One of the strongest forms of advertising for people in the hospitality services industry – and in most other businesses for that matter – is word-of-mouth. Former and current customers can help you increase your bottom line and build credibility and brand equity. However, they must be approached in the right way and of course must have had a positive experience with your business. Here, we recommend these five best practices to get your customers to agree to recommend your services.
- Ask for the referral face-to-face if possible: People will be more likely to answer you affirmatively if you are standing right in front of them. Moreover, it is more respectful to the client to do so in person if you can. If you cannot meet with the client face-to-face, then ask for the reference by phone. When contacting the client to request a referral you may also find it a good idea to use a script until you are comfortable with the process.
- Cultivate a relationship: By going the extra mile to gain the customer’s trust, you will position yourself as someone that the client feels almost obligated to help. Asking the favor of a reference in this kind of relationship is much easier.
- Stay in contact with customers: This is part of growing and maintaining a relationship with clients. Devise a way to keep in touch with the client and a way to update their most recent information. Find out how happy they were with your services, what you can do for them in the future, etc.
- Let customers know their references are appreciated: Be sure to express your appreciation to clients who have recommended your services. Send handwritten thank-you notes, make personal phone calls, etc. Just remember to follow up in a timely manner after the reference has been given.
- Be bold: Believe it or not, some business people don’t even ask their clients for references. They just assume that if all went well the client will automatically give them one without asking. This is a mistake. Go for “the ask”—and do it personally. You’ll find that the direct approach can be effective most of the time.
Done correctly, an effective customer reference program can help you grow your client base and help you determine how to improve your business. (This is provided you quiz clients who will not give you a reference.) Another way to improve and streamline your business is by using hospitality software. Our online catering software makes it easier for you to meet the needs of your clients and to turn satisfied customers into marketing tools.