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.

Scammers or Spammers: Which are Worse?

Nigeria is getting a bad rap.  We’re all familiar with the scam emails, supposedly from the Nigerian consulate or some other Nigerian business, providing us the opportunity to help someone and make a whole lot of money.  Did you know there are more internet criminals traced to locations in the United States than Nigeria?  I have one of them trying to scam me.

About a month ago, I was added to a circle on Google +. Then the emails and messages started. They were long, they were riddled with errors and they asked for my help with a customer service nightmare he was going through.  He referenced one of my blog posts and included just enough true information to make me start doubting my gut instinct.  I admit it … I responded to one of his emails.  I know … always, always, always listen to your gut. That’s when I got another email, again long and riddled with errors along with a request to open the attached .pdf and the potential to receive tens of thousands of dollars if I helped him fix his problem.  I did not open the attachment.  Instead I blocked his email address and reported his Google account as fraudulent.  He then phoned my business and left a phone number along with a message to call him.  I did a reverse look up on the phone number and surprise, surprise … it did not match the name left.  A search for his company name turned up absolutely nothing.  His phone number is now also blocked. The next step is reporting him to the internet fraud line a friend of mine told me about.  (As an aside, I have since found out that because gmail accounts are free and easy to get, scammers are using them more and more often.)

These scammers are good. With the huge amount of information available on various social media sites, they are able to customize their messaging.  The company he said he was having a problem with is real and the problem he mentioned fit the company profile. That, in addition to the references to specific blog posts, caused me to second guess myself for just a moment.

Just as frustrating as the scammers are the spammers.  For a few days last month, my IP address was blocked because someone on my shared server was sending out spam. Fortunately, that was an easy fix.  I purchased a dedicated IP address and seeing as I simply do not spam, that problem should be resolved.

Now if only it was that easy to get off spammers lists.  From a customer service perspective, why do you want to give your company a bad name by sending out unwanted and unasked for emails? Why do you assume that because I gave you permission to send me one piece of information that gives you permission to add me to all your lists? Why do you assume that just because we exchanged business cards, you have my permission to send me your newsletter and promotional emails?  In my humble opinion, that is a breach of trust.

I’ve had marketers tell me that I’m missing out on touch points, that I’m not being aggressive enough. I refuse to buy into that.  Here is my promise to you.  I will never put you on any mailing list without your permission. I will not try and trick you into opening my email by adding Re: into the subject line to make you think I am responding to an email you never sent.  I will not start sending you multiple messages and emails through social media sites because you were gracious enough to include me in  your circle of friends or business acquaintances.

To me, success is defined by integrity, honesty and a positive reputation.  If that means the money comes in a little slower, I am good with that.

Is it really that complicated?

Sometimes, the answer to “How can I increase my client base?” is as simple as picking up the phone or getting out of the office and talking to more people.  It’s not a brand new flashy website with all the bells  and whistles.  It’s not a new brochure, a new tag line or an expensive ad campaign.

Sometimes, the answer to “How do I increase customer loyalty and retention?” is to smile more and find solutions to problems, instead of creating an expensive customer loyalty program with expensive give-aways.

Is there a problem you’ve been struggling with? What’s the easy answer?  Perhaps that’s the right one.

 

Relationship First, Sale Second

What do you offer that will help address a pain, a need, a problem, a wish, a dream or a goal that I have?  If you sincerely want to make my life just a little bit better by helping me relieve or achieve one of the above, instead of spouting off a bunch of statistics that tell me 78% of your customers like your service or product because (fill in the blank), you’ll ask me questions designed to help you match what you offer to what I want or need.

And if you don’t have what I want or need, instead of trying to get me to change so that what you offer works, you’ll tell me where I can find what I’m looking for, even if that means sending me to your competitor.  If you do that, I may not buy from you this time, but you will absolutely be my first stop when I do need what you offer and you will be the first company I tell my family, friends and colleagues to go to when they need what you have.

Why?  Because you demonstrated that you cared about me more than you cared about the sale, and when you do that, I trust you, I like you and I want to do business with you, even if that means I may need to change my expectations in order to do so.

Service with No Strings Attached

On Friday, I met with the owner of a company here in Winnipeg regarding an e-learning platform they provide.  It was an initial meeting and I was impressed, not only with the platform itself, but with his commitment to service. In addition to walking me through his platform and showing me all the bells and whistles, the owner took the time to show me the software program they use to incorporate interactive elements into the courses they develop for clients. Why did this impress me? Because he also told me that I didn’t need his company in order to use that software.  It was available on-line for me to purchase, download and start using right now.

He even took the time to show me how easy it was to use. Granted, his well-trained team of techies can do more, in a shorter amount of time than I can, but the program had been designed for people just like me;  wanna-be techies who don’t have the time or inclination to learn the intricacies of visual basic coding.

The owner saw my pain.  He understood the challenges regarding making e-learning fun, dynamic and interactive and offered me an immediate solution, no strings attached.  I imagine that is why his company has grown so rapidly and has won numerous awards. By understanding the importance of relationships, of solving pain, of serving with no strings attached, the likelihood of a signed contract is greatly increased.