My last several blog posts have addressed understanding who your customer is and how to most effectively collaborate with them for long-term sustainable relationships. I will end this series with the not-so-happy example of how you can be sure to end those relationships as quickly as you obtained them.
We have all heard it is easier, faster, and cheaper to sell to an existing customer than to a new one. So, even though there are reasonable times when some customers should be fired (voluntary churn), in general it is more profitable to retain the ones you have. In fact, companies focused on retaining their customers are nearly 50 percent more likely to project long-term growth than those not so focused. We also know that “delighting” customers by meeting or even exceeding their expectations, however that is translated for your business, is the goal of every supplier. Most often we are pretty good at doing this. But, unfortunately, more often than desired, we lose customers. Some would argue this is a natural process and outcome of just doing business, and there are very legitimate reasons this might occur; for example, no need, no time, no money, no interest. But aside from these legitimate reasons, there are ways to accelerate losing your customers. Let’s look at a few, in no particular order:
Overpromise and underdeliver: Not much more has to be said about this reason, but what is more difficult is to fully understand what you are overpromising and why you are underdelivering.
Tell them they are wrong: This is opposite to the “customer is always right” mantra, wherein you feel you are always right. As a result, you make excuses for everything that doesn’t go the way you want it to. It also involves letting your ego get in the way of doing business correctly.
Be rigid and inflexible: The result of the previous action is failure to compromise because you believe you always know best. But customers expect reasonable give-and-take.
Nickel-and-dime the customer: This often takes the form of constantly negotiating even the smallest details, and gets in the way of the longer-term, big-picture client success.
Don’t listen: Because you are always right, your ears get clogged so that you never really hear what your customer is saying and thus can’t attend to their needs.
Don’t be available: One might liken this to playing hard-to-get by making your customer wait on you at your convenience rather than the other way around, making your client chase you down instead of getting back to them promptly.
Violate confidentiality: This could include publicizing your client's work without their permission, revealing knowledge of their operations you gained while working with them, or even listing them as a reference without their knowledge.
Overcharge inexplicably: Without prior notice, raise your prices or even price yourself out of your market.
Bad-mouth your competitors: Nothing comes across more unprofessional than putting down your competitors, which your clients may actually have used or be currently using.
Retain valuable information: Other than confidential information gained in the course of a client project, holding back information that might facilitate customer success will be perceived as not supporting your own internal sponsor.
Believe you have the one-and-only best solution: This may involve not keeping up with the industry’s dynamics to the point of failing to recognize your competition has passed you by.
Don’t renew old and tired products: Clients expect you are at the top of your game and your offer is current. Failing to update your offer at your own expense provides a big motivator for clients to move on to another supplier.
I am sure there are many more reasons clients end supplier relationships. However, most can be traced to repeatable, yet preventable, actions advanced by a culture of disrespect for customers and the business relationships you have with them. Keeping customers is one of the most prominent key indicators for organizational success. No business can afford to lose them.
What are you doing to best understand the reasons you are losing any of your customers? What signs are you seeing that consistently predict clients ending their relationships with you? How are you instilling a culture throughout your business that ensures you are not demonstrating any of the above behaviors?
For more insight, check out my book The Complete Guide to Building and Growing a Talent Development Firm.