Asking questions to offer a structure in order to get good testimonials instead of the random ones clients will offer is something that is highly recommended.
But how should you ask these questions?
- In an email?
- With a survey form?
- In a phone interview (either yourself or a third party)?
Each of these can work – I have colleagues who have found success with each of these methods. Which one will work for you really depends on you and your clients.
You may want to consider a phone interview over other formats if:
- You don’t want to risk ending up as a forgotten item on my client’s to-do list. Having a scheduled time to speak puts you on the client’s calendar, not their to-do list. It reduces the likelihood you’ll need to keep following up to see when the client is done. If getting a testimonial from a particular client is very important to you, I’d recommend an interview.
- You feel like your client may not reveal the information you need and would like to be able to ask follow-up questions. Doing an interview format allows you to probe for more if you feel there’s still good information to uncover. Sometimes it just takes a rephrasing of a question or digging deeper to get a client to reveal what could have prevented them from buying or what the business outcomes of the project were.
- Your client finds it easier to talk than type. Your client may write in more formal language, but be far more natural when they speak. There’s a lot of strength in a conversational tone – it’s more compelling and more convincing. It’s tough for some people to convey their thoughts in a natural, informal way when they write. Also, for some people, a short phone call can be less burdensome/time-than sitting down to write out the answers to questions (writer’s block is tough!).
Can you do the interview yourself?
Absolutely. This is what I do with my own clients. Some things to keep in mind:
- Ask the questions and then listen. Resist the urge to provide too much commentary or to jump back in to quickly with another question. Let your client do the talking and leave plenty of space for them to do so.
- Don’t be afraid to ask follow-up questions. Your client may not reveal everything you need in their initial answer. You may need to probe for more (e.g. “why was that important for your company?”)
- Try to stay focused and not get distracted by a particular piece of positive or negative feedback.
Why you may prefer to do a third-party interview
Getting someone else to interview your client can help remove awkwardness for you and your client, allowing the client to give more open and honest feedback.
Having someone do the interview who isn’t involved in the project can also be an advantage to get the client to focus on the results. Here’s how one of my clients explains it:
“I’ve found that having someone who isn’t me (AND isn’t technical) gather and write my client testimonials is super helpful. It removes all of the shared context I and my client have, and thus requires them to really think about the outcomes I created. As the work I do is very technical, someone not in my field wouldn’t be able to speak about it. At first, I thought that would be a problem, but then I realized it’s a great thing: less focus on the nitty-gritty and more focus on the business outcome.”
There’s also the advantage that the client doesn’t assume the third party is aware of any of the results and is likely to go into more robust detail about those outcomes than they might when speaking with you directly.
There’s no one single way to get a good testimonial
One person may get great success with emailed questions, another with phone interviews. I tend to recommend a phone interview if it’s really important to get a specific client to provide a testimonial and that client is generally comfortable speaking on the phone.