Should Your Business Include Testimonials?
Is customer feedback an essential on any website? Jessica Furseth investigates…
Whenever a company plans to launch a new or updated website, the decision must be made about whether or not to include testimonials. These abbreviated messages of client approval may seem innocuous, but there’s a debate raging within the business community about whether turning customers into evangelists can actually be detrimental to a company’s fortunes.
Should you be including testimonials on your business website?
In the age of TripAdvisor and Rated People, testimonials carry more weight than ever. Sites like Trustpilot and Ciao are hugely popular review forums for products or services, and testimonials perform a similar function for businesses. A handful of comments from satisfied customers may just tip the balance about a buying decision, just as a friend’s recommendation is worth more than a hundred adverts. Even testimonials with a degree of criticism can be valuable if the negatives are outweighed by positives, because they sound sincere and provide a counterpoint to the glossy advertorial copy around them.
Testimonials can provide information that simply wouldn’t work on a website’s About Us page, such as project details or feedback on communications. Hearing a company praised by a third party can build trust and resolve concerns in a way that glossy website copy couldn’t ever manage, providing it’s specific and authentic. Detail is crucial, explaining what specific benefits the company brought to the table.
In the age of 4G and superfast broadband, video testimonials can be a great way of adding multimedia functionality into a website. Visual communication makes video clips far more informative than written quotes, and they often stick in the mind better than a pull-quote on a static page. Video testimonials are also ideal for technology-based clients, demonstrating an understanding (and adoption) of multimedia platforms.
There’s strong evidence that this approach works. One famous study reported a 25% uplift in customer conversion when written testimonials were deployed on a website, with a 200% rise in conversion rates with video testimonials. Experts recommend scattering testimonials throughout a website or brochure for maximum impact, rather than gathering them under one chapter or tab where they can easily be overlooked. This method also presents a quote in its relevant context, giving it more impact.
The first problem with testimonials regards their veracity. How does a potential customer know that Mrs T of Miami actually said those things, or that Mrs Windsor of Southern California even exists? Content websites like freelancer.com have developed an unwanted association with fake testimonial writers, unfairly besmirching the reputation of genuine comments.
Authenticity can be inferred by publishing the full name and company details of people providing genuine testimonials, and many marketing experts recommend this. However, uploading a client’s name and job title effectively provides competitors with direct access to your customer base. Some unscrupulous companies actively look to poach clients from their rivals, and your clients certainly won’t thank you if they start receiving daily sales calls from competitors.
It can be easy to spot fake reviews if they’re written overseas – the same poor grammar and phraseology may recur. Unfortunately, many people in the US haven’t mastered the use of apostrophes and punctuation either, which can make their submissions look amateurish on an otherwise impeccably-written website. You could rewrite their comments, but this would destroy their authenticity and make any use of quotation marks deceitful. A good testimonial should be brief, but cutting the rambling ones down to size often strips out vital information.
It can be surprisingly difficult to persuade clients to submit testimonials since it requires time investment for no obvious reward, and some customers will be mildly annoyed at being asked. You could offer discounts or incentives for customer testimonials, but this effectively becomes a form of advertising that encourages people to be flattering rather than honest. Even heartfelt platitudes may come back to haunt people if the working relationship subsequently sours, and it would be unprofessional and awkward to delete a comment from your website at a former client’s request.
The jury is very much out on whether testimonials are beneficial and detrimental. For industries where personal service is crucial, they may just convert potential customers into actual ones. However, the risk of competitors contacting your client base and the challenges of obtaining well-written testimonials means this option shouldn’t be undertaken half-heartedly.