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We’ve all seen dull testimonials like this. Short, bland and uninspiring, they are the product of almost no effort.

Does that customer sound enthusiastic about your service? Does it make you want to pick up the phone for an appointment?

I doubt it.

Couldn’t be happier with the results. Very professional service and would highly recommend.

So, what kind of testimonial would make you pick up the phone?

When you think about why people read testimonials, it’s because they want to answer questions and reduce risk.

A potential customer might have partly made up their mind to buy from you. But they still have some nagging doubts, so they look for testimonials. They’re asking themselves “what did other people in my position think of this service?”

Amazing testimonials tell stories.

A persuasive testimonial takes you on a journey through a customer’s entire thought process: from before they knew you existed, through to their total satisfaction with the work you created for them.

Along the way, they tell you about their worries and doubts, and how you solved their problems, eased their concerns, and turned them from being a total stranger into an advocate for your business.

Here’s an example of a testimonial, for Lush Garden Design, that tells a complete story. Compare it to the one we read earlier.

We’d not long moved into a new house. The garden here was typical of a modern build – a square pen with four fences, a shed, a lawn and some slabs. It was a blank slate, and we wanted to turn it into a garden. We’d kicked around a few loose ideas ourselves, but nothing stuck or captivated us. We were in a position where we had a bit of money to spend in the garden, so we decided to look for a local garden designer to see how they could help us move forward.

We didn’t have any worries beforehand, only curiosity. I’d initially got in touch with Anna, who sent me a comprehensive email to set out expectations upfront. Honestly, we weren’t prepared when we understood the cost of what would be involved. Therefore it took us another year before we got back in touch with Anna again, with more budget. It wasn’t a straightforward decision for us to invest that amount, but over time we felt we wanted a great result and didn’t want to have to compromise the design or quality by trying to save on cost.

It’s been a good experience, from the initial design sessions through to the planting and advice. Everyone we’ve met has been knowledgeable, helpful and polite.

We were listened to in our first design and ideas session, and from that point, we just trusted Anna to do what she’s good at. The planting was well organised and implemented, and tidied up afterwards. We were very hands-off and just enjoyed watching it all happen throughout the whole process.

We most liked the initial virtual 3D design, showing the planned garden from different angles. This helped us to visualise how the garden would look. Now that it’s completed, and looking back at the 3D design, it is a very close match to the original vision.

I value that I can drop Anna a line, and she’ll just answer my random garden questions or pop round to look at any concerns. I trust that if I have a problem, she’ll help. Just because the design is now complete, doesn’t mean we’re no longer in touch from time to time, and as we’re not hugely experienced gardeners, that’s important to us.

I’d recommend using Lush Garden Design because we like the team, enjoyed the process, and we’re very happy with our new garden. We absolutely could not have got a result anywhere near this good without you.

Would that testimonial make you pick up the phone for an appointment? 
I’d say so!

The critical thing to note here is that this customer is flagging up the same concerns and objections that other potential customers will have. They were worried about the costs. They were concerned about being listened to. They had fears about customer service and aftercare.

This customer has put other people’s objections front and centre and then demolished them. You could barely do a better selling job than this customer has here.

So how do you get amazing testimonials like this?

You do two things: ask the right questions in the correct order. And get them to talk about their experience in detail.

Think of any time you have decided to make a large purchase. What was your thought process, from the very beginning?

Let’s take a car as an example. You know you need a particular type of vehicle. Depending on your circumstances, you might want lots of space for kids and luggage. Or you might be more interested in luxury and status. Or you might just want something small to nip around in.

Whatever you choose, your selection will answer the biggest problem in your mind.

Once you’ve selected a potential model, you then have other concerns. How much will it cost? Can I get finance? What’s the fuel economy like? Do I have to wait to get it delivered? Do they have it in my favourite colour? Will it charge my phone? And so on…

Only when you get satisfactory answers to all these secondary problems will you finally make your purchase decision.

Your customers will go through a very similar process when they choose whether to buy your services. They have a big problem, and then a whole bunch of smaller ones. But you need to show you have the right answers to all of them.

And that’s where testimonials help.

By structuring your testimonial questions, so your customers tell the story of their journey, we can address your customers’ doubts and objections.

We do this by asking seven questions.

1. We start with their big problem.

What was it that made them come to you in the first place? What was their situation? Get them to explain in great depth. Why did you need more space in your home? Why did you need your garden redesigning? The longer the answers, the better.

2. Then we ask about their most significant concern with approaching you.

This section gives the customer the chance to talk about secondary problems, doubts and worries, and usually, the biggest one here is cost.

