No matter what you tell a potential customer, or what your advertising says, most people will check out what existing users have to say before making a purchase – particularly on a big ticket item or if it means switching allegiance on a regular purchase.
We live in a low trust society, so consumers look for independent a
dvice; and it takes just seconds to find a host of opinions on any product or service.
That’s why a recommendation by relative/friend, comes out on top in just about every survey of purchasing influences. Nielson, one of the world’s largest global information and measurement companies reports that:
‘Word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family, often referred to as earned advertising, are still the most influential, as 84% of global respondents across 58 countries to the Nielsen online survey said this source was the most trustworthy.’
Your customers, and your prospects, have opinions – and they are fascinated by the opinions of their peer groups and others they have come to trust for advice.
So how can I use this to increase my sales?
It is possible to start and grow a business almost entirely through word-of-mouth. For example, Zappos, the online clothing and shoe retailer, attributes much of its success to word of mouth.
CEO Tony Hsieh says, in his online ‘Delivery Happiness’ FAQ’s page, “Our philosophy is to take most of the money we would have otherwise spent on paid advertising or paid marketing and invest it into customer service and the customer experience instead, and let our customers do the marketing for us through word of mouth.”
Zappos was brought by Amazon in 2009 for a reported $928million…not bad for a company built on word of mouth advertising by focusing on having a great company culture and customer experience. My advice to all my clients who want to increase sales is; be customer centric. Happy customers mean increased profits.
So, ask yourself, ‘where is my business coming from?’
Knowing exactly where your business is coming from will help you understand where to focus your efforts. In particular it will help you determine if word of mouth is working for you and if you’re making the most of this low cost avenue.
You should aim to get your referral rate above 75%, i.e. 75% of your client base is referring new customers to you. Anything below that means your company is not customer-centric.
It’s being completely customer-centric and going above and beyond to service your customers that will get your customers acting as your biggest, best and lowest cost form of advertising.
There are several examples of this, which Zappos practices 24/7; "When Zappos offered special return shipping assistance, beyond their company policies...the good word about the company spread quickly throughout the blogosphere."
This, in Hsieh’s words, is delivering the "WOW through service". People will certainly talk when a company offers their customers a 24/7 free phone number to contact the company, free shipping, free return shipping, surprise upgrades to overnight shipping of your goods, amongst others.
Great customer service is engrained in Zappos company culture. Make sure you get it ingrained into yours too.
Hsieh states: “Every new employee that we hire in our corporate office is required to go through four weeks of customer loyalty training (answering phones in the call center) before starting the job that he/she was actually hired for. To us, customer service isn't just a department -- it is the entire company.”
And Zappos customer testimonial page is proof that their focus on customer service works. The page is full of loving, grateful, thankful messages to their staff.
So if you want customers to do your selling for you – make sure your company goes above and beyond when it comes to customer service.
By Dominic Kitchin, an expert in business growth, Director and founder of Saxonbury & Kent Ltd. and founder of The Science of Buying. He has over 15 years’ experience helping business leaders and owners dramatically grow their businesses by understanding why their customers buy from them.