Your Customer is leaving

“It’s not like a promotion to try to get new customers to the service; it’s a tool to try to get customers from leaving the service.” – Bob Elek

In the harsh business world companies struggle to gain new customers and retain the current ones since that’s the only way to become and remain profitable. The fact is that despite a large customer base, only a small portion of the customers really contribute significantly to a company’s bottom-line and that is the reason that companies must take steps to maintain a loyal and lucrative set of customers. When a customer is leaving or on the verge of it, most often there is no prior indication of a customer’s dissatisfaction. So unless a company is actually monitoring behaviour and buying patterns they will never really know which customer is loyal and which customer is leaving.

While knowing the customer base as a whole is important, it is even more crucial to understand each customer individually. This is so vital since each customer’s needs and expectations vary and while one day they maybe pleased with what your company offers, the next day brings the dreaded news that the customer is leaving. To minimise this risk and seek out new strategies to retain customers, companies need to continually make changes and innovate. It would be extremely risky to ignore retention methods since the cost of replacing a long standing and profitable customer goes beyond just monetary losses. It would be wiser and less costly to invest in resources that allow your company to keep track of how your customer feels about the offerings versus that of the competition and whether your customer service is hitting the right note. A customer is leaving is not something that a company will ever experience if they approach retention strategies correctly and actively.

If even one customer is leaving or disgruntled enough to think about moving away it could affect business adversely – others could follow and the negative tide could wash over a company leading to its downfall. Achieving customer loyalty is therefore even more crucial than before. Loyal customers display behaviours that are quite different from other ‘types’ of customers. This ‘happy set’ will renew contracts, come back repeatedly with business, provide recommendation for your company and its offerings to others, go over the actual spend projections provided, come back to you for suggestions and on their own prerogative post glowing comments via the social media sites. Imagine the cost savings on marketing and promotions – you have yourself a band of enthusiastic evangelists bringing in business for you.

Strange but true is the fact that within loyal customers too segments are possible. There could be some that would be more easily persuaded by competition while others would stay on even if they had to pay a little more than the market price. Put together a ‘loyal customer feedback survey’ and review their responses. It would provide a clearer picture of what makes them loyal and what would shake their confidence in your company. Using these responses, keep track of behaviours and also use their answers as strategies that can be applied to get the other segments of customers in to the loyal customer base. When targeting a potential customer base too, these signs and behaviours can prove helpful.

Customer segmentation makes it simpler for companies to assess which customers will be a good bet and which ones may need extra ‘motivation’ to stay. There could be some customers who may be showing signs of interest but their actions don’t match their words. These ‘maybes’ are probably dealing with some constraints like budget, a tough contract with another company or just unsure of what they want and whether you can provide it. Only if your company is able to understand the actual obstacle can you do anything about it. Pursue a relationship with this customer by being ‘the one’ to remove the barriers. Do this and you won’t hear that a customer is leaving.

Another set of customers are your sworn loyalists. They provide high ratings, lavish comments and provide the business to match their words. It would still be necessary for a company to do everything they can to keep these customers happy and at the same time derive short and long term benefits for their company. A business relationship must be a win-win for both parties involved.

Yet another set of customers are those who don’t match up to the actual loyalists. They are with your company but there spending does not put them in the category of long term customers. They would most likely leave you. Evaluate why they are with your company – your company has something exclusive that they currently need, there is a dearth of companies that match your products and or service or they are just waiting till the contract runs out. Whatever the reason, it would behove your company to address their reasons for dissatisfaction and turn them into confirmed and long term customers with business to match. To get these customers too, your company would have put in a lot of effort – a customer is leaving or wants to leave is never heartening to hear.

Yet another sub-segment of customers are the ones who play havoc on your company. They have been with your company but it’s a lot more expensive and requires a lot of effort to keep these customers happy or profitable. They are potentially dangerous since despite every effort, they would have negative comments that could dent your reputation. A company must find a way to ease such customers out of the customer base before they can actually cause harm. The phrase ‘a customer is leaving’ is an extremely heartening one in this sub-segment!

The good news is that there are several methods and tools for companies that can help them understand how to get the maximum of customers into the segment that is more profitable and long term.

– Get out there and speak to customers. Build relationships with customers through face to face interactions, understand their unspoken needs by establishing a rapport with key decision makers within their firm and get their feedback to know what you can improve and what should do more of. Customers love the attention they receive through feedback since they can clearly point out what they want, what issues are important to them and how your company can help them in achieving their long term goals. When companies actual take the customer’s suggestion ‘on board’ and implement them, the customers feel a sense of belonging and find it easier to connect with such companies. Companies can never undermine the usefulness of a well-trained and highly knowledgeable front-line team who not only understand your customer base but can draw out crucial information from customers that would benefit both your company and the relationship with the customer.

Customers who are seriously interested and keen in your company will provide honest feedback on both the good and negative aspects thereby providing a value added information to better your offerings and service. Knowing which customer is leaving and which will see you through hard times will be a vital differentiator between sustained success and an unprofitable business. Prudent companies realize that there will always be some factors in the business environment that they cannot control – like new launches from competition, upcoming companies and changes in trends – however they can control customer loyalty which is all they need to run a lucrative and sustainable business.

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