Posted by: Andy Porter | March 21, 2010

What Can Be Done To Improve Your Word Of Mouth?

Here are two of the most effective (and rarely done!) things to do:

Follow up.

Calling a client, customer, patient, back to see how they are doing is an AWESOME way to improve word of mouth. Has your doctor ever called you back to see how you were feeling? If they did, did it impress you? Have you ever been to a restaurant where the chef (or cook) came out into the dining area and asked the customers how they liked the food? This can be done in auto repair, chiropractic clinics, schools, nail salons, cleaning companies; really, the list of businesses that can make use of follow up contacts is endless. It does take some basic communication skills so that your follow up doesn’t make the customer angry, but it’s pretty simple. And the higher up the person doing the follow ups is, the more wow factor it imparts. Anyone who is doing follow up calls MUST be interested in what ever the customer has to say, positive or negative. I think that one reason that follow up calls are NOT done is because there is trepidation that the response will be less than positive. Who ever makes the calls has to be equally happy to receive positive or negative response, and be prepared with what to say and do if the response is negative.

  • “Did your shipment arrive on time, did you receive what you expected?”
  • “How was your adjustment with the doctor last night? How is your neck feeling today?”
  • “How was your chicken cordon bleu? Did you like the green beans?”
  • “I know that yesterday was your first visit to see us, did things so as smoothly as you hoped?”

There is an infinity of questions that you can ask.

Follow up calls, done correctly, show the customer that you genuinely care about the product or service that was provided, that you care about the customer and that their complete satisfaction is important.

Follow up calls can give you valuable feed back from your customers that you can use right now to make your product or service better.

Remember that statistics show that only 1 in 25 unsatisfied customer will ever say anything to you about what they don’t like. (Although they may tell 25 other people what they didn’t like about you!) Asking them in a way that shows that you WANT them to tell what they liked or didn’t like REALLY works.

Compensation when things go wrong.

Every company has things go wrong with clients from time to time. Customers get shipped the wrong thing, or someone’s steak is cooked wrong, or there is WAY too little chocolate in their mocha. How you handle it when things go wrong is HUGE. If a customer has to wait, or clint came in to pick up a product (which you forgot to order for them), or what ever you did wrong, be sure to have on hand some form of compensation ready. I recommend buying $100 worth of $5 coffee cards, and also movie tickets, or restaurant gift cards and have them on hand to give out. I say have three types and values for the various levels of how badly you may have messed up (or how irate the customer is!)

Your company should have a set system for compensating irate customers. Create “tiers” of compensation, start with the coffee card, then the movie tickets, then the restaurant gift card. If the client has to wait more than a short time, use the coffee card: “Mr. Thompson, we are very sorry you had to wait so long today, here is a gift card for the Mochas Espresso stand over on Fir Street,  thanks for hanging in there with us today!”

You may not think that a $5 coffee card is going to make any impact, but it DOES. Your customers will feel appreciated, acknowledged, validated and recognized.

I have gone over this idea with many businesses and everyone thinks it a great idea, but implementing it is not always a snap. From my experience the hardest thing is to get the staff to hand them out as much as I would like! Sometimes employees will get a little stingy with them, “Well, she only had to wait half an hour, and it wasn’t our fault she had to wait, so no card for her”. “I don’t want to waste the card on that person, or why give away five dollars…” are some of the things I have heard. Some times you get busy and just forget to hand them out…

Let’s go back to an earlier article: Why IS word of mouth the most effective form of advertising?

This was where we discussed the cost of a new customer, and if you did the calculations in that article you probably saw that a new customer may “cost” $50, $80, $100 or possibly a lot more.

Well, how many people will your customer talk to about you if they receive a coffee card or movie tickets? Do you think that they’ll tell anyone? If you give out a $5 coffee card and the customer tells 7 people about it, how does that work out? You get the idea, giving out a $5 coffee card that results in even one new client is easily the “cheapest” form of advertisement ever! So, give the cards out when there is any even slight problem.

Back to our tiered system of compensation, the coffee card is for a small upset or inconvenience, the movie tickets for a bigger screw up on your part, the restaurant gift certificate is used for…you get the idea, figure out your own system and tiers. If you don’t like coffee cards you can use discounts for future services at your business, you can credit money to the clients account, give out free items, the list is endless. The stuff you give out does not need to be expensive to create a powerful effect.

This is NOT only for irate customers!

Do you have awesome customers or clients who you love? Give them coffee cards or what ever you decide for “compensation” once in a while! “Julia, I just wanted to say that you are the most awesome customer! Here, have a coffee card (or movie tickets, or what ever).” There doesn’t have to be any set system for this (like giving a gift card on a special holiday, etc), in fact random and unexpected tends to create more of a memorable experience.

Two more short footnotes:

  • Employees who are encouraged to liberally compensate customers are happier employees! They feel empowered and will also give your business good word of mouth to THEIR friends.
  • The better your word of mouth the higher employee morale will be and the easier it will be to hire great employees and retain them!!!

So, here is my challenge for you: What are YOU going to do at your business to improve your word of mouth marketing? There is no doubt that working out a program based on these ideas will improve your marketing effectiveness and that will make everyone happy! Good Luck!


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