Why You Have to Check with Customers

Have you ever used a customer for a reference and then forgotten about them? You later give their name to a prospect to find out it backfired? Or maybe the customer approved the case study or press release, you waited to post the document, the day you post it you find out the customer hasn’t been happy since they sent you the thumbs up on the document? If this hasn’t happened to you, good! If it hasn’t happened to you because you don’t communicate with your Sales team and customers – bad for you!

One of the main functions of running a reference program is to know who is happy and who’s not. It’s not good enough to talk to a customer, find out that they’re happy and then keep them in the “happy” customer category. No one is ever 100% happy all the time. Things are going to blow-up at some point in time. It might be a small blow-up, but it’ll blow-up.

It is absolutely critical for customer reference professionals to be on top of the game when it comes to customers. Know who your customers are and always check in with them before you use them as a reference where they’ll be called. It doesn’t take much time and can save you a lot of headaches. Know what your customers are thinking of you before you hand them off to others.

Types of customer references

Doing a quick search on the Internet for blogs regarding customer references, I noticed that a majority of them ask how to find a reference for a particular software application or some other product. Most of these are from the perspective of the person (generally sales or a consultant) looking for answers for their customer/prospect. Very few of the blogs talk about how to run a Customer Reference Program and how to pull one together from scratch. I’m hoping to help answer some of these issues with this blog.

Types of customer references
When starting your reference program it’s important to realize the many different types of references. Start with basic 101…is this is sales or marketing reference? Although they might seem like they are the same and ultimately will affect one another, they are generally two very different types.

Sales references include:
Customer speaking with a prospect over the phone/email
Prospect wanting to visit a customer to see how the product works
Name dropping in a prospect call/meeting

Marketing references include:
Press release
Case study
Speaking with analysts
Speaking with the media
Website listing
Use of name and/or logo in Marketing material

In general, it’s usually easier to find a Sales reference than a Marketing reference for one basic reason…Sales references are generally not going to be made public. It’s that simple. Marketing references are used for..well, marketing reasons which means letting pretty much the world know that customer XYZ is a customer of vendor XYZ.

Because it’s a public reference, most customers will have to get approval by their Legal and/or Public Relations team if not more people. This extends the approval process and scares some people away as more time and effort is needed.

Rule #1: When using a customer for a public reference such as logo use on a Website or in a press release always get the customers approval at least once before doing so. If a customer has approved a quote and you want to re-use it, that’s generally okay. But for the first time usage, make sure to get approval!