5 Ways to Lose Good Customers

2010 | Jul 28 in Business Development , Home Page News

By E-Myth Business Coach,

The purpose of a business is to create a customer. —Peter Drucker

While this statement may be quite true at the most basic level, it also serves to underscore the reality that one of the ongoing purposes of a business should be to keep a customer. No business owner would argue this point, but creating and maintaining quality customer relationships is often one of the biggest challenges facing small businesses.

Please Come Back Again

One of the dangers that befall many businesses is the tendency to become accustomed to having customers, to slip into a default mode of expectations: that the customers are happy, that they’ll keep coming back, that they’ll tell others about you. The problem is that customers are people—and people thrive on relationships. And if we are not careful our customer relationships can become superficial and even counter-productive.

No one wants to feel that they are being taken for granted and customers are no different. Again, customers are people and people must be related to, not processed! Simply “going through the motions” for your customers with the mindless expectation that they will always be there is a sure path to customer attrition. And an increasing factor in customer fickleness is the sheer volume of choices that available in almost every industry and every product or service. In many ways the business owner is not simply working to gain a customer’s patronage, but is actually engaged in a contest to win the hearts of those individuals!

Surefire Ways to Drive Business Away

There are certain clichés in business that are dubious in their truth, such as “the customer is always right.” But one that is undoubtedly true is that it is cheaper to keep an old customer than to find a new one. With this in mind let’s look at some of the most detrimental errors small businesses make in this arena:

5 ways to lose good customers

  1. Ignore Your Customers. This cardinal sin can be achieved in person, on the phone, and even over the Internet. Many retail companies adopt a “10 Foot Rule” that requires customers to be acknowledged if the employee is within ten feet of them. Greeters at the door are not only good for Wal-Mart, and acknowledging customers by answering phones quickly and with a smile is just good business.
  2. Make it Difficult to do Business With You. Customers shouldn’t have to work at giving you their money. And they shouldn’t have a fight on their hands if they need to return your product or are unhappy with your service. If you make it hard on your customers someone else is always willing to go the extra mile for them.
  3. Display a Lack of Integrity. Whether this is simply staff making excuses for poor service or products, or engaging in sales or marketing practices that can be perceived as deceptive, being a trusted and reliable business is an absolute essential. No one likes to feel lied to or treated in a way that is less than honest.
  4. Become Dull and Predictable. This doesn’t mean sacrificing reliability and standards of quality and excellence, but customers expect innovation. And people being people, they are stirred by positive surprise and delight – just because your business has been around for fifty years doesn’t mean it has to look and act like it.
  5. Don’t Listen to Your Customers. We live in an age where product and company reviews are being posted for posterity across the Internet, and perhaps on your company’s own website. Therefore, it is critical for you to hear what your customers are saying and respond. This can also mean reviewing relevant blogs, performing regular market research and simply talking to your customers.

One of my clients recently began conducting educational seminars for her clients with the stated goal of providing valuable information as a “bonus” to her normal services. However, in the Q&A portion of the presentation she turns the tables on her audience by asking them key questions with intent of ferreting out the issues and concerns of her clients that she might not ever hear otherwise.

Another E-Myth client regularly meets with his entire staff to discuss customer questions, tips and best practices, and to elicit ideas for innovations and improvements to their services and products. The synergy of bringing together the “frontline” employees with the management team with a focus on their customers works to create an atmosphere and company culture that is customer-centric and service oriented.

What a Customer Wants

While the customer may not always be right, there is one cliché that cannot be discounted or ignored: The customer rules. And this means that the needs, wants and desires of your customers must come first in developing the processes and procedures of your client fulfillment realm. This means that for many businesses changes will need to occur as they can no longer afford to have “business as usual.”

For some this means making regular and ongoing efforts to “listen” to their customers: What do they like about your business? Your products? Your service? And, perhaps more importantly, what is that they don’t particularly like? Communication is vital and this implies intentionality and strategy on the part of the business owner. For others it will mean taking pains to create a customer-centric business model: one that takes into account the primacy of the customer and recognizes that the product or the brand is not the focus.

The good news is that today’s business world is awash with technology and new forums for conversation that allow you to not only engage your customers and prospects, but to keep your finger on the “pulse” of your customer base. And despite the vast number of choices and competition facing not only you, but your customers, the opportunities are equally vast to win the hearts—and loyalty—of your customers.

Share Your Story

What do you do to retain clients? What works for you, what doesn't? Post a comment and tell us about it.

Further Reading

How Can You Put More "Service" in Customer Service?
From Your Customers' Perspective
The Art of Marketing


  1. .Clancy R. says:

    Excellent article.  Thank you.

    Submitted Jul 28, 2010 10:58 AM

  2. .Allayne M. says:

    This is going back to the start of what a business means.... The clients... Thank you, very interesting.

    Submitted Jul 28, 2010 11:11 AM

  3. .Roberto A. says:

    Very usefull and interesting. Thank you...