There is no point skirting around the issue of cost. Even if you don’t publish a price list, you always need to discuss budgets and pricing. Talking about cost here can do two things. It can either reassure the reader that your costs are affordable to them. Or, as in the testimonial above, it can act as a barrier, which positions yours as a premium service and helps to weed out the price shoppers.

This two-page testimonial questionnaire generates long-form, high-quality testimonials for Lush Garden Design

3. With big and small problems addressed, we ask about their experience.

What was it like to work with you? What was the communication like? Were there any issues along the way?

This section can sometimes throw up unexpected benefits to your service that you may not even have been aware of. One of my architectural design clients didn’t appreciate just how much their clients valued their in-depth knowledge of the local planning system. Once they found this out (by asking for testimonials), they were able to use this key benefit as a feature of their marketing.

4. Next, we ask for specifics.

What did you value most about our service? Again, ask for them to go into details. By painting a vivid picture of the customer’s experience, it helps your reader to picture themselves going through the same process. You want them to be nodding along as they read, mentally ticking checkboxes to features they probably had never thought of.

5. Then you ask for specific benefits they felt they received from you.

This question gives your customer the chance to talk about other aspects of your service which, while not deal-breakers, are worth mentioning. Often you find customers talk here about ease of contact, information exchange – all the little features that make your service run smoothly.

6. Would you recommend us, and if so, why?

By this point, if your customer has answered at length, they might be reiterating what they have already mentioned, which is fine. Occasionally though, something new will pop up in this section.

It’s very rare to get a negative answer here, and if you do, you probably won’t be publishing the testimonial anyway!

7. Finally, is there anything you’d like to add?

Surprisingly, after answering at length, this final question often generates something unexpected, and quotable:

“We absolutely could not have got a result anywhere near this good without you.”

How to ask testimonial questions.

In an ideal world, you would book some time and talk to your customer face-to-face, and most importantly record the conversation. A meeting gives you the chance to ask for more information on a particular answer, or probe for more details if the answers are too short.

If you can’t do these interviews face-to-face, the next best option is to hold them via video call or over the phone. The key again is to record the conversation, because you will not be able to write their answers fast enough.

The third best option, but also the most convenient for a lot of customers, is to give them an interactive questionnaire and have them type their answers. This method, however, does not allow you to ask follow-up questions or probe for more information.

How do you record the conversations?

If you are interviewing face-to-face, video the conversation using a smartphone, or record it audio-only using an app such as Voice Record Pro for the iPhone.

Recording via video call (using Zoom, Skype or similar) is simply a matter of recording the call. To record phone conversations, I recommend calling via Skype, which has a built-in recording feature.

If you are going down the written questionnaire route, you could set up web forms using Google Forms, Typeform (or many others). Or you could build an interactive PDF and have your customers type directly into it and email it back to you.

Why do we record the conversations?

We want our testimonials to look natural and read as a real person has written them. Over-edited testimonials look stilted and stuffy, like the one at the start of the article. No-one talks like that.

Once you have your recording, the next step is to get it transcribed. (You don’t need to do this step if you’ve gone for written questionnaires.)

There are many ways to get recordings transcribed. You could use a transcription service that uses a human, such as a virtual assistant, or there is which claims to have 50,000 professional transcriptionists on standby.

There are also online services that are automated, such as Whichever you use, the results of any transcription service rely heavily on the quality of the audio/video.

Finally, edit the transcription.

The key here is to edit with a light touch. You want to retain the natural rhythm of speech. You can let fundamental grammar issues slide – none of us speaks the perfect Queen’s English (like what she does). Just correct factual errors and transcription spelling mistakes.

The way the interview questions are structured means that, when you remove them from the transcription, the answers run together to tell the customer’s story. You shouldn’t need to do much more editing than that, except to break up long paragraphs for ease of reading.

If you re-read the Lush Garden Design testimonial, you’ll see there are seven paragraphs, and each one is the answer to the seven questions we asked earlier.

Amazing testimonials put your customer at the heart of your marketing.

When you’ve worked hard to exceed customer expectations, those customers are often full of praise for you and your work. By asking them the right questions, you can harness that praise and turn it into powerful testimonials.

We encourage all our clients to gather testimonials in this way, and we undertake testimonial interviews on their behalf as part of our service.

If you are not gathering testimonials at all, or the ones you have are the bland, one-liner type, we can help you get persuasive testimonials that sell.

If you’d like to find out more about how we can help with your marketing, drop us a line on the form below.

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author avatar
Keith Barker Designer & Marketing Consultant
I'm Keith, the driving force behind Keefomatic Marketing & Design. With a career spanning over 35 years in marketing, design and advertising, I offer a comprehensive, results-driven service tailored to the needs of small business owners.