No business wants to lose customers. They are the lifeblood of any company. It’s not always easy to pick out the exact reason why customers abandon a product or service. If you’re at a complete loss, put yourself in their shoes and walk yourself through what it is that you’ve done, right or wrong. There are many reasons why individual customers might walk away, but there are a few that are the likely suspects:
1. You only made a sale…
People aren’t just looking to be ‘sold’ something, whether it’s a product or service. They’re looking to be charmed and impressed, not just sold to. The world is a big place, and even with all our technology, humans are less and less connected to each other. To that end, we often forget that people are people, and are looking for a connection on a human level.
2. Your customer service sucks
Sorry, there’s no other way of putting it. Your staff doesn’t pay attention to your customers, and even if they do they don’t know how to actually talk to them! Ever walked into a coffee shop and had all the serving staff staring at the ceiling, heaven forbid they actually have to help you! A great attitude is one of the primary ingredients for good customer service, and if your staff don’t have it — and you’re not encouraging them to change — well, there’s no magic, and without magic, you’re not going to hold onto your customers. Your customers want to be treated with respect and interest.
3. You failed to provide multi-channel support
Not connecting to your customers in the ways they want to be connected to is a big way to lose out on connecting with them altogether. Different people like to be contacted through different mediums: younger Millennials may want you to Snapchat your promotions, whereas an older generation prefers email. For example. This is about making sure you know where your customers go for information, and how they like to receive it.
4. You haven’t delivered what you promised
If you promised your customers the moon, they’re going to expect the moon, and possibly the entire Milky Way attached to it. It’s one thing to build up customer expectations, to oversell your product or service, but if you can’t meet those expectations it’s going to come back and bite you in the you know what. Keep the promises you make, and if your customers are complaining that it’s not what they were expecting, then perhaps it’s time to take a look at what expectations you’re building: do you need to change your message? If you’re promising 100% and you’re really delivering 98% that’s no longer ‘acceptable’; in this customer-centric world, if you’re promising 100%, plan on delivering 110% — that’s the way to keep customers.
5. You’re not learning from your mistakes.
We all get complaints, it’s part of any job — whether it’s directly or not. A little while ago, I wrote this article, which talked about how “…only 8% of customers are likely to make public posts or share a positive experience, whereas this percentage doubles in the case of a bad experience.” This was based on some serious research done by ClickFox for their annual benchmarking report.
6. Your message and method has gone stale
Back in the day, when you first set up your business, you were at the top of your industry and everyone was listening to you! It was great. Unfortunately, for whatever reason you haven’t kept up with the times and your message is outdated. People aren’t seeing you anymore, not between the noise of all the other digital and analogue material they’re seeing. These days you’ve got to be original, find your unique selling point. Southwest Airlines, for example, has their ‘Bags Fly Free’ policy. This isn’t just about what you’re selling, it’s also about how you’re selling it — take a look at how you do things, are your methods obsolete? Has your customer service lost its magic? When was the last time you updated your pitches, your store layout? Even things as silly as updating your decor can have an impact on how comfortable feel when they walk into your store or office (or roll onto your website!).
7. They don’t remember you
Customers need reasons to stay with you. It’s not just about the product or the service, it’s about what you offer them beyond that, how you treat them, why they should remember you. If they can’t remember you, then why would they come back? Memory is a tricky thing, and navigating your way into someone’s long-term memory can be tricky but it’s not impossible. What are you doing to earn your customers’ loyalty? Getting them in the door is one thing, making sure they remember which door to come in is a totally different story! Be memorable, and preferably for a positive event, like in this story, and not a negative experience like what happened in this one.
8. Your competitors are just…better
I hear this excuse a lot: ‘I can’t compete with the big companies, they’ve got too much money, too many people, they control everything!’. Yes, it’s hard to compete with massive corporations like Coca Cola, McDonalds or Microsoft and Apple, but that shouldn’t stop you. How much effort have you put in? Are you even trying? These questions may sound harsh, but we all need to face the facts: if you’re not in it to win it, then what’re you doing in business? There are areas you can compete with the bigger companies: if you’re a small business, focus on what you can offer your customers that no one else can — a personal touch, grassroots knowledge, that sort of thing. There’s never a situation where you can’t make yourself heard above the competitors. Yes, you might have to stand a little taller and work a little harder, but at the end of the day, isn’t that what this is all about in the first place?
9. Reasons beyond your control
Obviously, there are elements that are beyond you control: your customers are immortal, and they’ve got minds of their own. They might move away, change their lifestyles… it’s a little hard to get customers to come back to your “Amazing Steak House” if they’ve become vegetarian for example. That’s something you’ve got no control over. What you can control is how you deal with these losses.
Take the Steak House example, maybe you need to look at some vegetarian options — vegetarians still have omnivorous friends, and everyone enjoys eating out. One of your customers leaving town? Express your regrets. Someone died? Offer condolences, send a card, flowers, digital if you don’t know their address. The point is to remind the community that you’re not just a service or product provider, you’re part of the community and you’re interested in its well-being.
Your customers may be leaving you for only one of those reasons, or for several. The trick is finding out which, and quickly: you don’t want to start at the bottom of the ladder again.