Learning from Losing

I read a story recently which outlined how tough it was to leave certain companies from the customer’s perspective. The headline was “Sky vs Customer” and it outlined the 96 minute conversation between the two parties as the conversation became more agitated. Needless to say, Sky came in for a lot of flak and have had to defend their position subsequently.

My point is this; it is all very well to put barriers in the way before a customer leaves us but there is a tipping point after which these inducements to stay (that’s what they should be) become counter-productive. We need to let customers go with good grace and wish them well hoping that they will return.

But how do we learn from these losses? It is usually difficult for both parties at the end of a Commercial relationship to clearly verbalise why they are not right for one another and it is often uncomfortable to explain that without an intermediary. One could argue that in transient relationships it is unimportant but for major customer losses it is vital to understand why they have left.

In marriage guidance and in disputes which break down an intermediary is an invaluable asset to get both parties around the table. Large companies realise this and use them to get to the root causes of customer departures. The best large organisations or the smaller ones who have Service as the key to their strategy employ third parties to find out the real reasons why those customers felt they had to go elsewhere.

Often this will take the form of a call by these intermediary agencies to find out what was really behind the departure. The honest feedback given to a stranger is extremely valuable to the company as it is often not the reason the customer first gave. We did this at Carlsberg when long standing customers left us and the insight was invaluable and drove a lot of our process changes and training regimes. It was also a sustainable point of difference which was a positive return after the loss of the customer.

Finally, it made the customer feel more valued even after they had served notice to leave and often resulted in a change of heart, especially if our competitor’s Account Opening procedures were painful.

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