Coleman Wick

Some thoughts before you bad-mouth that ex-customer

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

There’s plenty of truth in that idiom. But as a researcher, I’ve observed that companies often don’t know something is broken in the first place.

Further, whatever is broken usually affects one or more of the company’s clients. The longer the issue is undetected, the more time for client resentment to fester and build. Next thing you know, a client walks out the door, leaving the company struggling to understand why.

When a company loses a big client, or a number of clients, it might call in a research firm like ColemanWick to help them get to the bottom of things. Which brings to mind another idiom: Shutting the barn door after the horse has bolted.

Because we usually uncover information which, if the company had been privy to it earlier, those clients would likely never have departed.

A recent example involved a company that brought us in to figure out why they were losing market share, and why a big and long-time client dropped them. We were able to uncover the fact that their salespeople were baking in costs which the clients hadn’t signed off on — a problem made all the worse by the sales team not being completely up front about the situation to management. Our findings helped them right the ship, but only after plenty of damage had been done.

We’ve found that there’s usually one particular issue — obscured for some reason — behind what on the surface appears to be unrelated client departures.

And that issue — whatever it might be — won’t come to light until you do some digging, rooting out existing or potential problems within your enterprise, perhaps even getting new insights into ways customers are signaling their dissatisfaction.

Of course, most companies that lose more than one client don’t lose a bunch all at once — it’s a slow drip — just slow enough to fool the company into thinking the incidents aren’t related. Stay fooled long enough and the company dies the death of a thousand cuts.

Concerned about your clients’ satisfaction with what you provide them? Let’s discuss it.

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