Asking clients for comments and testimonials is a smart way to generate referrals and new business
By Deborah Kearns
Using feedback effectively can change everything: Great client testimonials can bolster a reputation and set the stage for countless referrals and recommendations.
Just ask Lucie Fortin. The Sales Associate with RE/MAX Unis in Repentigny, Quebec, has perfected a system for gathering client testimonials. And it starts long before closing day.
“You have to offer clients stellar customer service and make the transaction a positive experience if you want positive feedback,” says Fortin, who joined RE/MAX in 2008. “I’m constantly looking for ways to improve myself, and the best way to do that is by asking clients to share what they think of my service and how I handled their transaction. It’s a way to be accountable and ensure that my clients are happy.”
Here are Fortin’s six tips for managing client feedback:
- Provide service worth writing about.
Do you want to use client feedback to gain new business? Is it a way to gauge client satisfaction? Do you use it merely as a follow-up tool? All are valid purposes, but without creating a memorable, top-notch experience, clients are unlikely to sing your praises, Fortin says.“Many of us are very efficient at our jobs and are skilled at selling homes, but you have to add that magic ingredient – a human approach – to your interactions by empathizing and listening,” she says. “That’s how you win good testimonials, which helps you win more listings.”
- Make it easy to do.
Fortin sends hard-copy surveys in the mail (with pre-stamped return envelopes enclosed) after each transaction. While a lot of agents rely on sites such as Facebook, Yelp and the major portals for client reviews, Fortin believes the personal touch of mailed surveys grabs attention and is more likely to elicit a response.“People get so much email every day, and it’s easy for them to ignore your messages,” she says. “That’s why I send all of my surveys in the mail while the experience is still fresh.”
- Ask for grades and comments.
To maximize her clients’ feedback, Fortin customizes the survey she sends out by transaction type (buyers, sellers, expired listings and off-market listings). Fortin also includes sliding scale checkboxes asking clients to rate her on skills such as negotiating, communicating and following up. At the end of each survey, she leaves space for open-ended comments. “I’ve sent more than 125 surveys in the past three years, and about 90 percent of my clients respond,” Fortin says. “From there, my clients become my ambassadors and send me referrals.”
- Build volume before you share.
It may seem like one amazing testimonial is better than none, right? Wrong, Fortin says. Displaying just a handful of reviews can actually have the opposite effect on potential buyers and sellers who might assume you’re either inexperienced or have just a few satisfied clients – both perceptions you want to avoid.“You need volume to unleash the power of testimonials,” Fortin says. “The more testimonials you have, the more credible each of them becomes to someone who’s looking for an experienced agent.”
- Help people find the feedback.
Fortin includes a dedicated testimonials page on her website – it’s the first link, actually – with feedback that helps set her apart in a competitive market. Potential clients who visit the site have a variety of reviews to base their hiring decision on.“When I meet with potential clients and they tell me they’re interviewing other agents, I invite them to visit my testimonials page so they can read what other people have to say about me,” she says. “Most of the time, the testimonials help me win the listing.”
- Follow up and thank everyone.
Although client testimonials are great for drumming up more business, they’re also an important evaluation of your performance – for better or worse. That’s why Fortin recommends emailing or calling all participants to thank them for their feedback and, if necessary, discuss any issues they might have had. “So far I haven’t had any negative comments, and I think that’s a strong testament to my work,” Fortin says. “It keeps me accountable.”