Testimonials Make Your Shop Stand Out
Testimonials can be a deciding factor when people shop
Not long ago, while searching for a post office I could stop by while running errands, I found the Google page for the post office in nearby Parker, Colo. If you do a quick search for “parker post office” you’ll see the same testimonials I did:
“PICK UP THE PHONE! Does anyone work here?”
“Parker Post Office Is Terrible.”
“Awful. This post office is terrible.”
“I hate this post office.”
The one-and-a-half star rating just drives home the point, and leads to an important question: When was the last time you kept tabs on what people are saying about your shop on the Internet?
Google doesn’t just give people the ability to leave bad feedback ... it also collects feedback from other websites across the Internet! The reviews I quoted come from both Yahoo and Google, and I’ve seen Google collect reviews from dozens of other sites. In other words, bad reviews multiply.
And the truth is, bad reviews don’t always come from angry customers. Your competition, former employees, angry ex-spouses ... anyone can leave a review on the Internet. And no matter how hard Google works to prevent fake reviews, some will always slip through.
This is why, whether you’re talking about online reputation or any other kind of marketing, it’s never been more important to keep a steady stream of great testimonials coming into your shop. But even when shop owners and service writers know they need great testimonials, many resist asking for testimonials from happy customers. Let’s fix that!
Here’s how to ask for and get great testimonials and reviews ... and what you can do with that amazing pile of testimonials when you’ve collected them!
Step One: If They’re Happy, Ask!
The first step is the hardest for most owners and service writers, but it’s the most important: When the customer is happy with the job you’ve done, you have to ask for a testimonial or you’ll almost never receive one.
The question to ask yourself is this: If your customer is happy with the job you’ve done, what is the hang-up? You’ve delivered excellent customer service, your technicians have done superior work, you’ve strengthened your relationship with the customer, and you’ve got them singing your praises right there at the front counter or on the phone.
Right then and there is where you should be asking: “Mrs. Johnson, I’m glad you had such a pleasant experience here at our shop. We really like taking care of you, and we were hoping you could help us with something. Would you be willing to write us a testimonial?”
It’s that simple.
Yes, some people will give you testimonials without you having to ask. But that happens rarely, meaning if you won’t ask for a testimonial from happy customers, you will probably never have enough testimonials in stock.
If you’re ready to start asking, then let’s dig in!
Step Two: Don’t Leave Them Hanging!
Once they’ve said yes, you’ve got a choice: Let them write whatever they want and hope you get a testimonial you can use ... or help them through the process and guarantee you get a great testimonial right off the bat.
A great testimonial has four simple pieces:
• Why they were in trouble. A good example is, “My brakes were squealing.” This is why they started looking for a repair shop. It doesn’t have to be a problem to be the start of a great testimonial, either. If they were new in town and looking for somebody new to trust, that’s a great start. If they were simply looking for somebody else, that works well, too.
• How and why they came to you. This could be something as simple as, “My friend told me about your shop.” Maybe they learned about you from a car care clinic or they saw your direct mail piece and came to try out your shop. There was something that prompted them to come in, and it’s important for the story you’re telling in this testimonial because it tells the reader you’re trustworthy for a reason. (It’s also important to keep track of this information for your marketing, but that’s for another article.)
• How you helped them. If you’ve gone above and beyond with the customer, it should really be apparent here. An example of this section is, “Not only did they fix my brakes, but they also gave me a ride to work, picked me up, did a full inspection, and helped me understand and prioritize other issues that could leave me with big repair bills down the road.” Most testimonials start and stop in this section, and while it can make for a good testimonial, it doesn’t tell the whole story. A truly great testimonial needs to build a back story, and it especially needs the next step.
• How things are different now as a result. What has changed now that they’ve been to your shop? (And I don’t just mean with their vehicle.) This could be something like, “My car is enjoyable to drive again, and I look forward to referring my friends and family to your shop!” This really helps drive the point home: Your shop is different, and they trust you to continue taking care of them. That means that other new customers can trust you to do the same.
It’s as easy as that!
The secret is you have to guide them through this process. After all, asking them to fill out a blank page can be intimidating. If they’re at the front counter, having a sheet with these four sections listed can make a big difference. And if they’re on the phone, be sure your service writers have a guide to these four steps to ensure they always ask all four parts and can take excellent notes.
So you’ve decided to ask them for a testimonial, and received a stellar one. What’s the next step?
Step Three: Let Your Testimonials Fly
There’s one last hurdle to overcome after you have great testimonials: using them. It’s easy at this point to let the testimonial sit in your email inbox or in a folder by the front counter. So what should you do with that amazing pile of testimonials you’re collecting?
• Make sure they get seen online! There are two big hurdles for getting a client to post a testimonial online: time and know-how. You can overcome the first hurdle by typing up their notes for them so they don’t have to write a polished testimonial from scratch. And you can overcome the second hurdle by giving them instructions. This can be as simple as emailing them step-by-step instructions ... or, like some shops I’ve seen, you can provide them with a computer in the waiting room and walk them through posting a review online. If you go this route, see the related sidebar, “Technicalities of Submitting Customer Testimonials,” for tips on submitting it properly online to a review site without running into technical difficulties.
• Send them to your marketing experts. There’s not a marketing company alive that wouldn’t love to use your testimonials on your direct mail or your Internet marketing. If they’re like us, they won’t even mind transcribing those testimonials for you if you fax them your handwritten notes.
• Send them to your webmaster. Google may not pull testimonials off of your website, but it’s still a great way for potential customers to see them. Testimonials can be especially powerful when you use them on a landing page.
Step Four: Don’t Let Anybody Come Between You and Your Customers!
I know there are companies that offer to call your customers and ask for testimonials, but I think it’s a mistake to put somebody else between you and your customers. Your follow-up phone calls are more than just a chance to build your relationship with the customer ... they are the perfect time to learn about problems they didn’t tell you about at checkout. And when you can address those concerns right there – instead of when that third-party company tells you about them – you can repair that relationship and make it stronger than ever.
Perhaps most importantly, when you engage with your customers and find out what brought them in, how you helped and how things are different now, it’s easier to remember the ultimate goal: helping your neighbors.
You already go above and beyond so don’t be afraid to ask for a great testimonial!
Editor's Note: This article is one of several management articles that will be contributed to AutoInc. this year by Automotive Management Institute (AMI) instructors. In 2012, AMI's knowledgeable instructors will continue covering a variety of topics designed to educate and train today's service and repair professional in AutoInc. To learn more about AMI, its courses and instructors, visit www.AMIonline.org. AMI administers the distinguished Accredited Automotive Manager (AAM) program.
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