I was recently in a local retail store with a big sign announcing “Closing Sale, everything 70% off.” It was enough to get me to enter the store and ask the clerk why the store was closing.  The clerk, who happened to be the Assistant Manager, said “Internet prices are killing us.”


I tried to formulate a sympathetic answer, but the truth prevailed.  I finally said “Did you know I complained about your full time clerk for years; she was a deterrent to customers, she was never in a good mood and didn’t know her products, so I chose to buy down the street.  She had a bad reputation among customers.”


He said “No, sorry about that, I guess it’s too late to do anything about it now.”  And there you have it.  Learning what went wrong after the proverbial barn door closes is too late.


Too many companies ASSUME customers take their business elsewhere because competitors offer lower prices. It’s an easy “out.”  Well, it’s time to stop assuming, because a lack of loyalty often has its roots in considerations other than price.


Many companies think that asking their customers one or two questions such as, “Did you get everything you ordered satisfactorily?” is enough.  But, what confidence do you have that the typical yes/no response to such a question from a frontline employee will make its way up the food chain and ultimately make a difference to the customer?


Try using a more disciplined approach when you ask questions: “How could we have served you better?” or “What mattered most that fell short?”


For example, I got quotes from a few moving companies.  I gave the job to the company that showed up on time and got the quote to me immediately.  This conveyed a sense of reliability.  The price was in the same range for each, but quick response and reliability won the sale.  Do you and your sales team know the “tie breaker” in your business?


Conversely, let’s talk about you, the customer.  I urge you to put your polite shoes away and tell companies why you are choosing to shop elsewhere.  As consumers we are inundated with choice, but deep down we often know where we would prefer to shop.


I recently switched auto insurance carriers. Why?  Well no one at my old provider ever reached out to me.  I felt taken for granted.  After I switched, I called my old carrier to tell them why.  I asked to speak to a manager so my answer would get documented. The conversation went like this: “Hi, I’d like to tell you why I am leaving your company.”  The Managers reply was: “Okay, sure, I’m sorry to see you leave. What is the reason?”


I succinctly explained how when I needed roadside assistance, I called their help line. I was put through the Spanish Inquisition by the very people who were supposedly there to help me.


I proceeded to tell the Manager what to write down: “reason for switch: representative took up 10 minutes asking client questions while client was sitting nervously on a busy roadway.”  And, half of those questions had nothing to do with my need for their service.


I didn’t want the insurance carrier to think that I had switched because I had spent 15 minutes online seeking a new quote.  I wanted them to know that the driver for my decision was the poor experience they provided.


Point is, let’s open up the communication lines!  Ask your customers what they care about. And stop assuming price is always at the top of the list. We have scientific evidence that most of the time, it is not.  Customers, don’t expect companies to read your mind; tell companies what they need to do to win and keep your business


Complaints hurt, yet the smart companies invite complaints and create an easy avenue for receiving them.  Your client is doing you a favor.  Accept the feedback and listen carefully, follow up with the client, ask questions. Stop being oversensitive.  Hearing the truth allows you to act on it and stay in business. We are living in a time when one disgruntled customer will not only tell 11 of his/her friends about the bad experience, but will Yelp bad reviews, trash you on Facebook, unsubscribe to your Twitter feeds or newsletters.  Worse yet, never buy from you again, so why put it all at risk because you are afraid to hear something negative?


Complaints will often point to what is relevant to your customers.  If you want to learn what is “most” important to your customers and prospects in efforts to create a competitive advantage, call or email us and we will tell you how we do it.


Contributed by Dominique Dumont, Associate Consultant, Smart Advantage, Inc.



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