Business is all about choices.  That means that anyone you serve has the freedom to choose between you and one of your competitors for your product or service.

The important question is: Do you know why a client or customer opts to leave and what do you do about it?  As a quick example, I’ve been going to the same dental practice for many years.  Last week three issues occurred that made me rethink my choice.  They included:

1.  I was kept waiting for 20 minutes before seeing the dental hygienist (something which occurs quite frequently when I have an appointment at this office).

2. While having my teeth cleaned, another employee struck up a conversation with my hygienist about planning a retirement party for one of the dentists. My hygienist never asked if it was okay to have this conversation while she was cleaning my teeth but simply acted as though I was invisible. (By the way, the cleaning was more difficult than usual and the hygienist was well-aware of my discomfort.)

3. When I checked out, the receptionist never made eye contact with me, never used my name and never thanked me.  She simply said “There you go” which struck me as dismissive.

The next day, I chose to leave this dental practice and switch to a local competitor.  What happened next was even more surprising.  When I called to have my records transferred, no one ever asked what prompted my decision.  They simply let me leave!

Paul Wang (professor at Northwestern University) points out there are two types of customers–transaction buyers and relationship buyers.  Transaction buyers are only interested in price and tend to have no loyalty.  In contrast, relationship buyers place high value on trust and if properly cultivated, will give you their business for a lifetime.

Relationship buyers stop buying when you stop loving them and stop treating them as they expect to be treated. In an article by Arthur Middleton Hughes, he makes the following recommendations about your relationship buyers:

a. Know who they are–keep track of them in a database; treat them like gold.

b. Communicate with them–thank them for their business.

c. Use your best customer service people with them–consider a Gold customer service team.

d. Build equity in the process–provide rewards for volume business and length of service.

e. Don’t stress price–give your relationship buyers something of value, which usually isn’t price.

When I left the dental practice, it seemed that no one cared and none of the steps above ever occurred.  This made my decision to exit very clear.  In my mind, poor communication is a significant error.

So when it comes to your clients (customers), spend time finding out what they need and want so they don’t decide to exit!  It all starts with communication.


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