Monday, April 30, 2007

Program Perception is the key to Customer Reference Programs

Steve Ellis talks about the major roadblocks in implementing a reference program within the Enterprise. I agree with his over arching theme - that organizations lack commitment to reference programs - and I'd suggest one way to help resolve this is to change the perception of reference programs.

A lot of the problems that I see are due to the Sales force's perception of references as a favour. If it's seen as a favour by the Sales force then it's also going to be seen as a favour by the customer, and they're going to be reticent to do you a favour unless they get something back (such as a price break).

The key is to reinvent the reference program so that it provides real value to your customers (and that doesn't just mean price breaks). Once you do this the Sales force will be keen to jump on board, moreover, if you do it well then your customers will be approaching your Sales force to be included.

Of course, the other thing to consider - as Jeremiah points out - is that in the Web 2.0 world, reference programs will be about opening up your customers views - good an bad - and listening to them, rather than trying to control them. The companies that get that right will really reap the benefit.