How to Lose Friends and Alienate Customers

Business is bad! This is the general consensus of many business owners I’ve spoken to on returning to Trinidad and Tobago from my vacation. “Is it the food industry being affected?” I ask. “No. Retail.” When I press for possible solutions I get many “I don’t knows” and despondent, vigorous head shaking.

I toss reasons about in my own head, why some businesses may be suffering. I’m thinking that what is being experienced now is not an immediate effect but something that has been taking place over a much longer term – perhaps going unnoticed or perhaps ignored – because business appeared “ok”. Now the consequences are severe.

One owner said to me that she was often told that regardless of the state of the economy, that “Trinis doh let nutting mess wid dey Christmas.” However she observed that this year that Christmas trade was the worst she’s experienced in ages. Apparently she’s also heard that “Trinis doh let nutting interfere wid dey Carnival!” She’s waiting to see.

Conversely, in the service sector, many of my colleagues seem to be doing well. Apparently business leaders are in search of answers and are willing to pay to find out what could be done to turn things around.

Unconsciously, many of us have been practicing how to lose friends and alienate clients. We’re so busy doing what WE think is important forgetting that the only way that we can talk about productivity and return on investment is if money is being made. Sometimes we’re “doing” so much and not “thinking” enough that our busyness masks the fact that we’re losing more money than we’re making.

Illana Burk, Project Pathfinder, Vision Accomplice and CEO of Makeness – a Sacramento California company says “I hear people complain all the time about their lack of business or their frustration about not retaining clients. Lately, my mind is increasingly more boggled by how frequently those same people stare blankly at me when I ask about how much thought they give to the overall experience their clients have with them. Usually, it goes something like this:

So, how do you follow up after a project is completed?

“Well, they’re on my email list.”

So, the next time they hear from you, after giving you their money, will be when you broadcast something to all?

“Uh, I guess so.”

So how often do you send something to your customer list that isn’t sales-related?

“……….. uhhhh……why would I do that?”

The number one way to lose clients is to ignore them. Many of us do. The only time we pay attention is if a customer complains loudly enough and embarrassingly enough that we feel compelled to do something about it. We keep searching for ways to get NEW business while ignoring those who continue to do business with us. Sometimes we don’t even know when these “loyal” customers leave us but we still think they’re with us because they’re on a list that we boast about regularly – “We have 400 customers on our list” – get the picture?

I’ve realized that to keep in touch with customers is a pain in the butt. Think about the insurance company that covers your car or house or personal items. How often do you hear from them? Yes that’s right – when they send the renewal notice or you might hear from them if you had said out loud that you were considering the competition.

Here are just a few more ways that you can alienate customers.

Make promises that you don’t keep – from the minute – “I’ll call you back in ten minutes” – to the mega – “I promise that I will deliver that order by noon today!” How much of that can you take and why do you think that your customers will tolerate it over the long term? Which by the way is really lying to your customers, but you don’t really call it lying because it sounds bad. You give various reasons as to why you couldn’t deliver including the cure all of “just not getting good people to work with these days.”

Make up as many excuses as you can in the hope of explaining why you couldn’t do what you said you would. You got a flat tyre. T&TEC took electricity and so it was out of your hands. Your phone died, battery went, Bmobile is screwing things up because you text but the client never received the text.

The truth is that if you just ignore the Golden Rule every single time, you will ensure that you continue to alienate clients and lose business.

Is the economy bad? Probably…and people are not spending as they use to…that’s true.

But how many ways are you single handedly destroying your own business?

Think about this first before jumping on the “woe is me” and “woe is the industry I’m in” bandwagon.

Think: Golden Rule

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