Why are your Customers Leaving?

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I had lunch with a friend this week.  Over the last six to nine months, she has cancelled or not renewed three memberships to business associations or networking clubs and one on-line marketing / business listing site.

As regular readers of my blog know, I am a big believer in identifying your company’s customer touch points and then asking “What does my customer want, need and expect from me at this touch point?”  One very important touch point is your response when a customer decides he or she decides to no longer do business with you.

None of the four organizations gave her a hassle when she let them know she was cancelling or not renewing. That is a positive.  Unfortunately, not one of them asked her why she was leaving.  One organization, the one she had been most actively involved in for over two years, sent a generic form letter, not even addressed to her, expressing disappointment in her decision.  The others simply said nothing.

So I asked her why she left. One didn’t abide by their own code of conduct, one simply didn’t work from a timing perspective anymore, one had made political statements outside of her beliefs and one didn’t provide the results she was looking for.  All valid reasons.

Customers who have been with you for an extended period of time and then decide to leave can provide valuable insight. Take the time to ask them why they are leaving.  If you hear the same concern expressed over and over again, it’s an issue. Find a way to fix it. The organization that didn’t abide by their own code of conduct didn’t ask my friend why she left.  She told them anyway and she’s heard they have made significant positive change in that area from members in that group.

Asking the question “Why are you leaving?” doesn’t necessarily mean you need to change. The reason “It’s not you, it’s me.” may very well be true.  It is very possible the product or service you offer is simply no longer a fit for your customer. There is also the possibility that the customer wasn’t the right fit to begin with. Exit interviews with departing customers can help you better define your target market, providing you the information you need to focus on the people who benefit the most from the product or service you offer.

Asking the question “Why are you leaving?” is about ensuring you don’t lose the opportunity to become even better at what you do.  It’s about demonstrating you value the opportunity you had to be of service and that you value the customer.

When talking about customer touch points, I also suggest looking for ways to exceed the customer’s expectation.  One final way to demonstrate that you are truly service minded, that your concern is for the customer first, is to provide the departing customer information on other companies that can meet their needs.  What a way to exceed a customer’s expectations and leave a positive last impression.

Thanks to Those Who Love to Serve

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There are some people who simply exude welcome, joy and friendliness. They look for and find opportunities to do what they can to make the people around them feel valued and special.  To them, service is not a job they put on when they walk into work and then take off again at the end of they day.  It simply is who they are.

Have you met any of these amazing people lately?  I have and am lucky enough to have some of these people on my team.  The positive energy, the willingness to get done what needs to get done, the ability to see beyond the problem to potential solutions are not common traits. Too often, the good they do is taken for granted. Today, I want to say thanks to the many people who serve, who love to serve and who consider it a privilege to serve.

Service is not what you do, but who you are. It is a way of living that you need to bring to everything you do, if you are to bring it to your customer interactions.       – Betsy Sanders

The Grumpy Bear and the Sly Fox – Repost

bearfoxI receive a request to repost my bear and fox story, so here it is!

Not so very long ago, in a forest close by, lived a grumpy bear and a sly fox.

The grumpy bear was known to roar loudly when a gentle growl would have been more appropriate.   The grumpy bear was not comfortable at expressing any kind of emotion.   When the grumpy bear felt uncertain, he became even grumpier.  But underneath that grumpy, growly exterior was a big heart filled with love and good intention.

The sly fox on the other hand, was a smooth communicator.  He spoke softly and gently.  His words were chosen with care and always reflected exactly what his listener wanted to hear.  He never growled or challenged anyone and so many animals in the forest eagerly listened to whatever the sly fox had to say.

The sly fox used the grumpy bear’s gruffness and roughness against him.  The sly fox liked nothing better than to poke the fire and fan the flames of dissension.  He would say things like “If the grumpy bear cared about you, he would do this. That’s what I would do” or “The grumpy bear doesn’t understand you like I do”.  Sometimes the sly fox knew things that would help the grumpy bear, but instead of sharing information or offering to help the grumpy bear, the sly fox would go to others in the forest and say “Why isn’t the grumpy bear doing this?”

Of course, the sly fox never actually did anything to help anyone in the forest.  He left the hard work for the grumpy bear. The sly fox whispered, using his smooth, gentle words to turn the other animals against the grumpy bear, making the grumpy bear’s job even harder.   Then the sly fox would grin, rub his paws and skulk away … until the next time.

