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Can You Win More Referrals by Exceeding Expectations?

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The default referrals generation ‘strategy’ for so many businesses is one built on complacency and a complete misunderstanding of human nature. We believe that if we do a good job, our clients will automatically tell other people to use our services.

I’ve written about this extensively and there have been many studies that have argued that people are far more likely to tell others about you if they receive a poor service rather than a good one.

This begs the question, how will people respond if you provide a service better than the level they expect?

I have long argued that simply exceeding expectations will only lead to few incremental referrals, while substantially exceeding expectations is not sustainable. A new study by behavioural scientist Ayelet Gneezy (University of California, San Diego) and psychology professor Nicholas Epley (University of Chicago) seems to back up that theory.

In the study on the social consequences of surpassing expectations, Gneezy and Epley found that, across a series of different experiments, people didn’t get any greater level of recognition or appreciation for going beyond a promise than they did for simply keeping that promise.

“Businesses may work hard to exceed their promises to customers or employees, but our research suggests that this hard work may not produce the desired consequences beyond those obtained by simply keeping promises,” they write in Social Psychological and Personality Science.

“When companies, friends, or co-workers put forth the effort to keep a promise, their effort is likely to be rewarded. But when they expend extra effort in order to exceed those promises, their effort appears likely to be overlooked.”

So it’s official. You can’t afford to simply rest back on your laurels and hope that doing a good job will lead to more business for you.


Labelled ‘One of Europe’s leading business networking strategists’ by the Financial Times and ‘A true master of networking’ by The Independent, Andy Lopata is the author of three books on networking.  Find out more at AndyLopata.com

Do a good job all the same, exceed expectations where you can. That’s great customer service, whether it’s recognised or not. But for referrals you need to be more proactive. The service you provide simply lays the groundwork; you have to do the rest.
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What is a collaborative consultancy?

We had the pleasure of being interviewed by John Colley recently as part of his Influencer Interview series. We talk about many areas of working in a collaborative way with other companies, and some of the challenges and difficulties businesses regularly face. Here’s the interview…
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Big Brother and why we should care

Post the Snowden affair we discovered just how much our governments were spying on us.  We have heard about the iCloud leaks and various big companies who have had their databases hacked, so security is very much in the news.  People are talking about using Tor to surf the net, and phones are being sold & developed  on the basis that they are less susceptible to government  spying.  At the same time we have the threat posed by organisations like Isis and many reasonable people will think “We need to protect ourselves from these kind of threats.”  In fact, I caught myself thinking something very similar the other day.  Today I came across this video, from Glen Greenwald, which is one the TED talks.

He certainly makes a good case for resisting this kind of intrusion, but it also got me thinking.  One of my main jobs is to facilitate meetings which are designed to find the best solution to serious problems.  When there are strong leaders present people naturally tend to censor their opinions to avoid criticism and appearing stupid.  Instead of sharing their insights or concerns, they will remain silent.  However, the very purpose of meetings is (or at least should be) to mine the wisdom and collective knowledge of all present, so putting people in a place where they self-censor is self-defeating.  Using an external facilitator is one way to help mitigate this risk.  There are also various tools including modern technology that enables people to vote and input anonymously that can help counter this tendency.

We all know people who are ‘out spoken’, and that phrase tends to carry an implicit judgement, but it takes a brave man to just bluntly say what they think.   Those opinions may or not be correct, but once in the open they can be explored and addressed and consensus built upon them.

I don’t want terrorists killing innocent people, but neither do I want to live in a country that changes itself into the kind of oppressive state we started resisting in order to protect me.



Richard has over 20 years experience helping both businesses and business people deal with the challenges & many stresses of Change and an expert facilitator.  www.i-change.biz

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