Customer Defections

By Tom McDermott

Customer defections happen all too often and are often caused by sloppy strategies, a lack of training and poor leadership. A customer makes two decisions, the first is the one to start doing business and the second decision is to stop doing business.

When a customer defects, both parties lose. The customer has to find a new place to do business, which is much easier than the business needing to find a new customer. Customers defect because they lose confidence in a business from either a series of bad experiences or perhaps even one bad experience. Some customers are more sensitive than others defecting after one bad experience while others tolerate bad service until they reach a breaking point. Either situation should be avoided at all cost. It happens in every business, customers leave unnoticed taking their cash, leaving behind bewildered managers clueless as to why profits are eroding.

For example, the grocery business is notorious for creating anxious customers. We search and search shelves for what we need only to stand in a line of 10 registers with only 3 open. The risk to the grocer is that the consumer will get frustrated and try another store, even of that store is farther away. If that store has a policy that all registers should be attended during peak hours, there is a high probability that the consumer will defect from that store giving their cash to one that is paying attention.

Rude employees are another big reason customers defect. Employees with bad attitudes are like a cancer, the attitude spreads. If management doesn’t rectify the attitude with training or elimination, customers leave and employees leave.

Have you ever encountered an employee that has good intentions but is trying to bluff their way thru the handling of a problem? I sure have and it is very frustrating. You can’t blame the employee, only the management for not providing the proper training.

I was in the middle of writing a book recently and needed a break from my keyboard. I was in a small village in Ireland and decided to grab some delicious Sheppard’s Pie and a Guinness at the local pub. While sitting at the bar enjoying my food, I started chatting with three ladies that were from the US. The manager, who worked behind the bar, told the ladies that I was like a local and that I could give them advice on what to do while in the area. How did the manager know this about me? He noticed that I had been in the pub a few times and took the time to get to know me. He made me feel very comfortable and welcomed. I was happy to give his business my cash because I felt good about doing it. He was well versed in customer service skills.

Back to the ladies: during the conversation, one of them asked me what I did for a living. I told her thatI was a writer, which precipitated further inquiries about what I wrote about. My response was that I was writing about the relationship between customers and businesses. She responded immediately “Ugh, customers, I hate customers!” It was then when I asked them what they did for a living. “We are customer service agents for American Airlines”. I actually started laughing out loud! I said, “wait a minute, you are customer service agents but you hate customers?” They all nodded yes. I couldn’t wait to dive into this subject. One of the ladies said “customers are annoying, they walk up to the desk atthe gate when we are busy and expect us to talk to them. Don’t they know we have a flight to get out?” One of them realized very quickly how ridiculous they sounded and gave it her best attempt to back pedal to recover from their responses.

I finally asked them if they receive any training on how to handle customers and the importance of the relationship with them. The all three answered simultaneously, “no”. They explained that they receive training on how to do their job, use the computer etc., but no customer service training. I said, “you should have that training available to you”. One of them said, “yes, but it should start with our CEO”. That was a powerful statement. They knew I was right but were helpless only using their own talents without any training to communicate customer service objectives. Bad customer service strategies compromise top line growth, period! If you don’trealize this, it is time to wake up and pay attention. Bad customer service raises costs, it promotes employee turnover and customer defections. Invest in training and sound customer service strategies to preserve revenue. Don’t ignore the obvious!

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