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A lot of us have a grumpy bear or a sly fox in our lives.  We meet them at work, at play and sometimes at home.  The grumpy bear doesn’t realize how words and actions can be misconstrued when others perceptions and emotions are not taken into consideration. Sometimes the grumpy bear speaks poorly from a place of sincerity and positive intention.

The sly fox knows exactly what the other person wants to hear. He or she looks for and feed on insecurities, fears and weaknesses. The sly fox speaks and acts well from a place of deception and negative intention.

With experience comes wisdom and I have learned to look past the exterior to find the intention.  Some people grouse and grumble, then buckle down and act. Others sound positive and supportive,but in reality are only looking to stir the pot. They ditch and run as soon as their real objective, dissension, has been achieved.

Give me grumpy and sincere over smooth and sneaky any day.

Don’t Lose Your Customer Before You Get Your Customer

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Like many of you, a lot of sales professionals reach out to me. Some drop in, hoping for a chance to introduce themselves and their product. Some call or email, with the intent of scheduling a longer phone call or face-to-face in the near future.

Regardless of how they reach out, I try to respond personally to all of them. They have a job to do and I respect that. Very recently, I had two very different experiences from two company representatives that wanted me to consider the product they offered.

In the first example, a folder with information was dropped off for me at the front desk of the hotel.  I received the folder at approximately 3:00 pm.  With a very full schedule that day, I made a note to review and respond the next morning. That evening, I received an email from a member of my front desk team.  It turns out this sales person was a guest in the hotel.  His reservation had been made about a week prior to his arrival.  He was quite upset I had not responded by end of day, made reference to me flying out to visit him at his office and then questioned the quality of the guest experience at the hotel, from the product offered to the level of service.

That same day, I received a note in the mail from Debbie, an account manager for Classic 107, a local radio station. Debbie and I had spent time together the week before. She asked me lots of questions to ensure she understood our priorities and customer demographic and provided initial suggestions on how she could help us achieve our marketing goals. Even though Debbie left without any immediate new business, she sent me a lovely, handwritten note, thanking me for my time and promising to follow up later in the year.

Debbie and I had a scheduled appointment, but my team knows to call me if someone drops in.  If I am available, I make the time to meet with the person, even if only for a few minutes.  I used to participate in sales missions, from a city and a brand perspective, so I get it.  By far the majority of our calls were planned, but sometimes along the way, we would simply drop in on the off-chance a decision maker would be immediately available to see us.  It rarely happened.  At that point, the gate keeper was our decision maker. The gate keeper’s impression of our professionalism was vital. What he or she said about us directly impacted the possibility of a response or what type of response we would receive.

Ensuring a positive pre-sale experience is important.  A 2011 Consumer Report’s survey indicated that customers who bailed on a transaction did so because of poor service. That’s potential customers who were ready to purchase but chose not to.

There are a lot of touch points in between first point of contact to signing a deal. Each of those moments can make or break a potential sale.  Be as careful of those touch points as you are about each and every one after the first sale is made.

And in case you are wondering, I did respond to the first salesperson the next morning as planned, expressing disappointment his guest experience was not the positive one our entire service team is committed to providing and extending an invitation to share his concerns with me personally. To date, there has been no response to my email.

Then I called Debbie to get her permission to mention her by name at a future date, knowing at some point a blog would be written.  She graciously agreed.  I look forward to our next conversation.

What is your Priority – Product or Service?

Motivational concept image of a hand holding marker and write What is your priority isolated on white

There is a restaurant here in Winnipeg that has the talent in place to create and plate a ‘to-die-for-good’ meal.  My husband and I had plans to dine there one evening.  Then I heard and read many comments regarding the arrogant, sometimes verging on abusive, service from people who’ve gone to that restaurant… once and only once. Some of these comments have come from people I know personally and whose opinion I trust.  That restaurant is now off my list of places to go.  There are many other restaurants to go to in Winnipeg that create and plate amazing meals and just as importantly, provide friendly, attentive and professional service,

In the service industry, dinner is never just a dinner and a hotel room is never just a hotel room. It is the entire experience wrapping up the basic need for food and shelter that is important and sets one business apart from another.

Of course, this doesn’t just apply to the hospitality industry.  We are all in business to meet and address a specific need.  So are our competitors. Even if a business offers something totally unique, it won’t be forever.  At some point, that unique product and idea will be replicated and if customers have been putting up with lousy service because there wasn’t an alternative, as soon as there is one, they are gone!

Product quality is important, but it is only one piece of the puzzle. Back up the great product with great service.  That’s what brings customers back more than once, creates referrals and brings new customers through the door.