You’re approaching another quarter-end and your customer retention numbers seem to be headed in the wrong direction. You look around and come up with some quick explanations as to why you’re losing customers. The economy, your competitor that’s selling on price, Obamacare, and lack of sophisticated systems round out the top of your list of excuses. Hey, I get it. Those are the easy ones to point to. The excuses that you can’t control and those that make the blame game so much more tolerable. But if you really want to know why you’re losing your customers start by doing the following:
1. Ask a few that have already left. It always strikes me how apprehensive business people are to follow up with a former customer to inquire as to why they left. Doing this provides an opportunity to reopen the door and establish some goodwill in the form of listening to what’s important to them.
2. Walk the floors. Many executives still hide behind their glass or wood doors. They isolate themselves from reality claiming to work on the “important stuff” as they develop strategies to grow the business. The problem is that many executives don’t know what the issues are and therefore will never be able to develop an effective business strategy. The challenges and opportunities of your business are well known to the “rank and file” employees – the ones interacting directly with your customers. Talk to them and ask them what’s going on.
3. Get in the field. Another tactical initiative that is required to build effective strategies. Meet your customers, your suppliers, referral sources, and partners. Get involved, ask lots of questions. Focus on THEM. Listen. Forget show and tell. It’s not about you.
4. Establish a customer advisory council. Put together a council consisting of existing customers of different industries and sizes. Create a charter that tasks the council with identifying problem areas and possible opportunities. Bring the council together twice a year if possible and two other times during the year by phone. Listen.
The fact is that it’s probably an obvious reason why you’re losing customers. For most businesses and their leaders they just don’t want to listen. It’s easier to blame characteristics that are uncontrollable. But those leaders that roll up their sleeves, get in the trenches, and ask the tough questions are those leaders that have the best chance of reversing poor customer retention numbers.