It’s a well-known fact that even happy couples have disagreements. Likewise, when it comes to the relationship between you and your customers, even happy ones can give you the “silent treatment” when it comes to providing references.  In fact, about 70% of customers will decline your request to say nice things about the effectiveness of your product or service.

According to Emma Reeve, VP, SAP Global Marketing, across most industries, only 30% of “happy” customers are willing to be a reference.  Therefore, the obvious question is why are so many satisfied customers so unwilling to go public?

To find an answer, one only needs to consider how precarious the customer references tightrope can be. There’s competition from your competition as most companies use multiple platforms and as a result get multiple requests to provide references. In other words, it’s a little political.

Customer reference teams often spend hours and days lining up customers for video testimonials during a big show – only to find that for a myriad of reasons the customer cancels last minute. And speaking of disagreements, sometimes a happy marriage between solutions provider and an existing customer reference can go south in a hurry – particularly when there’s suddenly an issue with product performance. In that scenario, a customer will pick up the phone and scream something to the effect of, “Immediately take us down from every single place you have our name mentioned as your customer. Thank you!”

Something that no one is telling you about references is that in recent years there’s been a real revolution in the whole dynamic. However, Reeve offered some insight on the change, “References have evolved from sales to support into the possibility for co-marketing partnerships. As a result, today there’s a compelling business driver for a customer to be a reference beyond doing a favor or earning program points. For those thinking strategically, it’s a real business opportunity.”

Clearly, mutually beneficial relationships are what’s driving the new successful customer relationship dynamic. As the nature of the relationship between you and your customers continues to change your business must change with it. This is critical because references are some of the most effective marketing available and optimizing the relationship is tantamount to success. After all, you are presenting in relatable fashion the very personification of your product.

In short, to maximize your customer references efforts your business must make the aim of your efforts as much about your customer as they are about your organization.

After all, making things about others is what inspires businesses to create the type of solutions that are making a difference in the world.

True partnerships will help weather occasional “disagreements” and ensure that your customers are always happy to share stories about the amazing synergy they have with your company with the world.