Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Don’t Ever Make This Mistake: Even Your Best Customers May Consider Other Options

They Do Have Other Options.
During the past few weeks I have had an experience I found quite interesting, especially because it has served me to demonstrate, once again, there are still many business out there for which customers are simply numbers and nothing else.

It turns out that my wife and I have been working with this tax advisors firm since we arrived in Spain, seven years ago. And since that time (seven years x 12 months = 84 months) we have never had any problems.

Whenever we had any questions or requests, we got in contact with them, they offered us their professional advice and that was that. Nothing else.

The services they rendered us every month were the usual services you get from such a company: preparing tax returns, filling out all necessary forms, really nothing particularly special.

Our problem started last year when our fiscal situation changed and we ask them for a review of their offer and monthly services fee. Based upon the relationship we have had with them for so many years, I thought they wouldn’t have any problem in considering my request.

What response did I receive? None. At least not a single one indicating they had taken my request to revise their monthly service fee seriously.

Never force your loyal customers to look for what your competition might offer them.

And it was not only that I didn’t receive a reply to my request, but when we received the bill for their professional services that month, they have charged us the full fee plus an increase we had no idea was coming through.

That is: not only we didn’t receive any special treatment or price reconsideration or anything based on the relationship connecting us. They charged us the full monthly fee plus an increment, a small one but always an increment at the end,  and to make it all more intense, without any prior notice.

When a good, long-term customer, comes to you asking for price review, you better take it seriously. Something must be happening.

What happened then? That for the first time in seven years, much to my regret, we started thinking about considering other options, therefore I got in touch with another tax advisors firm to inquire about services they offered and how much it would cost us.

And you may laugh at it and everything, but is not a new situation for me.

While I was working for a major alarms company here in Spain, the firm had a rather strange policy regarding customers: Best prices, deals and promotions were only available to new customers we were bringing in, and for customers who had dropped out of their contracts and our company was pretending to bring them back by offering substantial discounts on the monthly service fee along with promotional items.

Your best customers are the ones who reward you with their trust for years and pay always on time.

That is, for the loyal customer, paying its monthly fee without delay and without complaint, the one who occasionally called to request maintenance service, for that client the company had nothing special: there were no discounts on the monthly fee, no promotional gifts, nothing whatsoever.

As long as he paid regularly and without delay, nothing happened. Yes: if he got behind in a single installment, he was contacted immediately to be brought back in line by the company’s legal department. Out of that, nothing happened. Each client was simply included as a number within a huge customer database and nothing else.

The time to nurture customer’s loyalty is while they are pleased with your company, not when they’ve already decided to go with someone else.

Our company took action only when a customer decided to drop out of their contract, when they had already made the decision to go with someone else. At that time, we salespeople were sent to visit these customers and sign them back in, giving them our very best service, our best smiles and making all kind of promises to hook them again.

Let me tell you there is nothing more difficult and unpleasant for a sales rep, than to talk to a customer who has already dropped out and is working with the competition because simply they will discharge upon the sales guy all the contained frustration, disappointment and displeasure they have accrued against the company during the time it took them to make the decision to switch to other people.

What is the first thing you need to do when a customer decides to stop working with you?

And this is actually a tricky question because your main responsibility as an entrepreneur, in a normal situation, is to ensure none of your customers reach a point of dissatisfaction strong enough as to decide to take their business somewhere else.

Moreover, you have to be a little more demanding than that: You must ensure you do not give your customers any reason to be dissatisfied with your product or services at any time.

But as we know this is rather impossible because each client is different and you can’t please them all, if you come across a client who decides to go work with your competition, your first obligation should be to know why he’s doing so.

What made that customer you've had for so long decide to do business with your competition?

Which were the reasons for their disillusionment, their discomfort? What was it that made everything changed and, from one moment to the other, your loyal customer decided to switch and work with other people?

Only receiving these answers in all honesty, understanding and analyzing them thoroughly, you will have the opportunity to develop a better offer, to make a better product.

As I said earlier, don’t you make the mistake of thinking your loyal customers can (and will) only do business with you, because it’s not true. Neither neglect your loyal customers, those who pay you regularly and reward you with their trust.

The most successful businesses in the world are those who cultivate many long term, loyal customers like these because, as time goes by, those are the ones who bring the most economic and reputational value to the business.

Photo credit: Therina Groenewald | Ver portfolio

I recommend you to read the following related post in this blog:
Loyalty and CKCH: When is it that you really lose a customer?

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