In December of 2016 I got around to researching programs that would get us more reviews online and help get us a referrals. I own a home service / trade contracting business. I already knew my patio construction / service company had great service, but great service wasn’t translating to reviews, or many referrals. Customers would simply say “thank you, but I don’t use Facebook or Google, but I will tell some neighbors about you” and that was that. I’m sure many other construction contractors and entrepreneurs find themselves in the same boat. We did have many great reviews, but not a mind blowing, marketing dominating number. I wanted lots more reviews and lots more referring customers! More reviews than all of our competitors combined is what I wanted. Referred customers are also very powerful too. A referred source, they have a higher level of trust and confidence in you and don’t compete so hard on price.
My search led me to Reviewbuzz, and Rocket Referrals. Reviewbuzz is a major player in the ‘review generation’ space who’s focus is primarily on capturing reviews, with an emphasis on the team (employees). Rocket Referrals also works to capture reviews but also focuses on building referrals through a series of templated personalized communications, email or mail (yes I said mail, physical mail). In general, Rocket Referral will send a ‘welcome’ communication at the start of a relationship and then send further communications at certain activity points, followed by a Net Promoter Survey and review/testimonial request. This a lot different than ReviewBuzz which only solicits reviews at project completion.
Back in December, 3 months ago, I chose Rocket Referral (obviously by the title). Rocket Referral was a software initially built for insurance agents but has been adapted to meet the needs of other industries. I liked the idea of the physically mailed cards, considering the target demographic for my company is 65+. Now I should say, that the mailed cards look great. That handwriting looks legit, and they don’t have a bar-codes like so many of the phony handwritten cards. I also liked the concept of keeping in touch with the customer over a sustained period of time. To top it all of the level of service and attention from their staff was during the sales and set up process was excellent. I felt like they were honored to have my business more than ReviewBuzz was. The price for the software was about 1/2 the price of Reviewbuzz at $150, but they do charge $2 per card sent so ultimately the cost would probably end up near the same.
Lets get into how Rocket Referral is specifically set up for my business. Here’s how it works:
1) Customer receives an intro Email. Ours is below.
Welcome to Gulf Coast Aluminum! We’re extremely grateful for the pleasure of your business and look forward to a successful future of serving you. As our existing customers can tell you, we’re no strangers to providing quality products and services at competitive rates.
The secret to our success is believing that customer satisfaction is priority one. If you’re not happy, we’re not doing our job right. So if we ever fall short of your expectations, please feel free to let us know. Our lines of communication are always open.
2) Customer Receives a Welcome Card. A simple card that has a message like the one above signed by a member of our team (whom the customer has had contact with). It’s printed, but done so well that it looks like a genuine hand written card. In fact, many customers believe it to be genuine and have called to thank me for sending them a card… so times it catches me off guard as I totally forget we have this program.
3) Upon completion of the project the customer receives a Net Promoter Score Survey. The Net Promoter Score Survey is something is fairly universal in the review generation space from what I can tell. It asks the customer “How likely would you be to refer __________ (company name) to your friends and family?”. The response is taken on a scale of 1 – 10 on an intuitive interface within the the email. The customers that rate positively, 8+ are then followed up with for testimonials and reviews. The customers that rare poorly are then given a chance to provide feedback that only we can see. This lets them vent, provide us a feedback, and largely keeps the negative opinions out of the public review sites.
4) Captures A Testimonial from Our Positive Customers. If a customer answered positively to the Net Promoter Score Survey, Rocket Referral will follow up with them for a testimonial. They have a cleverly written email for this which is designed to get a response. Then the user is asked if they would be comfortable using their name with the review. The wisdom is that customers that are outgoing enough to put their name with their words in public, are the most likely to refer. These testimonials can be made public with a widget on our website.
5) Time For A Review Site. At this point, the field has been whittled down to customers that are likely to refer us, and have left a testimonial. The next step is getting them to leave a review on public review site. Rocket Referral has templated emails for this as well which go out automatically. The program lets us choose which sites to sollict reviews from by simply in putting a link to our review profile. We are currently using Google, and Facebook. Alternatives we could use would be Facebook, Better Business Bureau, Yelp and Angieslist. Here’s the interesting part, in the process of leaving a review it lets the customer copy their testimonial to use in the review. This helps the customer rehearse their ‘pitch’ about our company so it is stuck in their head when interacting with others.
6) Other Cool Things. REWARDS. Rewards for our customers that are deemed ‘promoters’ based on their responses to the Net Promoter Survey, willingness to share their name, responses and reviews left, etc. Rocket Referral gives us the built in function to send these customers a retailer giftcard (Amazon, Walmart, etc) to reward them and cultivate their loyalty . BUT… I had a different idea. Sending retailer giftcards to customers was something we tried on a small scale a few years ago, and it was largely a flop. My idea, would be sending them a giftcard for our services which they can give to a friend. This way we’ve got our top notch promoters promoting us, and giving something to spark a referral relationship. We are yet to try/use this as we are saving it for our slow season when we have got more idle time and can absorb the work influx.
There are other features and messages settings inthe Rocket Referral software which we are and are not using, but these are the ones that stick in my head as share worthy. So after 3 months of use, how is it working?
My Verdict On Rocket Referral
Some of our customers are getting the physical mail and eating it up. As I said before some customers have called to thank me for sending the nice card and I’m like:
“whaaaaaat…… Oh yea I’m glad you got that”.
On capturing feedback, it is doing that. I’d estimate that we have had about 270 customers go through the program of which 159 have responded to the survey — more than 50%. My company is getting quite positive feedback as I expected and the negative feedback is being used to improve. From there 63 people have gone on to leave a testimonial… that’s not bad and they have been nice to have on our website.
For capturing reviews on the review sites like Google and Facebook, it is lacking. We have, at most, gained 5 review site reviews from the software. I was really hoping for more. Its no secret that prospects view those reviews as more credible than that the testimonials we have on our own website. As of the moment I am going to contact Rocket Referral and see if they have any suggestions for improving this.
Would I Use Rocket Referral Again?
It is certainly a great program, but right now I am seeing minimal gain from it. Ultimately I want tons of reviews, and more customers saying “I was referred by ________”. So far I haven’t seen that. In the grade scheme of things, 3 months is a short amount of time. I’m not going to give up on Rocket Referral, as I want to try my ‘giftcard’ idea, and see if the referrals cultivate overtime. If I had a do over I probably would’ve went with a competing program, but hindsight is always 20/20. If the concept of hand written mailed card appeal to you, it is certainly worth trying the service out.
Update 4/13/2017: I spoke with with Rocket Referrals regarding the lack of reviews. One of the things that came to light was that Rocket Referrals only sends review requests, after they leave a testimonial. By doing this there are many customers who respond favorably to the net promoter survey, but never get to the review email. We are now manually (its easy to do) sending these customers the review email. That has picked up a few reviews.