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Some Customers ARE More Trouble Than They're Worth

Saturday, October 1, 2005

Most businesses worry about retaining customers only after they've walked out the door for the last time, which is far too late, according to a leading international consulting association. The Society for the Advancement of Consulting canvassed its members to determine what organizations were doing to retain customers in good times and prevent them from becoming alienated during bad times.

The answer was: Not enough.

"There is a genuine complacency when times are good," observes Alan Weiss, Ph.D., CEO of SAC. "The time to develop the relationships which will see you through down times is during up times, yet many businesses ignore that precious opportunity. If you delight me every day, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt when you err. If you ignore me repeatedly, I'll blame you for things that aren't even under your control."

Keith McLeod, SAC member and founder of The Business Centre in Tucson, AZ sums up the survey's findings with these three keys:

  1. Build relationships with your client's staff, so that you make connections are every possible level. Don't be vulnerable to the whims of a single relationship.
  2. Keep the customer apprised of opportunities, not just problems, so that they don't hear from you only when there is bad news.
  3. Maximize your exposures to the customer (e.g., more than one account if you're a bank, more than one service if you're a communications company) so that the overwhelming exposures are working correctly and problems are the exception.

Weiss concludes, "These three issues are nuances, but we've seen a pattern across our international membership that suggests they are among the most important factors in retaining clients in up times and down times."

 
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