Yesterday I spent a few minutes to make a connection for someone else. She doesn’t know I did it, but maybe one day she will. As I did it, which involved sending an email on her behalf, I thought about the act of doing so. Sharing a connection, making a referral, whether solicited or unsolicited, is as old as time – “spreading the word.” Networking. I paused as I was doing so to ask myself, why I do such things. I realized the first reason is that I like to help people. If I can help someone whom I like, then why not? Things like this make the world go around. And, I hope people will do something similar for me – that would be another reason. Melissa and I certainly have benefited from word of mouth referrals over the decades – we always ask new, prospective, clients how they found us and their answers confirm that people are referring us. Word of mouth is the best source of business, and it is nice to get the referrals because it tells me that people value us and the help we provide. I thought about a frequent customer satisfaction survey question that I see, “Based on this interaction, would you refer our bank/restaurant/hotel/gas station or whatever?” I usually say no to this because a referral should only happen when someone has “earned” it. A one off interaction with a call center representative isn’t enough. Referrals carry a risk – the risk that the person using the referred business will not be satisfied or impressed and that impression could accrue backwards to the referrer. Therefore, making a referral, for me, is attaching my credibility to someone else’s performance. Thus, I think the customer service survey question is poor. But, with careful consideration, I know people I feel confident about referring and do so happily. And, I make sure to thank anyone who makes a referral in my direction – and strive to ensure that there will be no regrets!
David frequently goes out of his way to help people. In fact, that is one of the reasons I have always liked him! He helped my mother more than most people in my family, usually, without much appreciation from anyone (including her). David and I share a “calling” to help people. I was always taught to use the “gifts” I was given in life. Among my gifts is the ability to help other people. One of the best ways to help people in the business world is to provide referrals. However, as David points out, providing referrals can be risky in that the person to whom the referral is made will associate the referral with the person who made it. This means that one’s referrals should be limited to trustworthy people whom one knows will be able to perform the job being referred. I have referred many people over the years. I am regularly asked by Magnus’ clients to provide a referral to someone who does animations of accidents, demonstrative exhibits, psychological counseling for a distraught plaintiff, trial presentations, etc. In addition, I have provided countless referrals to friends for housekeeping services, lawn maintenance, painting, handy person assistance, and more. Some clients have taken my advice and they were generally satisfied with the person I referred. Some friends and acquaintances have also taken my advice, however, several of them decided not to hire the person I referred because they thought he/she charged too much for the service provided (often, they have regretted hiring the least expensive person they could find instead of the excellent person I referred, but that’s another story). The bottom line is referrals and recommendations help everyone. Magnus would not be where it is today without all of the clients who refer us to their colleagues.