As a "valued customer," I was recently asked by VistaPrint if I would be willing to provide a testimonial. I'm a big believer in the power of testimonials. Because I have used the service many times in the past, I said yes. I think there is a bit of an art to getting and giving a good strong testimonial. So, I took the time to write a meaty one with some specific points that I thought would make it more powerful. Here is what I submitted:
Quick turnaround, great quality, and low cost is always a winner. But service is the glue that makes things stick. VistaPrint has been a terrific resource for both my company and my clients. I’ve used the service to produce materials for my own business – but being in the marketing services arena, I’ve also had needs for my clients that need to be addressed. Everything I’ve done for them using VistaPrint has turned out perfectly. Tracking and service have been great. And the ability to go to production when I want to, at any time of the day or night, has been key. I’m submitting another customer order next week! The website is well designed and very easy to use. I’ve been using VistaPrint for several years and will continue to turn to you to help me deliver high quality work.
Now, I'm both a marketer and seller, and think I do understand the need for getting to the point. But I also know that many testimonials could be said by anyone – and often don't have specifics that sound like they came from an actual customer. The last think you want is someone asking "did the customer really write this, or did the marketing department do it?"
VistaPrint later got back to me and said they, "wanted to thank you for your reply and interest in becoming a VistaPrint customer testimonial! We’re thrilled with the overwhelming number of replies and are enjoying reading all the comments. I’m interested in using your quote and will be in touch with you again soon, as we work out the details."
So far so good. When something nice is said about you, mom always says to say thank-you quickly and enthusiastically. Two weeks later, they got back to me with an edited version of my quote for approval. Due to space limitations, they wanted to use some pieces of the original quote. So the new quote looked like this:
Quick turnaround, great quality, and low cost is always a winner. But service is the glue that makes things stick. VistaPrint has been a terrific resource for both my company and clients. I've been using VistaPrint for several years and will continue to turn to you to help deliver high quality work.
We marketers love to edit, it's true. But sometimes we go too far. Take a quick quiz with me. If you remove the name "VistaPrint" can you actually tell what the company does? Hmmm. How many other companies do you think could use the exact same quote?
So instead of approving it as is, I commented on the heavy editing, and the issue of boiling it down so it sounded generic, and invited them to take the same quiz. I also asked them to correct the misspelling of my company name after the quote. (a DEFINITE testimonial No-No!) I approved it as is if generic was their goal, but suggested they reconsider. They responded diligently and said they were sorry and wished they could use the full quote, but had a 300 character limit (which they never informed me of in the original request). They might have another spot for it, but would have to talk to their developers about it. (Marketing & IT – that's a whole other post!) They invited me to re-edit or or submit a new quote. All of that sounds reasonable, but as a customer who took the time to actually write a testimonial, it was a bit of a turn-off. A testimonial should speak to what the customer experience was like – specifically. The important part of the quote was the description of my experience:
Everything I’ve done for them (my customers) using VistaPrint has turned out perfectly. Tracking and service have been great. And the ability to go to production when I want to, at any time of the day or night, has been key. I’m submitting another customer order next week! The website is well designed and very easy to use.
Instead they latched onto the basics: Quick turnaround, great quality, and low cost. Is that enough? Maybe for some – but as a customer myself, it's not the whole enchilada. So, as you think about your own customers, and how they might read and write a testimonial for you – what's important? The experience of being a customer, or the standard and generic descriptors that anyone could say about any company? I know what gets my vote! So, I dare you: take your company name out of your testimonials. Would they apply to Joe's Pizza just as well as to your company?