Sunday, March 24, 2013

How To Lose A Customer - Method #1

One of the easiest things to accomplish in any business is to lose a customer. Good ones are hard to find, but they’re easy to lose. A certain amount of customer turnover is to  be expected; people move out of town, suffer pocketbook problems, even experience lifestyle-altering events like getting married and having kids that change their buying habits. On top of that natural attrition, though, is the kind we create ourselves. It’s the result of the things we say, do, think, and ignore that drive our customers away.

Losing customers is never intentional, but you wouldn’t know that from the way some business owners and their employees treat the people who pay the bills. They inadvertently insult them, frustrate them, embarrass them, and confuse them in numerous ways that make the customer hesitate before coming back to the shop for more. Some of the problems come from poor attitudes, others from simple misguidance. Often, we think we’re doing the right thing when it’s actually the worst possible thing we can do from a customer relations standpoint.

Here is one of the most common ways we treat our customers that are almost guaranteed to drive them away:

You’re the expert. Let’s say you are in the automotive restyling business. You’ve spent years learning the tricks of your trade, the special skills that let you tweak a convertible top until it’s watertight or lay down a pinstripe with the precision of a NASA engineering draftsman. That’s probably why your customer brought his ride to you in the first place; if he could do it himself, he wouldn’t need you. But that doesn’t mean you have to rub his face in it.

Let’s face it, tricked-out wheels are all about ego. My car is cool and it makes me cool. It’s a reflection of my self-image, my style, my place in the world. If I ask a question, please don’t make me feel stupid when you answer it. You may be able to prove you’re smarter than me, but it won’t improve our relationship. If I have an idea or suggestion on what I want done to my car, please don’t ridicule it. Even if what I want you to do violates all the laws of physics, you don’t need to belittle me when you tell me it can’t be done.

It’s all about respect for the customer, an attitude that’s reflected in the words you choose and even the body language you use when dealing with them. Here are some phrases that you might use to raise the customer’s self-esteem:

  • “I can see how you might think that…”
  • “Good question!”
  • “That’s an interesting idea, but…”

Above all, no matter how hard it is, resist laughing, snorting, or shaking your head in disbelief when the customer asks a question or makes a suggestion.

Dave Donelson distills the experiences of hundreds of entrepreneurs into practical advice for business owners and managers in the Dynamic Manager's Guides and Handbooks, a series of how-to books about marketing and advertising, sales techniques, and management strategy.

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