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Explain any issues to patients in language they can understand

How to lose customers without trying

By Steve Digioia
You failed them again, be honest and face the facts. You worked hard for years to build a loyal customer base, and now your customers are leaving in droves. STEVE DIGIOIA discusses what went wrong.

Sales are down and the bills are piling up. Employee morale is low and coming to work is no longer fun. When business was good, you thought it would last forever. You stopped doing the things that brought you success and took your customers for granted.

You became the ‘bad boss’! If you find yourself in this situation, what happened? How did you get here?

These are the seven most common reasons customers take their business elsewhere. I bet if you asked your customers why they stopped shopping with you, these are some of the reasons they would give.

1. Don’t patronise me

"I bet if you asked your customers why they stopped shopping with you, these are some of the reasons they would give."

I don’t care about the industry jargon or the technical terms salespeople use to describe why a product stopped working. Speak to me like I’m a person. Explain the problem in terms I can understand. Only then will I agree to pay for the repair or replacement. If not, I don’t need your product or company; I’ll go somewhere else.

2. Don’t make me feel unimportant

I need to know you appreciate my business and value me as part of your success. I need to feel welcome when I enter your practice, and to receive a warm and sincere smile. That’s not asking for too much and it’s the least I expect.

3. Don’t give me excuses

I understand problems arise that are out of your control – deliveries arrive late; product shortages happen; unseen damage and costs are unavoidable. Just be honest. Don’t make up a story. I need to trust you.

4. Don’t leave me waiting

The last time I was in your practice, your staff answered the phone and entered into a lengthy conversation just as I approached the counter. Have some consideration; I’m not invisible and my time is also valuable. Remember that I’m the customer and I am in your practice with cash in my pocket. You can always call the other party back. Tend to me promptly and with courtesy or I’ll go somewhere else.

5. Inferior products

I’ve shopped with you for years and have always been happy but now, just to save costs, you’ve started to provide cheaper products. I can tell the difference and I’m not happy with it. Please go back to using the highest quality items, as you’ve always done. That’s why I come here.


6. Don’t hire apathetic staff

If you don’t realise that customer service is why I come to your practice, then your business will never succeed. It’s the employees who make the business, not the fancy furnishings or the artwork on the walls.

Your employees don’t seem to care about me; they spend too much time talking to each other and their eyes are always focused on their phones.

I want to tell them, “I’m here. Sell me something,” but I don’t think it would make a difference. Why did you employ them?

7. Reinvest in the business

I understand that businesses can’t spend much money when things are tight; however, they must fix what’s broken. Your floor is worn, your counters and showcases are chipped and your walls need a paint job. This doesn’t affect the products you sell, but it does affect the overall shopping experience. Add this to the other items above and you will quickly see why I no longer want to come here.

As your long-time patient, I don’t ask for much. OK, maybe I do but that’s what business is all about – satisfying the needs of the customer. There are limits to my loyalty, just as there are limits to the services you can provide but it’s not too late to fix things. You can recover.

Many books have been written about how to lose a customer without really trying, or how much it costs to lose a customer but that’s not important now. We can fix this and we can do it without the help of a book.

As customers, we are a forgiving bunch. We like you and want the best for you. We want to keep coming here but you need to change.

Please remember that a successful business is like a championship sports team; we are all in this together, but the team will break up if you don’t do your part. When that happens, you’ll be out of business but I can always find another team.

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