Why Some Businesses Get Referrals and Others Do NOT
by: Judy MurdochTrue Story
This afternoon I came a few minutes early for a weekly leads group I attend. While we were waiting to begin someone mentioned they needed to make an appointment with their dentist.
“Talk about paying to be tortured,” one person groaned.
“Not my dentist,” Marianna spoke up, “She’s awesome!”
This got everyone’s attention because it’s not often you hear the words “awesome” and “dentist” used in the same sentence.
“No really,” Marianna insisted, “She’s very gentle and calming. Believe me the dentist I used before I started seeing her was not like that at all.”
The six people sitting in the room all took out pens and paper and said, “Do you have her contact information?”
I wish all the local dentists who are trying to build their practices could have listened to this conversation because they would have learned a lot about why they were or were not getting patient referrals.
Why Referrals DON’T Happen
It’s Often Not What You Think
If you’re a business owner or entrepreneur you may be surprised to learn that, very often, it is not how well you do your work which influences the likelihood of getting a recommendation from your customers.
It’s not to say that your competency isn’t important. But because you’re an expert and your customers are not, unless you clearly screw-up, your ability to deliver a solution is usually assumed by your customers. This means that our competency or lack thereof is not usually the problem.
Just know that as experts, we tend to over-emphasize our expertise as an influencing factor when it comes to explaining why we are or are not getting referrals.
Nope, it’s often the small, easily overlooked items that influence a customer’s satisfaction with our work and whether they become raving fans. Here are three top offenders that keep customers from telling others to hire you.
#1. “Bedside” Manner
My guess is that different customers prefer different working styles.
For example, some people may want a dentist who is very empathic and compassionate. Other people may find a dentist who stops and asks “are you doing OK?” every five seconds annoying.
But you need to know what your strengths and weaknesses are when it comes to interpersonal communication and make sure you’re working with clients and customers who prefer your particular style.
#2. Your Staff
Very often you get customers because they like you but you can end up losing these same customers because they don’t like one or more people you have on staff.
I’ve stopped working with a particular professional because of easily corrected issues like:
• Bad Breath. I used to see a dentist whose hygienist had a special fondness for garlic and curry. When she breathed on me as she cleaned my teeth I would cringe…not from pain…but from her onion-breath. After two appointments I stopped going and found another dentist.
• Rudeness. I received a “Pay now or die” letter from my pediatrician’s office. When I called to ask what was going on, the business manager told me (with no sympathy whatsoever) that they had been trying to get the claim paid through insurance for 12 months and after the “magic” 12 months were up, I was responsible for paying the bill. Getting the insurer to pay was now my problem. I later worked it out with the doctor but I stopped sending them referrals because I no longer trusted the people I sent would be treated well.
• Lack of Professionalism. Do you want someone who seems more interested in their phone conversation to be cutting your hair? Driving you to the airport? Watching your 2-year old at a daycare center? No matter what they do or how much they get paid a professional shows up and is accountable for their work.
#3. Poor Management
Customers and clients will stop coming in because:
• They are kept waiting for 30 minutes or more with no explanation and no option to reschedule
• Lack of follow through. For example, I asked my primary care provider to refill a prescription the gets filled by mail. Three months and nine phone calls later I learned that the prescription never arrived because I changed insurance and the original mail-order pharmacy didn’t except my current insurance. It took me nine phone calls before a live human being figured out the situation and called me.
The point to take here is not that you have to attain some level of perfection in order to satisfy your customers and get referrals. Nobody’s perfect and a sincere apology goes a long way towards mending relationships.
It’s just that these little things which are relatively easy to correct can stand between your ability to attract new business through customer referrals. Don’t correct these things and you don’t get referrals. Even worse, like the people who left their dentists because Marianna’s sounded better, your customers may just leave you for a competitor.
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