Referral marketing may seem pretty plain and simple. Your customers send you new leads, and you reward them for their referrals. Doesn’t seem like there are any surprises there. There is one big secret, though, it starts with you… the business. Let’s take a look at what all referral programs rely on. 

You’ve already figured out which referral software to use. You may have even set up your referral program. You figured out what incentives you are going to give. At this point, you may have even planned which referral program promotion strategies you are going to use. Yes, good for you! These are all huge steps, there’s no doubt about it. Even if you don’t have everything figured out, it’s okay we have plenty of referral program ideas for you.

With all of this planning going on, it’s easy to forget about one important aspect. This tiny thing is a key player when it comes to running a successful referral program (and a successful business, for that matter). In fact, you may not be very successful without it.

The Secret in Referral Marketing

So, what’s the dirtiest secret? Well, it’s actually customer service! Shocker, right? Well, it turns out, customer service is actually a VIP when it comes to running a referral program. Without great customer service, there really wouldn’t be a need to share a business at all. In a study by American Express, they found that 7 in 10 Americans were willing to spend more with companies they believe provide excellent customer service. Customer loyalty provides you with wins all the way around.

This is the key factor in determining a lot of things – and your referral program relies on it. Great customer service is needed regardless of how great your incentive may be. If you provide your customers with a great product but have bad customer service chances are that customer will look elsewhere for that product. This also means that customers will not want to share your business with their friends and if they do share it may be to tell a bad review. In the same study by American Express, they found that Americans tell an average of 9 people about good experiences, and tell 16 people about poor experiences. This means it’s imperative to provide good customer service. If word of mouth is going to happen naturally on its own, make what your customers are saying about you positive things.

Offering your customers a little bit of TLC could help your referral program tremendously. Your customer will feel like their business matters, and because they feel this way they will want to refer you, new customers. Let’s face it, all businesses want customer referrals because they are a cost-effective way to bring in new business. It’s cheap and effective advertising. Great customer service is the key to running a smooth referral program, as people like to share awesome things with their friends. 

Referral Marketing Best Practices

So why does customer service play such an important role in your referral program? Well, it’s been tapped into briefly already. But that fact is, people, trust their friends and family above all other forms of advertising. Why? Well, it’s simple we don’t send the people we love to crappy places. We send our friends to hidden gems and to places where we have felt welcomed. We send our friends to places where we have first handedly had a great experience.

 Referral Marketing Best Practices

Don’t think great customer service is limited to in-store experiences. Perhaps you don’t see your customers face to face. If that’s the case you still need to give impeccable customer service. Maybe you’re an e-commerce business and work completely online. Well, if your customers are people, then you need to have great customer service, especially if you plan to implement a referral program. Things you can consider: Are your emails polite and do they answer your customer’s questions? Do issues get resolved in a timely manner? Are items delivered on time?

Any experience that your customer has to go through should be smooth and easy. If they have to jump through hoops just to buy something, they may look for an easier option elsewhere. Or worse, they could start telling everyone how difficult it was to shop online at your store. Just note that good customer service doesn’t have to come strictly in the form of a phone conversation or face-to-face.

Don’t forget to use it when possible

So maybe it’s not such a big secret. But regardless of secrecy or not, customer service should not be forgotten. It is one of the simplest things a business can do to help drive more referrals. Plus it’s free! Great customer service really is the first step when it comes to referral marketing. It also helps build your relationship with customers. Once you have a trusting customer a referral is bound to happen. Trust goes a long way when it comes to determining what products people buy. 

Remember an incentive can’t keep your referral program going by itself (but it can be a major booster), you need to give great customer service to put things into motion.

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Posted by Megan Mosley

Megan Mosley is a writer for Referral Rock. You can find her poking around online or tweeting about marketing, small businesses, SEO, or even sharing funny memes. She is addicted to coffee and uses it as a fuel to keep her going through the day.