Losing Customers – what can we learn?
When you run your own business, looking after your customers and winning new ones is an enjoyable part of the job. Unfortunately, now and again, you’ll sometimes end up losing customers.
This part of the job definitely isn’t so nice.
Although it happens to every business, it will leave you thinking about what went wrong, why they left and how you’ll replace the income. Here’s some guidance on what to do when it occurs and how to avoid it happening again.
Why did they leave?
Depending on how you find out, you may never know why.
They may speak to you and explain all, you may get an email saying they don’t need your services anymore, they might stop paying you or they may simply start ignoring your calls and emails.
Whichever route they choose, they may give a reason, they may not.
Some of the most common reasons are:
- They’ve found someone else who is cheaper
- They’ve found a service or product they prefer
- They’re going the DIY route
- They don’t need the product or service anymore
Whichever way you hear about the loss, try not to take it personally.
It’s human nature to want to feel valued and liked, so losing customers will threaten those feelings. Business has its ups and downs and this is definitely one of the downs.
How to respond when faced with losing customers
Despite how you might be feeling, it’s important to take a deep breath before wading in with a quick response which you might regret. It’s natural to lose some confidence immediately after losing customers but don’t let that stop you from communicating further with them.
Act professionally to avoid losing customers
When you find out that a customer is moving on, the best approach is to act professionally.
Getting into a heated debate with them about their decision isn’t going to help and whatever you do, do not tell them they are wrong, even if you think they are. You don’t want to burn your bridges.
They may only leave on a temporary basis with a view to working with you again at some point. They may find that the grass isn’t greener and comerunning back to you in the future; I have seen this happen many times.
They may still recommend you to other businesses but clearly this is unlikely if you’ve behaved negatively towards them.
Wish them well for the future and thank them for their custom.
Ask them why
If they haven’t been upfront in their communications, then you’re entitled to ask why they won’t be working with you again. Just ask in a polite non-confrontational way, and accept if they’d rather not discuss it. Something like:
“I’m sorry to hear we’ll be losing you. So that I can improve my service, can I ask what prompted your decision?”
Time to learn and move on
If you’re freelance working on your own then there is no team to look to for the answers. In a bigger business however, spend some time talking to the staff who the client had contact with. Find out if there were any underlying problems brewing.
Ask yourself the questions…
Was there anything that could have been done differently to prevent the loss? What could you change to prevent this happening in the future?
It can be easy to point fingers but try to avoid blaming individuals.
If the customer told you they wanted to move their business elsewhere because of an issue with a team member then clearly you can’t ignore it. Perhaps provide the whole team with further training or advice to improve future customer relationships.
If you discover that a member of staff has behaved negatively towards a client then you’ll need to address that with them. Explain that it’s not the level of service you expect from them and try to find out why there was a problem between them.
Losing customers over costs
If it becomes clear that the reason was a cost-based one, take another look at your prices. Are they still competitive?
You can’t reduce them to the point of not making a profit but make sure they’re inline with your competitors.
If you feel you are providing a premium product or service, did the client really understand the value of this to them? Did you take the time to explain why you charged the fees that you did?
Are customers looking for new products or services which you’re not offering?
Take a look at what your competitors are offering and their prices to make sure you’re not getting left behind. Maybe the process of purchasing is easier elsewhere. Could you offer an online payment service for example or other initiatives to make things easier for them?
Sometimes, customers will leave for reasons outside of your control but where you can, take time to learn lessons for the future. No matter how long you’ve been running your business, there is always more to learn.
Make contact with your other customers
Hopefully, you’ll have gained some insight into why the customer decided to leave. If so, think about your other customers and whether there could be similar issues that are yet to come to light. Invest some time calling or meeting with your customers to see how they’re feeling (but don’t say it’s because someone has left!). Is their business going through any big changes, expansions or challenges?
Ask them if they’re happy with the product or service you’re providing and if there is anything you could do to improve the relationship.
You might find having these conversations uncomfortable but it’s far better to know now, before things become problematic.
Losing a customer can knock your confidence and your bank balance. If there is now a gap in your workload, spend some time looking for new customers. This could mean going to networking events, looking for new markets to sell your products in or investing in paid marketing techniques.
Get the money sorted
If the loss of a valued customer has had a material negative effect on your business, we can advise you how to limit the effects on your finances and cash flow.
We can show you which areas of spending can be reduced to cover the temporary shortfall of income and how to collect monies to your business more effectively.
We can also look at your business and help you find new markets you hadn’t previously considered.
Focus on what you’re good at and leave the rest to us.
About Mark Boulter
Mark Boulter is responsible for the efficient running of the firm’s infrastructure, and ensuring that THP delivers the best client service. Promoting the vision and culture across all branches, people are the key: “I like people who have a fresh approach and I’m happy for them to run with their ideas,” he says.
Communication across departments is crucial and Mark pioneers this. He ensure that people and departments not only talk to each other, but that they share ideas– whether they’re about marketing, finance, sales, strategy or any other topic that can result in us offering a better service. “I think helping to develop the next generation of THP people is essential to our success,” Mark adds. “We’ve a lot of talented people and our way of doing things increasingly attracts ambitious newcomers who are looking for a fresh approach. That’s good for us and even better news for our clients.”