If I Lose A Customer | Bottle In Desert

If I Lose a Customer…

…I have failed.

  • If I Lose A Customer | Bottle In DesertFailed to provide enough value.
  • Failed to listen closely enough.
  • Failed to communicate effectively enough.

Not every customer lost is a failure. People move out of the market, people lose the ability to pay, and people’s needs change.

Yet, if I look at my lost customers, the great majority represent a failure on some level.

Admitting failure is the first step. After that, failure is to be learned from, not dwelt upon.

Each lost customer is an opportunity to grow and to absorb the lessons that will help retain the next customer in line.

What can you learn from your lost customers?

About 

By Adam Toporek. Adam Toporek is an internationally recognized customer service expert, keynote speaker, and workshop leader. He is the author of Be Your Customer's Hero: Real-World Tips & Techniques for the Service Front Lines (2015), as well as the founder of the popular Customers That Stick® blog and co-host of the Crack the Customer Code podcast.

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11 replies
  1. Bill Dorman
    Bill Dorman says:

    You can learn many things from lost customers and if you look close enough there is usually a reason. Hopefully you grow from there and don’t keep repeating the same mistakes in the future.

    Also, don’t be too quick to finger as most of the time it was something you controlled in the first place. Be truthful with your assessment.

    Reply
    • Brian D. Meeks (
      Brian D. Meeks ( says:

      I used to create solutions for different departments at GEICO using Excel. I would write some VBA code and in a few days get the program they needed. If the end user had problems I always assumed it was my fault for not making the interface easier to understand. I never blamed the user.

      It was a philosophy which led to fewer and fewer problems with the end product.

      Ultimately, all of these things I created were done because nobody wanted to go through the IT department and their red tape. The managers never knew until the stuff was already being used by too many people for them to stop it. I even created an app for some guys in IT who didn’t want to go through their own process. The point is that I always focused on how the user might use the product and what sort of assumptions (right or wrong) they might make and tried to avoid the problems before they popped up.

      I feel I’ve gotten rather long winded. My point is, you are right…great post. (I should have started with that.)

      Reply
      • Adam Toporek
        Adam Toporek says:

        Hey Brian, If only more folks came from your perspective and thought about the end user and how they would interact with software, the world would have a lot less technology-based frustration. I like your approach because it is about taking responsibility for the product and not placing it on the end user/customer.

        Thanks for taking time to share your experience!

        Reply
  2. Ralph
    Ralph says:

    Hey Adam, short and sweet. That’s a great way to make this point. In the A+D world losing a customer is a huge, huge deal. It really signifies they have lost confidence in you.

    I had a client a long time ago that is in Advertising, BBDO. They are a big organization and we were dealing with their Toronto offices. Now the interesting this was that we had a past relationship with the CFO and he liked us – a lot. We were invited in to show them a new approach to planning their office space after completing a small project for one if their divisions. The thing we never understood right up to the time we lost them was the way they operate. The wanted us to pitch our work the same way they do a pitch. Our industry doesn’t typically “invest” a whole project concept before a contract is signed. We never got that about them and it wasn’t overt. They just kept asking and we couldn’t sell them because we always kept it basic.

    Long story but my point is that “understanding” how your customer works is one thing that is critical to our success. We learned that from BBDO and we have another shot at them in the near future.

    Sorry for the long comment…….:-)

    Reply
    • Adam Toporek
      Adam Toporek says:

      I love long comments Ralph! And I appreciate the people who take time to leave them. 🙂

      Your story is a perfect example of what we can learn from a lost customer. Like you said in your industry (and it is true of a lot of B2B service providers), one customer can be a huge deal. I think not learning lessons from the ones that got away would get very expensive, very fast in that situation. I’m glad you’re getting another shot — I’m sure y’all will knock it out of the park this time!

      Reply
  3. Kaarina Dillabough
    Kaarina Dillabough says:

    I’m constantly amazed by businesses that have no interest in following up with customers they’ve “lost” to find out…why. I don’t know if it’s arrogance or ignorance that makes them believe, like a bus, another one will be by soon. But if they looked at the costs of acquisition vs. retention, perhaps they wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the value of that lost customer kept.

    Some businesses will say they can’t follow up with EVERY lost customer. My response? How about following up with one? Cheers! Kaarina

    Reply
    • Adam Toporek
      Adam Toporek says:

      So right… when you look at acquisition/retention costs, it makes the benefits of understanding the why of lost customers very real. The info is not always easy to get (for instance, in retail), but as you point out, a small sample can give you the info you are looking for or at least start nudging you in the right direction.

      Reply
  4. Rebecca Pelke
    Rebecca Pelke says:

    I definitely agree that there can be something learned from every lost customer; whether it be because of poor service, or a change in the consumer market, or a change within the customer themselves. The key point is not to ignore these lost customer, but look into it and see what you as a person or as a company have done. There are always ways to improve customer service:

    Reply

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