Why don’t they refer me?
You think of yourself as a pretty nice guy. Your crews are nice enough – a little rough around the edges, but who isn’t in this industry?
You do a great job, at least in your mind.
Most of your customers seem satisfied.
So…why don’t your customers automatically refer you to their family and friends?
There are two very broad reasons for this.
First of all, almost nothing happens automatically except for bad things. Think about that new car warranty you got. You know once it expires things will start to go wrong with your vehicle. It’s like clockwork. And, of course, these things all worked fine when the warranty was in place. But once the warranty expired, you had that car in the shop on a regular basis.
The second reason is it’s not their job. Your customer is not your sales person. Their job is to give you money and they are fulfilling their end of the bargain. They’ve got other things to do.
Most contractors don’t understand why their customers don’t automatically refer them. But the truth is that giving a referral is a much higher threshold of risk and pain than it is to do business with you themselves.
In fact, people will continue to frequent businesses even if they don’t do a very good job. It’s a matter of habit, and they figure the devil they know is better than the devil they don’t. How many times have you gone to the same restaurant, knowing that the food isn’t fantastic, but, you know where it is and you’re hungry? It’s just plain inconvenient to seek out someone else, so they stay where they are even when they’re less than satisfied or pleased.
Now, if you were to refer that restaurant to some friends, you’d likely hear about that crummy, hole-in-the-wall dive of a restaurant you referred them to.
This is a loud-and-clear reminder to never make that mistake again.
Sometimes referrals happen only by request. “Hey, I’m new in the area. Where do you take your cleaning?”
That’s a question most of us will answer, but we’re not about to go around telling people about our dry cleaner. That’s a very high threshold.
Another reason why customers don’t refer is because there is no motivation in it for them. No reason for them to do this. Their feelings about your business are pretty neutral, ambivalent. They consider what you do for them to be “okay” or “fair”. Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but you’ll do.
You mistakenly think their lack of complaint is a sign of ecstatic approval for which you are entitled some kind of extra reward ‒ like referrals.
You are kidding yourself. You are projecting something that really isn’t there at all.
Plus, there is no system or mechanism or process in place to refer someone. So even if I appreciate the services of my accountant, barber, landscaper there is nothing in place that I can act upon.
The last reason why you don’t automatically get referrals is expressed gratitude. Let’s say one of your customers actually overcomes all of the obstacles previously mentioned and actually sends you somebody.
What happens? They are not recognized and rewarded for this behavior.
Or maybe they are recognized with a half-hearted thank you, or an email or some cheap, off-the-shelf “thank you” card.
So the person who provided the referral thinks “That business owner really doesn’t value this. Why should I bother?”
When you actually recognize and reward, you get more of the behavior you recognize and reward.
Have you ever provided some referrals, not been recognized, and actually stopped patronizing the place or person you recommended?
This can and does happen. Things can go bad quickly. When someone provides one or more referrals there is an expectation of some sort of expressed gratitude. When this doesn’t happen there is disappointment, sometimes even bitterness.
Every business person understands the need to spend money to get new customer off the street. But for some reason they think referrals should be free.
Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way.
What you need is a system – something that’s intentional. This means there is a process in place that happens the same way every time. It is an investment. Most businesses have no problem spending on external marketing but don’t believe in internal marketing.
Make the investment in your long term business prosperity by creating a profitable, efficient and consistent referral system that is integrated into your business for both customers and staff.