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.

Hash House A Go Go Rocks Service

It’s been a week since my last post … unusual for me and the only reason (excuse) is that my trip to Las Vegas was entirely focused on spending time with my family.  Of course, me being me, I simply could not help but notice and store up a whole lot of customer service related experiences.

There were many meh moments, as well as some truly fine examples of terrible customer service and service that rocks.  Today, I want to share one of those rocking moments.

Friends of ours told us about Hash House A Go Go, located on the strip at The Quad.  They’d discovered it on their last trip to Las Vegas and raved about the place. We almost went to a restaurant closer to our hotel but at the last minute decided to keep walking the few extra minutes.  It was worth those few extra minutes.

Chicken and waffles at Hash House A Go Go. My husband made a valiant effort, but in the end, the plate won!

The food looked good and tasted good. The portion sizes were huge! One plate could easily feed two. But most importantly, and the reason we went back a second time, was because of the service.  I simply had to know if they were really that good all the time or if we just got lucky with an unusually great server the first time.

Here is a short list of all the customer service standards they absolutely nailed:

  1.  Under promise, over deliver.   There was a wait to get into the restaurant at 10:00 am and at 2:00 pm.  I’m told it doesn’t really matter what time of day you get there; you will probably end up waiting.  Each time we put our name on the wait list, we were given an estimated wait time that was longer than the time we actually had to wait.  15 minutes doesn’t seem nearly as long if you are told it could be up to 25 minutes.  I have been to too many restaurants that told me 15 minutes when it was actually closer to 30.
  2. Acknowledge the customer immediately.  We were seated in two different sections and served by two different people.  Both times, our very busy servers were unable to get water glasses to us right away, but that did not stop them from taking a quick stop at our table, to let us know we had been seen and they would be with us in just a moment.  In some customer service sessions I deliver, I hear “They can see I am busy and I never keep them waiting for more than a few minutes.”  We could see they were busy and quite frankly, I expected to have a lot of time to peruse the menu before the server in our section got to us.  Not at Hash Hash A Go Go.  Both of our servers, as well as all the others I could see, stopped at each new table within seconds.
  3. Focus on the customer.  In spite of how busy the restaurant was, none of the serving staff gave the impression of being rushed. When they were standing in front of our table, we were their one and only focus. They patiently explained the menu, they asked how we were enjoying our trip to Vegas, they laughed, they smiled … they took the time to make us feel welcome.
  4. Find ways to make the impossible possible.  Hash House A Go Go is missing two pieces of standard commercial restaurant kitchen equipment … on purpose.  There is no microwave in their kitchen. There is also no food warming equipment.  When the kitchen team has cooked and plated the food, it doesn’t sit under a heat lamp.  It goes out to the table.  They made a commitment to fresh and they keep it. That means they have food runners.  Lots and lots of food runners.  I am pretty sure the labour costs are higher than a heat lamp.  I am also sure that the long line-ups and constant turn-over of tables that result from this, plus their other service standards, more than makes up for those additional costs.
  5. Be clear as to expectations.  Every single plate that came out of that kitchen was beautifully presented. Every plate of chicken and waffles that went by our table and the one that landed on our table in front of my husband looked the same.  The management team at Hash House A Go Go has very obviously created clearly defined standards, for both front and back of house.  Based on consistent delivery of those standards, I venture to guess they also have a strong training program in place to help their team meet and exceed the high expectations they have created.   Companies that want to be the best, outline what the best looks like and then supports their team in achieving the best.
  6. Have fun.  This restaurant seems to be in a consistent state of “getting slammed”.  The only difference is just how hard they are getting slammed.  I have never seen an entire team move that fast in such a coordinated way.  I have also never seen that many people having fun while working that hard. Smiles, laughter between team members.  High fives, managers fist-bumping their staff as they walked by.

On our second visit, I said something along the lines of “Everyone seems to be having so much fun” to our server.  He stopped what he was doing and told us how much he loved working at Hash House A Go Go.  He talked about the team environment, how everyone gets along.

Hash House A Go Go is busy for a reason. High standards, a great product and even more importantly, great service.  Next time you’re in Vegas, make sure you go.  Leave time and bring an empty stomach.  You will need both!

Are You Rewarding the Right Things?


