Client References: Is It OK For Prospective New Customers To Ask For Them?

Occasionally a prospective new customer asks us for existing client references, telephone and email contact information usually. While this might be considered a common practice, is it really an acceptable thing to ask another company for their detailed customer information?

Consider the following questions:

1. What competitive information is more proprietary and closely held than customer contact details?

2. Is it the responsibility of existing customers to serve as advocates for a vendor they happen to do business with?

Our answers to the preceding two questions are generally “not much else” and “no” respectively.

From a customer’s perspective there is very little actual risk in trying out a new translation vendor by assigning them a small project as a test. There’s no long term commitment. If the initial project experience is favorable then the potential for additional projects is preserved.

Today online reviews provide a readily available reference for companies as posted by customers who’ve previously done business with them. Asking for references can therefore be seen as an outdated practice and one that does little to reduce the risk of doing business with a new provider of a service.