Reviews, referrals and recommendations

I was very interested by Toby Griffin’s article in the August issue of kbbreview [page 29-31] about whether retailers actively try to get their customers to review their businesses. I was surprised to read that only 36% of KBB retailers actually ask their clients for reviews. 

Whichever way we all market our companies, from advertising to PR to digital promotion and social media, I know that referrals are by far the best way to get new business. Searle & Taylor is an established brand in Winchester, and we are truly grateful for the word-of-mouth recommendations we receive from happy clients, because they go a long way toward making the next sale. However, that is usually one person telling another, and nowadays, you need more credibility than that to stand out amongst your competitors. 

I have previously written about requesting and achieving Google reviews and I can now take this story further. A client recently booked an appointment to visit my showroom and I asked her why she had chosen to appoint us to design her new kitchen. She said she had made her choice by looking at online recommendations and we had the best, and most 5-star Google reviews. She therefore felt confident about using us as opposed to the countless other great kitchen studios in Winchester (and, in all fairness, they are all very good, which is the problem!). 

At the start, I was reticent to ask clients for a review because of a. embarrassment b. worry that they might write something horrible, or c. that we would be hassling them. However, I also felt a. proud of the kitchens we had designed b. that we had provided an excellent service and c. that the clients were, on the whole, nice people. While we never incentivise, it is now standard practice for us to request a review. We now have more five-star Google reviews from clients than any other kitchen independent in Winchester, with many focusing on the great service they received from my team. 

I was so pleased by these kind reviews that I did something I very rarely do. I nominated my business for an award. This was the Winchester Business Excellence Awards 2022, and we entered in the Service Excellence category. We entered because, not only could I provide anecdotal evidence by writing about our customer service offer, but I could point to bona fide evidence from the Google reviews that our clients had written. While my team does genuinely provide a truly great service, I admit that we were all ultra-nice to anyone who visited the showroom during the judging period, just in case one of them was, in fact, a judge. However, I know that we won the award because of those reviews. 

Another important source for recommendations is from interior designers because they are the influencers in our industry. During her excellent speech at the last KBBG AGM in June, and in her article in the September issue of KBB review, Vanessa Brady OBE, president of SBID highlighted that interior designers should leave kitchen design to kitchen designers. I firmly agree, because there are so many factors to consider, and you need specialist knowledge. I have a real interest in interior design, and I try to regularly visit Chelsea Harbour to see new trends emerging. However, I could never be an interior designer because their knowledge and specialisms are hugely different to mine. We may all be designers, but that word covers a lot of different disciplines. Vanessa also highlighted that there is ‘job satisfaction in joined up working’, and I love it when we are part of a professional collaboration with architects or interior designers. 

We have a great relationship with a Winchester-based interior design company that produces amazing work. They regularly recommend us as their go-to kitchen designers, while we, in turn, recommend them when clients are having their entire homes refurbished. It is a win-win for both parties and most of all, for the client who has received trusted referrals from knowledgeable professionals. 

I plan to continue to keep up all my different marketing methods, as they work in different ways for my brand. But to the 64% of retailers that think that reviews, recommendations and referrals aren’t worth bothering with, I can safely say that they are the best way to generate leads and they have also won me an award. And if you are an interior designer, do get in touch and let’s work together. 

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