Customer-focused companies put the customer at the centre of their business and business decisions.  Customer-focused companies concentrate on long-term goals, like customer satisfaction, retention and repeat business instead of short-term goals like “increase dessert sales by 10%”.

Teaching your team to effectively up-sell is important.  Those skills help grow your business and improve your bottom line, but not to the same extent as loyal, repeat customers who keep coming back to your business and refer their friends, families and colleagues to you.

Customer-focused companies:

  1. Live the customer experience.  In some of the hotels I’ve stayed at, I’m pretty sure the manager has not actually tasted the coffee put in the guest rooms.  As a woman, I appreciate a full-length mirror in the room.  How is the lighting?  Is there room on the desk for your customer’s laptop or is it covered with promotional materials?
  2. Look for ways to make the customer feel special.  Making your customer feel special can be as simple as addressing them by name or by remembering that they like their breakfast with eggs over-easy and lightly toasted rye bread.  It could be putting fresh flowers in the bathroom, speaking directly to the children when taking their order or offering to carry a senior’s tray to the table.
  3. Encourage customer feedback.  Customer-focused companies want to hear the good, the bad and the ugly from their customers. They want to know what their customers like and what they don’t like.  They take the information they receive seriously and use that information to maintain and improve their customer’s experience.
  4. Reward employees for service excellence.  When customer satisfaction is the main goal of a company, it doesn’t make sense to reward product sales.  Rewards based on the number of desserts or upgrades sold send the message the sale is the priority.  Customer-focused companies recognize and reward initiatives and actions that improve a customer’s service experience.

The bonus is that customers who feel valued, customers who believe that their satisfaction is your number one priority are more likely to stay at their table a little longer and enjoy dessert and coffee.  Customers who trust you and respect you are more likely to pay an extra $20 for the upgraded room.  The up-sell happens naturally when you focus on the customer first, instead of the sale.

What do you think?

Who Do You Serve?

You cannot be all things to all people.  Your business cannot be all things to all consumers.

A company open for business to everyone, who says “yes” to all requests quickly loses:

  1. Time
  2. Focus
  3. Vision
  4. Clarity
  5. Passion

When you are busy trying to keep everyone happy, you don’t have time to focus on the customers you really want to serve; the customers you connect with, the customers that speak your language.  Vision, purpose and passion fade.  And in the end, companies that try to please everyone, that try to serve everyone, end up wowing no-one.

It takes courage to find a lane, to clearly define who you are here to serve.  It takes time to craft a finely honed message and product that speaks to a defined market instead of a generic, ambiguous message meant to attract a wide, non-descript market.  One problem with generic messages targeted to a wide, undefined market is that there are so many of those out there, yours will simply get lost in the crowd.

When you try and serve everyone, none of your customers get the best of you.

What is the best of you?  Define that and then find the customers who want that. You will both be better served in the end.

Saying Goodbye Should Not be Hard to Do

With many companies it’s pretty easy to say good bye forever if they are no longer meeting a need or if their service levels decline past the point of no return.  We just stop going.

Some companies have the ability to make their customer’s live difficult if or when they want to leave. Business or personal lives can be impacted negatively. I have been trying to get out of a rather unsatisfactory relationship with a vendor for over two months now.  Without going into all the frustrating details, here is the short list:

1. Poor email response times from “support”;

2. Waits up to three hours on live chat for help when email requests are not responded to;

3. The suggestion that I have to pay to leave them when competitors make the option as simple a click on a button on their website. (And yes, there probably was something about that in the very fine print that I did not see initially)

Here’s my two choices:  stay and try again next year to make the transfer or leave and keep my fingers crossed that I will receive all the information I need from them in a timely manner to make a successful switch to a new provider.  Choosing to leave now involves trust levels I simply do not have, so I am staying for one more year.  I have to wonder if back in their office, there are high-fives all around each time a customer gives up and pays up for another year.

I understand not wanting to lose a customer, but a corporate decision to make leaving more frustrating than staying, is in the long run, bad for business.  Companies that focus on making each and every customer touch point positive and as painless as possible, including the one where the customer says “good bye”, get it.  They know that if the process of leaving is painless and simple, there is a chance they will see that customer again someday. And if they don’t, at least they won’t have sown seeds of frustration and anger.