Sure Fire Ways To Drive Customers Away!
By: Eileen McDargh
Call it a blind spot. Call it regimented thinking. Call it
the-way-we-have-always-done-it. But by any name, there are actions and
practices that far too many businesses engage in that can unknowingly drive
When I observe such practices, I move from being angry to just plain sad.
Really sad. Because the truth of the matter is that no one CONSCIOUSLY set
out to ruin my day. No one sat in a board room and dreamt up procedures
that would have us leaving in droves. No one woke up and said, "I can
hardly wait to make you miserable." It happened "because". Because the
truth of the matter is that it takes courage to stop and ask the critical
question: Does this serve our customer? Our member? Our community?
We all "know" the rules of service. But sadly, sometimes we don't take the
time to think through just what our actions might be do or say to the
customer. Here are some actions guaranteed to drive folks from the doors
of an enterprise. It's time for all of us to sit up and notice!
Over promise and under deliver.
Bring people to the conference with the promise of cutting edge material.
Lure attendees into thinking that the hotel is a four-star marvel. Tell
customers that they'll have all the material they need in three days.
Promise the meeting planner that the press kit will go out overnight. Then
sit back and watch. Really watch. If it isn't true 100% of the time, it's a
bait and switch promise.
Take the idea of "cutting edge material". I've attended conferences in
which the only cutting edge was the serving knife on a buffet table. Same
ideas. Same methodology. Same format. Get a clue! Shake it up. Be
provocative. If we say it, we better deliver.
How about that four-star hotel? Brochure looks great. The conference walk
through is stunning. But then, could that ghastly-looking luncheon plate
REALLY be the same chicken marsala you were served in the tasting? And,
how about the fact that the hotel "forgot" to tell you that the major
dining room would be undergoing renovation. Yikes!
The three-day guarantee. If you can't deliver it all the time, it's not
true! Now, perhaps Three Day Blinds has reversed its practices, but years
ago, I ordered window coverings for our new house. My mother was coming to
visit us over Christmas and I needed shades. Alas, the third day came and
went. I discovered that only "some" shades are three-day, not all. Beware
of the implied promise.
Never walk the talk.
The brochure for the conference said, "a celebration of members", a
"community that listens." Too bad it didn't play out in reality.
The setting is New Orleans. A couple thousand folks have gathered for the
"celebration" and the "community". Alas, the reality is another fact. I
discover that people are invited to parties based upon their status in the
organization. The luncheon session I am addressing has some 50 "important
people" file into the banquet hall and take their places on a stage that is
three tiers deep. Talk about a "we"/ "they" set up. I am told, "This is the
way we have always done it." The intent to "honor" these 50 people was to
have hundreds watch them eat and to also set up the boundary between the
"us" and the "them".
Come on. There are a few more creative ways to showcase the "us" that is
far more inclusive, educational, and community building than a camera shot
of folks eating. I end up addressing an audience while have my back to 50
plus people. It's rude, off-putting, and the exact opposite of what the
organization, in all good intentions, wishes to create.
Our lives had better mirror the words we use and the beliefs we profess to
all. Otherwise, we're merely impersonators. I watched a very well known
speaker who specializes in relationship building turn into a snarling,
demanding customer who treated the flight attendants like personal
servants. How many disbelievers were created on that day?
Make technology your primary form of communication.
Make sure there's a voice mail doom loop from which someone will never
emerge to actually speak with a live human. Conduct all business via
e-mail, assuming that a message sent is a message received. And while
you're at it, hit send as soon as a message is written.
These three practices can doom any business relationship. Amazing isn't it:
having a person answer the phone can actually be a competitive
advantage! How easy do we make it for people to do business with us via
the telephone or even our web site? I tried to book a reservation in a
lovely hotel, only to be treated to a lovely online tour of the property
without ever finding a contact number!
E-mail is great for data but not perfect for relationship building or
critical pieces of information. In fact, often the E in e-mail stands for
escalation and error. Two colleagues almost became bitter enemies over
rapid fire e-mails that had the sting of a viper and the warmth of the
Arctic. Neither thought to pick up the phone and talk things out. Thus, the
lop-sided "chats" turned into internecine warfare. Talk about beating
I discovered fascinating information about a client when we talked through
my normal pre-program survey rather than depend upon an electronic
transmission. I had thought my online survey was a time saving device.
Instead, what it became was a gatekeeper, preventing me from digging deeper
into an issue. Likewise, multiple choice answers on written or online
customer service surveys will never result in information of substantive
Forget the wisdom of the outer circle.
In organizational life, there's always an "inner circle" of power and
control. Boards of Directors wield it. So do powerful departments. When
practices and policies come only from the inner circle, the rank and file
is not only unheard, but can turn its back on the organization. Members
leave associations when they feel discounted and "not in the know".
Never say "thank you".
Mother was right when she made us kids write notes to relatives after
Christmas. It's a forgotten habit that can go a long way to letting people
feel appreciated. Likewise, pick up the phone and call a client or member
who has a complaint and THANK THEM for making that complaint known. You'll
discover a huge dividend in goodwill after they recover from the shock of
Three Practices to KEEP customers and members.
Common courtesy isn't common. Be uncommon.
Service is an unnatural act. It takes emphasis away from ourselves and
gives it to others. Be unnatural.
Time is the only non-renewal resource. Never waste people's time.
Hope I haven't wasted yours!
© 2005, McDargh Communications. Publication rights granted to all venues
so long as article and by-line are reprinted intact and all links are made
Named by Executive Excellence Magazine as one of the top 100 thought
leaders in business, Eileen McDargh, CSP, CPAE authored one of the first
books on work/life balance. Eileen is an award winning professional
speaker, consultant and facilitator. Find free articles, surveys, book
reviews and more at her professional