonising.
A letter to the Marketing Agony Aunt
Dear Kenda, Queen of hearts and marketing automation,
I’m just a girl. Standing in front of a customer. Asking them to love her….
*And getting no where.*
How do I get my customers to tell me they love me?
Okay, well love is a little strong. But I want their reviews. Their feedback. And well, yes, sometimes their love.
I know good reviews are more rare than bad ones.
But what are we doing wrong?
Are we not doing a good enough job?
Are our customers not happy enough?
Help me find the love I know we deserve.
A hopeless romantic looking for (customer) love.
You need to provide amazing service to get a testimonial
First and foremost, it’s going to be OK.
Provided you do ONE thing. And that one thing is to provide an AMAZING service. Just love your customers and it will all be fine….
Because love makes everything OK right???? At least that is what the Disney movies taught us anyway...
But sadly real life is a little more complicated than that. Forensic psychology, all the data and real life do have some differing opinions on this. Love simply isn’t enough in the real world.
So let’s look at the real life problems, and get agonising shall we?
You need to ask your customers for testimonials consistently...
In your letter your main concern revolves around getting your customers to say “I love you” back. That’s reviews/ testimonials in marketing speak. I’m going to start with the very obvious here, so bear with me.
Since you want those reviews, are you asking your customers for them?
And not just one customer every now and then, but are you asking for feedback consistently? And if so, are you making it easy?
Writing a review isn’t something the vast majority of your customers want to do. Those jobsworths who do really love going around and leaving snide reviews for every place they have ever walked past are outliers to the normal population. For most normal people, it’s only when we feel an extreme emotion that we tend to go and leave a review.
That’s because it’s effort.
People don’t want to do it. So you have to give them a reason to do it.
Either that reason needs to be because you were exceptional - and they HAVE to tell someone because it was amazing, or because there is good thing that outweighs the effort.
Being good isn't good enough to get testimonials
Now I want to make it clear that I don’t think you’re necessarily doing anything wrong when it comes to your existing customers. You may be inclined to think, “But we’re goooood, I need that validation goddamnit.”
Well here’s a bit of tough love from me to you, lovely loveless - ready?
If the experience was great and you did a good job, - quite frankly that’s what the customer expects. It’s not out of the norm for them to be satisfied. That’s your job and no one is going to praise you for doing your job adequately. Praise comes when you’re exceptional.
You don’t get trophies in the business world for participation…. Suck it up sweety - we’re going to get you your trophy, but we’re going to make you work for it.
You’ve not done anything wrong per se, but you do need to be BOLD and EXCEPTIONAL to get those testimonials.
Now that I’ve laid that out, let’s talk about a few ways that you could go about actually getting more “I love you’s” back.
How can you get testimonials?
So what are your options? We’re going to discuss three options you have:
- Being exceptionally awesome
- Bribe/ Incentivise
1. Be exceptionally awesome
This one works the first couple of times. And what I mean by that is that we get used to things very quickly. Once a consumer is used to getting something, they feel entitled to it. Which means that it’s no longer an exceptional experience, it’s now the new normal.
Getting into an exceptional battle means continually upping the ante for yourself. And eventually it won’t be feasible anymore...
This is not to say that you don’t need to provide an amazing experience every time, you completely absolutely do - but it needs to be your normal. You simply can’t rely on it to be exceptional enough that you get unsolicited testimonials. Unsolicited reviews come about because the experience was so surprising that the customer HAS to tell someone. This works both ways though, either it was shockingly bad - so they have to tell people to warn them. OR it was phenomenal and the HAVE to share.
You should always work towards positively surprising your audience, but you can not rely on it to provide you with all the testimonials you need. So as a testimonial/ review strategy, number one is not going to cut it for longevity. What it can do though, is get the ball rolling when you’re first getting started. Strategies like this is how Zappos got known for its customer experience. But Zappos had to do other things too to keep up their status.
This is not a good option. It’s gross, if you have good customers you’ll put them off, and it makes everyone involved feel yucky. It is a tempting option though, but it’s not true love. And true love is what you’re after right?
Look at it this way, from the outside, when you see some rich old dude that looks like a dried shrivelled up blobfish, with some stunning young super model on his arm, how does it make you feel? Do you look at that and think “Ah true love…” No. No you don’t… It feels dishonest.
Testimonials have an amazing function, to inspire and provide social proof and validation. If the reviewers heart isn’t in it, and the testimonial is a bit “eh” - it’s obvious. So don’t do it.
Instead, you can look at some ways to incentivise. Things like sending free samples, and asking for an honest opinion on said sample. This means you’re giving good reason to get a review, but you want the truth. The important thing is that you don’t only pay attention to, or publish the good stuff.
Utilise the negative reviews too. Breakdown why they didn’t feel like it was the best thing ever, and turn it into a positive. The least you will ever get out of a negative review is an opportunity to improve your service/ products, the most could be a raft of new customers who loved the way you responded.
Many companies use the free service/ sample option to get some real life experience under their belt. I love this option because you can say to that person, I’d like to do this for you at a super discounted price (or free) provided you give me honest feedback, and let me document and publish the process. All kind of awesome, win win, and no bribery in site.
3. Ask for testimonials
This seems so obvious, but it can be so hard. And even if you are asking, it can feel uncomfortable, and you may be getting blah responses back. Like, it was great…. Not ideal and not inspiring at all right?
So let’s talk about the best ways to ask, what to ask, and the specific questions you should be using and why.
First and foremost, when you ask you want to make sure that you’re asking in the right way. You want your customers to feel special and validated.
So before you ask, check in and see how they’re doing. If everything is fine, ask if you can help them in any way, and then ask if they would mind giving you a review/ testimonial. This is super important. Because if they are not fine, now is your opportunity to fix things. THEN ask for a testimonial/ review - now you’re a proper hero, because you cared enough to fix it.
