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referrals: are they your responsibility?

By September 29, 2008The Business

Where do we draw the line on referral responsibility? If I make a recommendation to a client for a graphic designer, a web coder, a videographer…at what point does the client take ownership for working with that referral?

I’m not sure there’s a clear line.

If you think about it from the perspective of a successful referral, there’s no problem – it’s essentially the gift that keeps on giving. A client will forever hail you as the one that found them the web designer of all web designers who captured and created their look and launched them into the webosphere and ultimate success.

But if it goes wrong,  you get emails complaining about the bad work that was done or the unreturned phone calls or the cost or the…

I’ve created some guidelines to handle the unpleasant side of this referral world:

1. Know your referrals. Feel really good about the people you refer and that’s half the battle right there.

2. Be honest in your referral. You don’t have to say, ‘they are the absolute best’ – you can say, “I love his work, but he’s really busy, so he isn’t always easy to get in touch with.” This way, you have presented the facts and the client is left to make a good decision.

3. A variation on #2 is to offer a few referrals, such as 2-3 designers, saying this is what I like about each person – and then encourage your client to make the choice.

4. Encourage your client to do their own homework. Ask them to call your referrals, look at their websites, request additional references. Let them know that you are making suggestions, but they need to make sure it will be a good fit.

5. Make sure that you say things such as, “This was my experience.” You would never want to present something as universal.

This issue is rife with pitfalls…I’d love to hear from your brilliant minds.

Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • --Deb says:

    It’s a fine line, like setting up two people who are “perfect for each other.” It can go really well, in which case you’re like a god, or it can go really, really badly, in which case you’ll never hear from either of them again. Only, in this case, one of them helps pay your salary!

  • Julie Roads says:

    Deb…right? This goes a bit beyond the ‘set-up’ scenario!

  • Lea says:

    I can see exactly how this might happen… you get excited to potentially help someone, and in your overexcitement you go a little overboard and oversell the referral. This is a great lesson in clear and honest communication — and in managing expectations. Good stuff.

  • Julie Roads says:

    Good point, Lea! But, then, you always have good points!

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