Customer Success | 6 MIN READ

How to Ask for a Customer Reference: An Essential Guide

What is a Customer Reference and how do you ask for one politely? Dive in to get insights on how it is done and some interesting statistical notes too.

Simran Mohanty
Simran Mohanty
Apr 28, 2021


Customer Reference

People have stopped trusting sales folks altogether. Since they have been ‘programmed’ to convert all no’s into nods, prospects find it hard to trust their words. Let’s face it – aren’t they saying it all to get the product sold out? However, if you give those prospects a little proof of a customer who was absolutely delighted with your product or service, there are higher chances of them buying the belief or the product.

Although the game of customer reference can be a pretty risky venture, you need to know what to do and specifically what not to do. When you play your cards right, there is a golden chance that won’t just add a new customer but also augment relationships with your existing references. Before we dive into how to ask for a customer reference, let us brush up on some basics.

What is a Customer Reference?

The definition of customer reference is a person or a company that is willing to share positive feedback or story about one of your products, services, or overall customer experience at large. They are the ones who at the higher likelihood of spreading a positive word about your brand to their friends and relatives. In the customer success dictionary, they would be tagged as ‘promoters on the NPS scale’.

While we know what customer reference is. Let us now know what it is not. A customer reference is not a favor! Customers who loved your product, staff, or services would want you to succeed and prosper in your business. Further, it gives the customers an opportunity to promote themselves and their success stories with your brand to a peer. It’s nowhere near being persuasion or pressure to air a positive review for your company.

In fact, according to a Customer Reference Data Survey Report by Veeva, it has been stated that 69% of the customers cited the need to improve targeting, segmentation and alignment was one of the top most drivers for customer reference data improvement initiative.

Source: Veeva

How to ask for Customer Reference?

Rope in a real story wisely

Pick a customer who has had a genuinely happy experience with you. The best way to find the ‘one’ is by learning how well they have implemented and benefitted from the product or service in their personal lives. If the answer turns towards a positive note, that means they are the ones who are willing to go the extra mile for you. Their satisfaction and happiness is all that you need to achieve a good customer reference. Once that happens, the rest will automatically fall back into their places.

Steer away from Reference Burnout

You have already worked really hard to get these customer references, so, don’t scare just yet by overdoing what they are doing. Know what makes an ‘overdo’ and check back regularly to ensure that they still want to act as a reference for you on their willingness. One of the best ways to avoid reference burnout is by having a backup. Having a single customer to act as a reference might call upon trouble. Instead, let the brands focus on nominating extra customers as and when required.

Provide some Incentives in return

While getting a customer to give a reference for your brand out of good faith and their undying love for your product is great, it does not mean you should not show them some appreciation of any kind. You can do that by giving them a month or two free of subscription fees. You might also give away a promo code that they can use on their future transactions. It is not necessarily the worth of these incentives that matter, but it rather speaks highly of you as a brand, and how well you value your customers is what gets manifested.

Set proper expectations

Do your customers have complete knowledge of how you intend to use their references? Will the names and quotes of the customer air on the website and on collateral materials? Will the reference be asked to speak directly with future clients? And most importantly do the references know of these clauses and have agreed to them? Getting approval and meeting these set expectations ensure that you do not overstep those preset boundaries and establish a successful and long-term relationship with the references. Putting them in a situation where they aren’t well aligned with the expectations can lead to some serious issues.

Consider automating your Customer Reference Program

Sometimes it can become cumbersome to manually track and manage the interactions and activity of the references with spreadsheets and stuff. There are several technological solutions out there that you may want to consider that keep your program, productive, systematic, and organized. If you happen to have substantial references, it might just make sense to take to the reference program to better streamline your actions, solves challenges, give a backseat to the manual notes and improve your overall results in no time.

Parting Thoughts

A customer reference is often seen as the ‘hot potato’ from the lenses of different teams of a company. But when infused in the right manner, it can help close sales quicker, add more credibility and trust factor to the brand’s name, entice more media coverage and pull in more prospects to do business with you. So, why is the wait? Go for the ask. And strive to do so on a personal yet professional front. What you will soon realize is that you are going to get a lot more referenceable customers rooting for you than you could ever imagine. Know that there is nothing more powerful than an army of brand advocates to boost your revenue.

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Originally Published April 28th, 2021, Updated April 28th, 2021

Simran Mohanty

Simran Mohanty

Simran hails from the content marketing backdrop with extensive knowledge in blogs, articles, and technical whitepapers in the non-fictional domain. She uses her 'gift of the gab' to explore new possibilities on her way and to make an exquisite impact on her readers. In her spare time, she likes to read journals on artificial intelligence or play with her cute kittens. You can connect with her on LinkedIn here.

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