Look on the Bright Side: Customer Feedback

We all lose customers from time to time, but what we can we learn from it?

Customer feedback sign

So you’ve lost a customer, or are about to. It happens to every business.

No matter how bad you feel, don’t waste the opportunity to find out what went wrong and how you can improve. At the very least, you can learn to keep others from leaving.

Make it a point to talk to or at least communicate with every lost customer, or those who are heading for the door.

Here are a few important benefits to getting feedback from customers who are leaving or who have already left:

  • Win customers back. If you listen to customers who have left and respond to their concerns, it’s not impossible to win back 50 percent of them.
  • Get competitive information. Feedback lets you know your strengths and weaknesses, and it lets you know when your competitors are offering lower prices, special programs, etc.
  • Make training and investment decisions. Once you know your problems, you know where to put your money to improve things.

Before you get these valuable benefits, however, you have to identify your customers. For example, banks, magazine publishers and mail-order companies have it comparatively easy: They can identify those who stop doing business with them, and they know how to reach them, but what about an auto manufacturer? They rarely know when they’ve lost a customer.

Companies like food manufactures, may see declining revenues but have trouble finding out which customers are no longer doing business with them, wholesalers, retailers or the ultimate consumer.

No matter how hard it may seem to stay in touch with customers, it can be done, but in order to prevent customers from leaving, you first have to know who your customers are.

Here are four examples of how different types of businesses can identify and keep in touch with customers:

1. A retail business could issue membership cards that qualify customers for discounts. The company’s database then captures all buying information, number of visits, items purchased, dollars spent and more.

2. A restaurant could log reservations into a computer, which lets it keep track of how often people dine there. If a regular customer doesn’t show up for a while, a staff member calls to see if there’s a problem.

3. A book publisher could bind a reply card into books. The card might ask what the buyer thought of the book, whether he or she would like a catalog, and so on. To get people to respond, the publisher could offer a discount on the next purchase.

4. An appliance manufacturer could use warranty cards to get information on customers. They could also have 800 numbers for problems and inquiries. When consumers call in, service reps get names, addresses and phone numbers.

Even if you know your customer, it will help to define a loss. For example, if a customer’s business with your express delivery service is off 20 percent, if may reflect a normal dip, but a drop of 50 percent may mean the customer is sending more business to a competitor, and that rates a phone call.

Anyone who has contact with customers can supply you with valuable feedback. Customer service reps, salespeople, delivery people and others can all help you head off losing customers.

You should give anyone with frontline contact a stack of forms that asks the customer for feedback. Information gathered could include: what the customer doesn’t like, reasons why the customer is considering discontinuing business, the reps own impressions of the customer, and suggestions for keeping or bringing back the customer. Have them fill it out every time they get feedback, especially if he or she gets news of a customer leaving.

Most companies can do a much better job hanging on to customers if they would just do three simple things; first, identify customers who have left or are about to; second, rope them back into the fold by working to satisfy their problems and satisfy their needs; and third use the feedback you get from both lost and current customers to put customer friendly policies and mechanisms in place.

About the Author

Joe Love draws on his 25 yeAll rights reserved worldwide.ars of experience helping both individuals and companies build their businesses, increase profits, and success coaching programs. Copyright© by Joe Love and JLM & Associates, Inc.

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