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.

How to Make a Negative Customer Moment Even Worse

It’s 4:00 pm. The phone rings.  I don’t recognize the name on call display, consider not answering but at the last minute, just before it kicks into voice mail, pick up.

Amy’s on the other end of the line.  Her aunt’s car is gone.  It’s been towed and she needs rescuing. Tomorrow morning she leaves home for an entire year.  I’m grateful for one last opportunity to be a hero.

The drive to Osborne Village is short. Amy and her friend are waiting on the street.  I pull into a side street, they run over and hop in the car. We’re on the way to the towing company.  Amy’s hoping the car is there.  When she discovered the car gone, she called Dr. Hook.  Here’s her description of what happened:

“A nice lady answered the phone. When I told her I think my car got towed, she asked me for the licence plate number.  She checked in the computer. They didn’t have it so said she would transfer me to the other Winnipeg towing company.  They weren’t as nice there, mom.  They just said the name of the company really fast and when I asked if they had my car, told me to come to their lot.  I don’t even know if they checked to see if they had it.”

We got to the lot and no, they didn’t have the car.  The person Amy dealt with in person was much more helpful than the person on the phone and suggested we go back to where the car had been towed from as it may have just been moved.  Long story short, after driving around and not finding it, trying to file a police report for a potentially stolen car (that in itself was much more difficult than you would imagine) it turned out the car had been moved … to the other side of Osborne, three streets over and six blocks down.  The towing company without the car in the lot had moved the car.  They provided the police with licence plate information and location on the cars they moved so when people called to report their car stolen, they could be told where it had been moved to.  I’m not sure why that information wasn’t provided to the corporate office.

In the end, it was another great example of how important the person who answers the telephone is for your business reputation.  The person at Dr. Hook started with a pleasant greeting. She asked Amy for information and when she knew they didn’t have her aunt’s car, she knew where to direct Amy’s call.  Unfortunately, that company didn’t manage that customer touch point nearly as well.  The greeting was abrupt.  There was no offer of assistance. Just curt directions on location and in the end, a wasted trip to a lot with no car.

Based on the number of people being dropped of on the same street I dropped Amy off when the car was found, this is a familiar scenario.  What a great opportunity to turn a frustrated customer into, if not a happy customer, at least a slightly grateful customer. The customer knows they messed up and that’s why they were towed.  Compassion, empathy and a solution to their problem will be appreciated.

Oh .. and lesson number two .. don’t park in front of a No Parking sign!


Why are Customer Service Jobs Considered Entry-Level?

Sometimes I think we’ve got it ass-backwards.  Customer service jobs are viewed as entry-level and a mere stepping stone to a more important job.  And yet, if it wasn’t for the front-line, customer service professional there would be no next level to get to.

All new hires at Zappos go through four weeks of initial training. All new hires; not just the people hired to work the phones. Zappos believes everyone needs to experience talking with their customer, even if talking to their customer on a daily basis isn’t in their job description.  Contact centre employees then get another three weeks of training before they are given full go-ahead on the phones.

Seven weeks of training for an “entry-level” job.  Zappos gets it. That entry level customer service job is the foundation for their success. If the contact centre team doesn’t excel at what they do, they won’t need supervisors, managers, marketing directors, vice presidents, presidents, etc.

Of course, not everyone can be contact centre employees.  People are needed to make sure the website is up and running, orders are filled and shipped, employees are paid, holidays are scheduled, schedules filled, etc. etc., etc.

Ambition,drive and hard work to get to the next level are all good things.  But as Bob Farrell, from  “Give ‘em the Pickle” fame said, “If you’re not serving the customer, you’re serving someone who is.”

It doesn’t matter if your job title is:

  • Customer service representative
  • Front desk agent
  • Retail sales clerk
  • Food & beverage server
  • Medical transcriptionist
  • Line cook
  • Chef
  • Accountant
  • Custodian
  • Human resources
  • Executive Director
  • Financial advisor
  • Sales manager
  • Manager
  • Owner
  • Grand Poobah

… you are a customer service representative.   Everything you do, regardless of your role or the title you hold, ultimately ends up on front of the customer.

Who do you serve?  What can you do to help make their day just a little brighter? What can you do to help make them more successful? 

When you figure that out, your external customer will also reap the benefits.


To speak to Laurie about creating a customer service strategy for your business, call her at 204-995-5836 or click here for a free consult.   If you’re in Winnipeg or the surrounding area, a two day workshop, as part of the ‘New Era of Influence’ is being offered.  Click here for more information.

It’s Feel Good Friday Again!

Great customer service isn’t always about the grand gestures. Great customer service is also about the day-to-day acts of service that say “You are not just a customer.  You are a person.  I see you, not a customer.  I will do everything I can to make your day a little bit better.”

Great customer service is about genuinely friendliness; it’s about making the customer feel valued in simple, but significant ways, every day.

Example 1:  How to Provide Great Service even When You Can’t Give the Customer What He Wants

An elderly gentleman approached a sales associate and asked if they sold thermoses.   Without looking up from the items she was organizing on the shelf, the sales associate said “No. We don’t.” (Wait, the good part is coming!)  He looked disappointed and walked over to the kitchen section of the store, probably thinking she just didn’t want to be bothered to help him out.  As he got close, a different sales associate asked him if she could be of assistance. He explained he was looking for a thermos.  She said “I know we used to have them.  I don’t think we carry those anymore.  Let me find out for sure. ” She then asked him to take a seat while he waited. She came back with the bad news.  No, they didn’t carry them anymore but she’d taken the time to find out which store did.  Nicely done!

Example 2: She Always, Always, Always has a Smile on her Face

Rosa works at Subway and no matter how long the line, no matter how rushed and perhaps slightly grumpy her customers are, I have never seen Rosa look like she would rather be anywhere else but at work. Rosa greets each person with a smile.  She never gives away even a hint of impatience when the line is long and the customer in front of her can’t decide what toppings should go on their sub.  When the occasional customer complains the line is moving too slow, she apologizes sincerely and completes the order with a smile, a thank you and an “Enjoy your lunch, sir.”  I’ve watched Rosa’s patience with her co-workers as well, especially the new ones.  New employees slow down the line.  Rosa is never impatient with them either.  In her quiet, friendly way, Rosa does her part in making the lives of those she serves a little bit brighter.

I’m sure you know or have been served by some great service providers; people who show up every day with a great attitude, a smile and a desire to help their customers in any way they can.   I’d love to hear about them.  Please share your story here or on my Facebook page.


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