How to lose a customer in two steps or less


It's a universal given that when we shop somewhere we'd like to be treated with a modicum of respect. When our shopping experience is negative, statistics show it takes only two such incidents and we're likely to shop elsewhere. That's not a lot of wiggle room. Think of it as "two strikes and you're out."

The real question is how many customers have you lost due to customer service blunders?

In a survey of more than 2,000 consumers in the U.S and the U.K., nearly half (49 per cent) said poor service led them to change service providers in at least one industry over the past year. This according to 2005 survey results appearing in CRM Today.

If the experiences listed below seem familiar, you can see why people make changes.

Poor Customer Service case #1: The dry cleaner near my house advertises that if you bring your clothes in by 9:00 AM they can have them ready for you by 5:00 PM that same day. But when I arrive at 8:30 in the morning and ask for my clothes to be ready that evening, I'm often the recipient of a prolonged sigh, followed by an obligatory "okay."

Heck, if same day service is such a burden, don't advertise it.

Poor Customer Service case #2: A well-known bulk-discount chain store offers special buys on clothing and electronics and stocks large-size containers of food for bargain prices. You have to pay to become a member. A friend of mine says the person signing up new members is friendly enough, but after you're a member, 95 per cent of the employees appear burdened to have to serve you.

Poor Customer Service case #3: A colleague tells about visiting a computer / peripheral equipment store, and that when he's made purchases there (always spending more than $200 per visit), the help behind the counter acts like it's a huge chore to take his money and put his purchases in a bag - if they even bother to offer to bag his purchase at all.

During one visit he even commented: "Hey, I just spent $260 here, could you at least show a little appreciation?"

The result of these experiences? I now drive two miles out of my way to a different dry cleaner, my friend never renewed her membership at that club store, and my colleague has found a different place to shop for computer and printer needs.

Each place of business was given at least two chances, but repeated failures in the customer service arena resulted in losing us as customers.

In another survey, this one conducted in the U.S. by Amdocs, a provider of customer relationship software, 1,000 U.S. consumers were asked about shopping experiences across a wide variety of industries. Results indicate that consumers "will not take it anymore" when it comes to receiving poor service.

  • More than 75 per cent said they would hang up after waiting on hold for longer than five minutes.
  • More than 80 per cent would rather visit the dentist, pay their taxes, or sit in a traffic jam than deal with an unhelpful representative.
  • 75 per cent said that they tell friends and family about their negative experiences.
  • 85 per cent reported that negative customer service experiences drive them to switch providers.

With stats like this, it's crucial that anyone having contact with customers (and this goes for internal customers, too) be trained to bathe their patrons with good service and an attitude of appreciation.

Furthermore, treating customers adequately may no longer be enough. Recent research appearing in the California Management Review indicates that satisfied customers will return to do business with you 28 per cent of the time - but that delighted customers will return 85 per cent of the time. With those numbers, it only makes sense to provide outstanding customer service!

Step #1 for Losing a Customer
The first step toward losing customers is placing people in customer service positions without providing much in the way of training.

These people represent your company! If they don't do it well, whatever money you think you're saving by not training them is being lost many times over with dissatisfied customers slipping away - and taking their money with them.

To prevent losing customers, train service reps on listening to customers and identifying needs as well as acceptable solutions. Think how frustrating it is to deal with a customer service rep who knows very little about the products or service he or she is representing, let alone display an attitude that they don't care about your problem.

Step #2 for Losing a Customer
Another way to lose customers is provide no feedback to employees on how they're perceived by customers.

One way to raise awareness of good (or bad) customer service in your company is by using a "mystery shopper." The trick here is not to rely on face-to-face shopping. These days, good mystery shopper programs can also evaluate customer service provided on phone calls and through email.

Bottom line, poor service can quickly lead to lost business. Raising awareness of good customer service among all employees helps keep the customers coming back.

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About The Author

Dan Bobinski
Dan Bobinski

Dan Bobinski is a training specialist, author, and an accomplished keynote speaker. He's been providing management and leadership training to Fortune 500 companies as well as smaller, regional concerns for more than 20 years.

Older Comments

Spot on. Recently tried to purchase a computer for my son at PC World Edinburgh. When I approached a member of staff I was brusquely told he was too busy to help. Went across the road and bought at Comet. The staff there knew less about PCs but were helpful. Don't shop at PC World now unless I can help it.

Bruce Nelson Edinburgh

Thanks for a great article! I would add a couple of additional points:

3. Put some 'big business' policies in place, like 'no returns' or anything that makes you say 'I'm sorry, but we can't' to customers.

4. Ignore customer requests for special items, services, or hours.

5. Fail to keep your promises to customers; for example, fail to keep your posted hours.

Becky McCray Small Biz Survival blog

Becky McCray

We are dependant on customers.