Here’s an example of doing this wrong. We live on a farm. We’re the farm house on said farm. Which is why it says farm house on our address. We know it can be a little confusing to deliver stuff to us. So there a nice big sign as you come up the farm road, that tells you where to go to deliver stuff to the farm house, and where to go to deliver stuff to the farm. It’s a cattle farm, and I really don’t want bull sperm and stuff delivered my house thanks. If the option is there, we also always put instructions on how to get to the house, and tell people to google it - because google maps has it right.
I don’t know why I’m still surprised, but some people just can’t fucking find us. Like at all. And one company in particular is so unbelievably inept that they failed to deliver SEVEN SHITTING TIMES. SEVEN.
They still have a VERY important document of mine pertaining to my citizenship. They asked me a little while ago how they were doing. I told them. They did nothing. Not a single sausage. They then asked me for a review. So I gave it to them, and now they’re suddenly paying attention.
Had they taking the opportunity to fix the issue, I would have been a big fan. Right now I’m just super pissed off - and still don’t have my document. This is how consumers feel.
So ask first, action if you need to, and THEN ask for the review.
How to ask for a review or testimonial?
Moving on how to ask. The way you ask is vital. First you need to look at the medium you’re asking it on. This pertains to your audience, how they interact with you, and what they are comfortable with. If they are younger and comfortable with social media and websites - these are great options. If they are older, and don’t really do too much online, don’t send them an email… Rather, call and ask.
If they are then happy to provide you with one, don’t make them send it in via email, send them a nice notepad and a pen with a ready addressed and stamped envelope to put it in.
If your audience is comfortable with video - that’s the jackpot. The audio can always be transcribed, but a video allows people to see the person giving the feedback, and make an emotional connection. All kinds of awesome.
How ever you go about it, it needs to be as easy as possible - they are doing you a favour remember?
Now - you need to structure your testimonials - this makes it easier to answer, but more importantly it helps pull some of the information from their brains that has been stored in odd ways, and puts it all together in such a way that it makes an emotional impact on the person reading or watching the testimonial.
We have tonnes of cognitive bias’ that make us store information in really weird ways. We also tend to edit and reinforce some memories after the fact. While all that is happening, some memories can become stronger, details get left out, swapped and sometimes fabricated.
Our brains are not cameras that record everything objectively either. We store memories differently based on how they were experienced. We also have no real choice but to discard specific information for generic information. Which means we dirty what is happening with stereotypes, associations, and prejudices. What fun!
Yeah basically you can’t trust your memory at all thanks to bias’ like Misattribution of memory, Source confusion, Implicit associations, Stereotypical bias, Prejudice, Negativity bias, Fading affect bias and so so many more.
So relying on a really unstructured testimonial is a BIG no.
What questions should you ask when asking for a review or testimonial?
Here are some questions you should ask, these questions are designed specifically to give real, and raw answers - ones that people can identify with.:
1. What were your perceptions before you bought xxxx ? Were you reluctant in any way?
2. How did you feel as a result of going through/ using xxx?
3. What specific results did you get as a result of xxxx?
4. Anything else you want to add?
And finally, make sure this is something that happens for EVERY customer. It should be a priority. We suggest you automate this as much as possible so that it doesn’t get forgotten. Every marketing automation system should have a campaign that is solely for collecting testimonials. But equally, make sure that you leave room/ flexibility for action when things go wrong.
To recap, the basics to getting more reviews: Is Ask. Make it possible. Make it easy. Make it structured. Do it quickly and consistently.
So with all that covered - let’s summarise and write back to our looking for love:
Dear Looking for Customer Love,
Well done for reaching out and taking the time to write in. Finding love can be tough. It can feel uncomfortable, so you should feel proud of yourself for taking this very important step.
Feeling unloved is such a tough place to find yourself in, as humans we all have a basic need for validation.
So let’s get you the love you need.
Firstly, you’re not doing anything wrong. You’re doing a great job at keeping your customers engaged and happy, and you should feel contented by that.
Unfortunately thought, that is not enough to get the “I love you”’s back. In order for this to happen you need to make a plan of action.
There are many ways you can go about this, but as a word of caution, relying on waiting for them to say so will only make you more unhappy, and bribing them will leave you with dishonest lovers.
To get the ball rolling for your testimonials, you can incentivise an honest review in exchange for a discount or free service. But you must make sure to publicise them just as honestly, otherwise you could end up with egg on your face.
I strongly suggest that you put systems in place to ensure you are checking in with your customer promptly after purchase, and then ask them if they would be willing to share their opinion. Make sure you do this appropriately and on the right platforms, to effect success.
Then ensure that you are not falling foul of the faults in our brains by asking structured questions.
With all this in mind, I prescribe that you automate this process, and create an action plan that takes into consideration who your customers are, how they would be most comfortable communicating with you, and how you could best get a structured response back from them. Leave no lover behind.
Remember, every great love story has a plan in it to unite the two main characters - yours is no different. It’s time you take control of your love plan, don’t leave it to fate.
Your Marketing Agony Aunt
What a heartfelt letter from our lovely loveless - and what a vital, yet unloved topic to cover - much agonising in there. Thank you hopeless romantic.
Get in touch with us
Don't forget, if you have a question, query, conundrum, agony, paint points, pickle or predicament then drop an email with all the gory details to email@example.com.
We'll always keep you anonymous unless you expressively say we can use your true identity. All comedy superhero names welcome.
If you're interested in joining me on the Agony Aunt Podcast or you'd like to to discuss how we can help you more directly then pop an email firstname.lastname@example.org and we can chat.