Best Practices to Manage Customer References

Lynn Pietryga
July 19, 2021

There is power in a customer reference program. When done right, it can provide companies with valuable feedback and insight that can turn the tide on every sales strategy.

Satisfied customers willing to become a reference can make the difference between toppling the competition or losing the deal. In fact:

  • Clients acquired through referrals have a 37% better retention rate
  • 81% of potential customers are more eager to engage with a company that proactively surfaces references in the buying process
  • Word of mouth is also such a predominant advertising feature that it creates two times the sales paid in marketing 

However, acquiring and maintaining those references is no easy task. It can take a lot of time and effort.

This is a responsibility that often falls into the hands of busy product management and marketing experts with the help of customer-facing teams. If you want to take your customer reference program to the next level, you’ve come to the right place. We compiled a list of the most noteworthy practices for managing customer references. 


1.   Broach the Subject With Marketing Specialists

It’s critical to convert successful and happy customers into customer advocates. Customer references provide an essential focal point for external sales. Before you are ready to ask a client to serve as a reference, make sure to have the right team for the job. Customer Success Managers, together with sales representatives, shoulder the responsibility of securing a novel reference.

When aiming to expand your library of references, make sure to point out that a reference isn’t a favor. Ideally, customers give a reference because they value your business and the products you sell. Because of their positive experience, they are willing to broaden their network to like-minded individuals eager to help them out. The customer’s relationship with your business grows stronger, and they get to promote themselves through every referral.


2.   Always Create Realistic Expectations

People are 4 times more likely to purchase a product that’s been referred to them by a friend. But, the impact of referral selling varies from business to business. Customer referred lead to a 30% success rate.

To be successful with your customer reference program, you need a proper strategy from the start. Overall, companies do better with customer references if the client won’t have to go through tedious internal approvals. Setting expectations can help you better interact with your reference customers.

Don’t make them speak about a topic they are not familiar with. Make sure to constantly match the job level and expertise with whoever you are in contact with. Creating situations that have nothing to do with the customer’s expectations can immediately cause frustration and hinder the results you plan to achieve.


3.   Know When Enough is Enough

Once you’ve identified your customer advocates and they’re providing references on your behalf, you’ll need to maintain your relationships with them. The best way to achieve that is to not scare them off by asking them to do too much or spend too much of their own time for your company. You can do regular check-ups to make sure the clients are happy to remain a reference.

To balance the interaction and make sure you create a ranking and rotating reference system to provide you with the insight you need. For instance, match a consumer who just had a bunch of troubleshooting with someone interested in figuring out more about your business’s support.

When you keep track of which client took part in which activity and how that activity stacks up versus reasonable thresholds, you will obtain a better communication position. This can help you understand why a particular consumer needs a rest from your services or products.

Also, create enough backup resources. If there is only a single consumer eager to reference your product, then you are in a heap of trouble. The whole point is to boost visibility and nominate more customers to help you get what you need.


4.   Stay In Touch With Customers

To gather the most viable references for marketing, you need to understand not only how customers have used your service or product in the past but also how satisfied they are with their current experience. Are they still delighted by your product or are they considering other options? Have there been any recent hiccups with your service that could cause a poor review? 

Get the sales representatives to inquire about a last-minute update from account managers or members of a customer success team, just to make sure that the reference used is the one that will leave a solid impact and help you close a deal. Keep the reference personal by staying in touch with customers to ensure that your product or service is always on the top of their minds and not just when you need their help.

Let them know that their references were of great help and even reward them if possible! You value their opinion, so a hand-written thank you note can come in handy. Feel free to get creative if you like to make the customers feel appreciated. With good etiquette, you can show your appreciation to countless customers and build stronger advocacy. 


5.   Keep Up With the Latest Trends

Keeping track of a reference program can be a handful - that's why automating your program using something like our Reference Management Solution can alleviate much of the burden around managing references and stop your teams from asking too much from a single customer or letting great potential requests slip through the cracks.

It helps to incorporate a systematic approach with technology instead of manually keeping track of the interactions that have already occurred and details around which prospects would find that particular reference insightful. Find software for requesting, organizing, and efficiently distributing reference data that can meet all of your needs for a comprehensive program.


Final Thoughts

A single customer reference may not be your best selling point, but the more, the merrier. Using these best practices to capture and utilize a broad range of references can make a huge difference in the growth of your company. Not only will you be providing potential buyers with credibility and convenience to close new business faster, but you also build long-term relationships with some of your best customers. A robust reference program is something every business should strive for!