Referrals from delighted customers have always been the least costly and most effective way to acquire new customers. There are a few reasons why referrals are more influential and persuasive than all other forms of advertising: Referrals make buying safer, they’re built on trust, they are driven by emotion, they allow for questions and feedback, they let buyers know what to expect, they cut down on time needed to research, they cut through the advertising hype, and they have an enormous impact on the purchase.

Here are seven things you can do immediately to start acquiring more pre-sold referral customers.



The best way to get referrals is to exceed expectations. To exceed your customers’ expectations, you have to make something better than it was before. The surest way to exceed expectations is by installing noticeably better comfort. Customers who buy amazing comfort have something exciting to share with their friends and social media. Some people who buy basic HVAC equipment aren’t going to give good referrals because they expected to get more than they got.



Most referrals are gained or lost during the sales process, so it’s vital that you give every customer the most enjoyable buying experience possible. Your sales process should make it easy for buyers to own the comfort system that is just right for them. Customers who feel cared for and listened to give good referrals. Shoppers who feel pressured or manipulated give bad referrals.



According to a Texas Tech study, 83 percent of satisfied customers are willing to refer a product or service, but only 29 percent actually do. The No. 1 reason good companies don’t get more referrals is they don’t ask. Everyone who has any customer contact can ask for referrals.

A Whirlpool Corp. study found consumers are six times more likely to act on referrals than advertising. That’s why shoppers are six time more likely to call you from a business card given to them by a friend than the most expensive advertising. Make sure everyone in your company has business cards with their names, titles, and photographs. Encourage everyone to pass out as many business cards as possible, two at a time. That gives the customers one to keep and one to give away.



Your reputation is online for the whole world to see. Assign someone to consistently monitor online referral websites like Home Advisor, Angie’s List, Thumbtack, and Yelp. Address positive and negative reviews quickly and honestly. Take time to think about what you are going to say and exactly how you are going to say it. Admit when you make a mistake and make it right. Research shows when buyers’ problems are quickly resolved to their satisfaction, they are more likely to do business with that company again than if they didn’t have the problem in the first place.

If you use paid referral providers like Home Advisor, Angie’s List, and Thumbtack, you can get into trouble if you get a couple of negative referrals without having a lot of positive referrals to rebalance the scale. The good news for referral-focused contractors is the more positive in-depth referrals your customers post, the faster you move to the top of their referral lists.



Happy customer videos are the holy grail of social media referrals. The best time to shoot excitement-charged videos to use on your website, YouTube, and other social media outlets is after your final inspection. Return to your customer’s home four or five days after the installation is complete to make the final quality control inspection. After the inspection, ask, “What three things do you like about your new comfort system?” After they answer, ask, “Would you give me permission to shoot a quick video of you saying that?”



Customers who gladly give good referrals can forget you if you don’t stay in touch. A study commissioned by the Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada (HRAI) found that 90 percent of HVAC consumers were satisfied with the work their first HVAC contractor performed, but only 15 percent remembered the name of the contractor the next time they had a problem. The longer your customers go without hearing from you, the less they remember you, and the fewer referrals you get.



After you get a referral, find out how that job went and thank your customer for the referral. In the unlikely event the referred customer is upset for any reason, do everything in your power to take care of it. When you tell the referring customer all the things you and your company did to solve their friend’s problem, you are likely to get even more of their referrals in the future.

When you make referrals your No. 1 source for new customers, you get wonderful people telling their friends to tell their friends to do business with you. It doesn’t get much better that that.  


Publication date: 6/18/2018

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