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If your entire staff turned over today, would anyone notice?

on a mission
Creative Commons License photo credit: llamnudds

And would they care?

If a long time customer (2 years, 5 years, 25 years, whatever) walked into your business today and all your staff was different from their last visit, would they notice the change?

Why do I ask?

Engagement. Relationship. Stickiness.

IE: Buzzwords that answer the question: “Why the heck should I come back?”

Think about it.

  • Have your employees engaged your customers in conversation, or just sold ’em something?
  • Have they worked to create a relationship that causes their customers to gravitate to them or ask for them by name when they call?
  • Do your customers go to their assigned sales rep because that’s who they’re assigned to, or because they know they’ll get the help they need from someone who knows their situation better than anyone?
  • Have they established a substantial level of trust with that customer to encourage repeat visits?
  • Have they exerted the effort necessary to learn as much as they can about the customer in order to serve them better?
  • Does your staff take ownership of their clients and their situation?
  • Do your clients ask for a particular waiter when they come to your restaurant?

Is 2% the only difference between you and them?

If your staff hasn’t taken the steps I described above, wouldn’t it be a lot easier to go elsewhere to save 2%?

How are you insulating yourself from that?

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Do you know why you lost that client? I do.

Last week, a story in one of our local papers noted that a local business had lost a customer that they had served for thirty years.

Thirty years is a long time to have a customer. That’s really impressive.

This big, regular customer accounted for a major portion of this local business’ revenue.

When the owner of that business was interviewed about the loss of that big customer – one of the largest businesses of that kind in our area – the owner said he was “dismayed” that he wasn’t given the opportunity to re-bid, and offer lower prices or enhanced service.

The straw that broke the backs of 1000 camels? He followed that with “They went with <the other vendor> for reasons I don’t know, I was flabbergasted.”

I’ve been in that business several times in the last 9 years. The store looks like it hasn’t changed in 30 years. It sends a signal that the rest of the business is probably operated similarly.

If you were in the retail Catholic goods business, Ian would have a field day with you. It’d be like game 7 of the 2008 NBA Finals. You’d be down 30 points before you knew it and the Celtics would be putting in retired players from the 1960’s to mop up the floor with you.

But that isn’t why you lost that big customer.

I know exactly why you lost the business.

You don’t have a relationship with them.

Your comments prove it. I suspect that you kept that customer for a long time because “they’d always done it that way”, but that is just a guess.

I verified that lack of a relationship by following the trail of evidence, and asking a few questions. I was told that your old customer approached the new vendor for help, saying they were unsatisfied with you.

That too is obvious, just from your comments in the article.

When you’ve had a customer for thirty years, and they have become 20-25% of your revenue stream, what in the world kept you from offering them “enhanced service” well before this happened?

If you could lower prices (or offset that by adding value) in order to put an iron cage around this customer so you’d never lose them…why didn’t you?

How could you NOT know that they were unhappy with you? After 30 years, you should have keys to the place. You should have your own coffee mug in their break room.

Ok, maybe keys is a little overboard, but still – you should have a good first name basis, personal relationship with the owner and management of that business.

And you should have known the business part of the relationship was broken long before it hit the papers. Long before you made that customer so frustrated that they felt asking you for help was a lost cause, so they asked your competitor.

Yet you are “flabbergasted” at the reason for losing that customer. And you blame that other business for being ruthless.

Look in the mirror. That’s whose fault it is.

For everyone else reading this: Which customer are YOU taking for granted?