This is the first in a series of articles about why businesses lose customers, and what can be done to avoid it.
It seems straightforward—your company needs to attract and keep customers in order to increase revenue. So, when you see that you’re losing customers, you simply:
- Ask your former customers why they left
- Fix the issue
- Win back your customers and keep growing.
However, as you might have already found out, it’s not nearly that easy. Gaining real insight into why your customers are leaving requires a more complex investigation.
The Simple Question: “Why did you leave?”
You’re probably familiar with the answer customers give when asked, “Why did you leave?” Say it with me—“Your prices are too high!” As a company, this answer is deeply frustrating. But what if this is just a superficial answer? What if your customer is just giving you a simple response that you can’t argue with because the real answer requires much more explanation? What if you could ask different questions and uncover the deeper causes behind lost customers?
A Better Question: “How did you leave?”
Getting to the root of why your customers leave involves an important perception shift. Instead of looking at customer interactions as simply a series of business transactions, your company must understand that those interactions comprise a relationship. Customers don’t leave because of just one interaction; they leave because of a breakdown in their relationship with your company. Just like any personal relationship, you must understand and nourish customer relationships.
“Why did you leave?” speaks to the level of a single interaction. “How did you leave,” that is, “How did you get from the beginning of your experience with us to the point when you left,” speaks to the level of a complex relationship. When you ask this question, instead of learning about specific events, you learn about your customers and their relationships with your company.
Perhaps you might find a few customers leave because of price alone, likely because that was how you acquired them in the first place. More likely, you might find that you didn’t listen to the concerns they expressed just prior to leaving, or that they became progressively more dissatisfied with the service they were receiving from your company, or that their needs changed and another company’s sales rep walked through the door at just the right time. Maybe the problem goes way back to the initial sale, and what you failed to learn about who your customers were and what they needed at the very start of the relationship.
Of this you can be sure: what you could learn would have to do with your customers, their real reasons for leaving, and real actions you could take to prevent the losses of similar customers in the future.
In future blog posts, we'll be sharing more information about addressing lost customers, including the in-depth questions that will help you know your customer, and the most common reasons customers leave.
If you're struggling with lost customers and need more insight, Epley can help. We provide a research service that is specifically tailored to lost customers and is focused on truly understanding their relationships with your company. Learn more and receive a complimentary one-page description of our research services here.