drive customers awayDrive customers away . It’s an undesirable yet surprisingly easy thing to do. Call it a blind spot, regimented thinking, or the-way-we-have-always-done-it if you will, but sometimes the decisions or actions we make in our businesses drive customers away without us knowing.

It’s enraging but mostly just saddening to see such things happening, because no matter how good our intentions may be, it’s not impossible for you to ruin someone’s day unintentionally. No one sits in a boardroom and wishes to leave people living in droves. No decent person wakes up and wishes misery upon others. Occurences where businesses drive customers away happen “just because”. The truth of the matter is that one would really have to muster guts and ask a critical question before making decisions: How will this serve our customers, members, or our community?

The rules of service is somewhat a thing known by default, but sadly there are times when we still don’t take time to stop and think of how our actions can affect our customers. Here are a few points on sure fire ways to drive customers away. Definitely a must-read!

Sure fire ways to drive customers away

  1. Over-promise and under-deliver. – Want to know how to drive your customers away? Invite them to a conference and promise “cutting edge material” and a “four-star hotel”. And when they arrive, give them all these promises about giving them all the materials they need in three days and promising the meeting planner that the press kit will go out overnight. Watch the magic happen.

I’ve attended conferences where the only thing that screamed “cutting edge” for me was the serving knife on the buffet table. The material given was in no way new as I learned of the same ideas, same methodology, and same format. Be provocative enough to deliver what you say you will.

And the four-star hotel? Sure, I’ll give credit to the brochure and the conference walk through because they looked great, but could that ghastly-looking luncheon plate be the same one served in the tasting? What an easy way to drive customers away. Not to mention the fact that the hotel just forgot to inform you that the major dining room was under construction. Don’t even get me started on the three day guarantee of the materials they were supposed to deliver.

  1. Never walk the talk. – On the brochure, it says “a celebration of members” and “a community that listens”. Boy, did that fail to make it to reality. The conference was set in New Orleans where a couple thousand folks have gathered for the “celebration” and the “community”.

Reality showed otherwise. I found myself realizing that only people of a certain status in the organization were invited. This luncheon session had 50 “important people” fill up the banquet hall and take their places on a stage three tiers deep. While their defense is “this is the way we have always done it”, I’m appalled that their idea of “honoring” these people was to watch them eat and set the boundary between “us” and them”. Exclusions like this are what can surely drive customers away.

There are better ways to showcase the important people in a more inclusive manner. I ended up addressing the audience while there were more than 50 people at my back. It was very rude and I was put off by how it was the exact opposite of what they said they were celebrating.

Our actions and lives need to mirror the words we profess otherwise we may as well be impersonators. This isn’t unusual as I saw a profound speaker who specializes in relationship building turn into a snarling, demanding customer who treated flight attendants like slaves. What a great deal of disbelief that occurrence probably brought on people who knew the guy!

  1. Make technology your primary form of communication. – To drive customers away without fail, you should make sure there’s a voice mail doom loop so that no one will ever actually have to speak with a live human. Go ahead, conduct all business via e-mail, assuming that your job is done as long as you have sent the message. And by all means, don’t even bother double-checking what you wrote before sending it. That’ll surely drive customers away.

Doing these things are sure to doom your business relationships and drive your customers away.  Just think of how easy it would be for people who need to do business with us if they do it via telephone or even our own website. I tried booking a reservation at a hotel only to come across a lovely online tour. I never even got to find a contact number.

Remember that while e-mail is great for data, it’s not exactly the best resort for relationship building or if there are critical, specific details to relay. In fact, it can easily drive customers away. Because people overlook this fact, the E in e-mail has started to mean escalation and error. Two colleagues almost became enemies because of their firey e-mail exchanges without the thought of picking up the phone and properly talking things out.

I found out interesting things from a client when we talked through my normal pre-program survey rather than depending on an electronic transmission to get data from them. Instead of saving time like I hoped it would, it became a gatekeeper that kept me from digging deep and finding out the exact details I needed to know. It’s just like how surveys written with a multiple-choice format will never produce in-depth results

  1. Forget the wisdom of the outer circle. – in the work setting, there will always be the “inner circle”, the circle that holds power and control. Such is wielded by the Boards of Directors and the powerful departments of the business. This can drive customers away as well as members themselves because the practices and policies only come from the inner circle, leaving the outer circle unheard and with a discounted, unknowing feeling.
  2. Never say “thank you”. – this is probably one of the easiest ways to drive customers away. Mother really knew best when she said that kids should write notes to their relatives after Christmas. Being thankful has been a forgotten habit, yet when done, makes a really great impact because people feel appreciated.

Apply the same principle in the workplace to avoid possibilities that can drive customers away. When someone calls to file a complaint, don’t forget to thank them for doing so. You’d be surprised to find that they actually really appreciate this and recover a lot more quickly from their complaint and respond in thanks and good will.

Sure fire ways to KEEP your customers

  1. Maintain common courtesy even if it’s not common. Be uncommon.
  2. Take emphasis away from yourself and give it to those you serve even if it’s not natural. Be unnatural.
  3. Time cannot be renewed. Never ever waste other people’s time.

Hope I haven’t wasted yours! The rest is up to you. Will you decide to keep your customers happy or drive customers away?

(c) 2005, McDargh Communications.  Publication rights granted to all venues so long as article and by-line are reprinted intact and all links are made live.

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