    Submitted Jul 28, 2010 2:56 PM

  4. .Ken N. says:

    As someone who does sales almost exclusively over the phone, it has been VERY HELPFUL to regularly attend and exhibit at conferences held by the trade organization my clients are involved with. I don't make sales there...but I DO meet people face-to-face. This has many benefits. 1.) I get to meet them and create that personal connection. 2.) I get at least some input from them regarding our product. 3.) I establish credibility because I support their organization year after year and establish my company as a reliable, professional vendor.  

    I also once did a newsletter during our business' slow time when clients and customers weren't getting phone calls from me. I plan to do that again, either in hard copy or electronically.

    Submitted Jul 28, 2010 3:25 PM

  5. .Henry N. says:

    Spot on. The challenge is making personal commitment to actually and literally get things done as they are said/read. May be the next top should include discipline of execution.

    Submitted Jul 28, 2010 10:51 PM

  6. .Howard T. says:

    Excellent piece, thanks. It reminds me that, as the owner, I need to be proactively contacting my key customers, perhaps with a short questionnaire to complete with them.

    Submitted Jul 29, 2010 2:41 AM

  7. .Jeff S. says:

    Some businesses treat customers as an inconvenience and the customer can feel it. I've always tried to instill in my employees that we come to work everyday to serve the customer; they pay our salaries. It's frustrating to see how many businesses don't get this simple concept that can make such a huge impact on their business. GREAT ARTICLE!!!

    Submitted Jul 29, 2010 6:11 AM

  8. .Adriane S. says:

    Excellent article and very fundamentally based, pointing to the fact that good customer service is relationship driven. With global and fierce competition facing small businesses today, it is good for us to be reminded about who is keeping the doors open in our business, and that is our customer.

    Also on the horizon that would intensify the spotlight on small business customer service, is social media. Consumers and target groups will now become the influencers of how well our product and services will be impacted. With redefining branding through Social Media, consumers will decide the brands positioning. 

    Again, Excellent Article!!

    Submitted Jul 29, 2010 11:36 AM

  9. .Erika W. says:

    Excellent article!    I always take time to listen to my customers and staff.    I have found that they can be a wealth of great ideas.    When we implement a change that was suggested by a customer we always personally aknowledge their contribution to the improvement of our business.    As humans we all like to be heard....our customers are no different!

    Submitted Jul 29, 2010 12:37 PM

  10. .joe g. says:

    The main thing that has always worked for me in getting and keeping clients is by actually doing the very thing I said I would do. It's really not complicated, I found by just sharing with people what I'm about and what I'm willing and NOT willing to provide has been the anchor to getting and keeping clients.

    I think people just want vendors to be upfront and honest with them.

    Living Life By Design

    Submitted Jul 29, 2010 2:13 PM

  11. .Susan S. says:

    What we have always done to retain our clients is simply supplying a consistently delicious product with consistent, week-after-week dependability.  It helps to see our customers as not primarily the end user, but the convenience store owner or manager who counts the cookies in and cuts the check.  We buy back anything that breaks or doesn't sell and we treat them like royalty.  Our primary objectives are to Teach & Train Employees, Empower Business Partners, Transfer to the Next Generation, and Comfort Customers.  There is a lot of cross-over; opportunities arise often to comfort our employees or teach/train our customers.  But by keeping our focus on behaviors and policies that fall within the parameters of our primary objectives, we keep our perspective on the basics; quality, consistency, dependability, integrity.  We bake cookies for a living and have supported a family of 7 for almost 20 years doing so.  We have many customers who have been with us since we started, so we feel that we must be doing something right!  I love your articles and have learned so much; that is another thing we believe strongly in---always learning and applying what we learn to make our business a better bet for our customers!  Sorry this is so wordy, but I love these concepts and just wanted to share them with your readers.  Thanks!

    Susan Szczesniak

    www.oregoncookies.com  (website is being worked on right now so it doesn't look like much.  Sorry!) 

    Submitted Jul 29, 2010 8:27 PM

  12. .Goldson E. says:

    The beauty of the E-myth is in re-enacting the fundamentals. Strategies, styles and modes could change,but the basics remain. Many thanks for this good piece again.

    Submitted Jul 30, 2010 9:49 AM

  13. .Angela H. says:

    Great article, it definately reminds me to get back to the basics, calling, spending time and listening to the customers.

    Submitted Aug 1, 2010 7:08 PM

  14. .Dan C. says:

    We are a very customer service focused company. One of the things we do is train our people to always ask these three questions of our customers right before they leave... 1. Were you happy with the service you received today? 2. Is there anything you wish we had done differently? 3. If you think of anything later, will you share it with me? We then give the customer our personal business card and say Thank you one last time before we depart. We want our customers to know we care, this demonstrates that level of caring in a personal manner.

    Submitted Aug 3, 2010 7:54 PM

  15. .Alan B. says:

    You ask what do I do to encourage customer, and not to chase them away.

    I've found that "establishing what I'm worth" to them through a specific measurable value is the most impactful thing I can do.

    For instance, for a current customer who I help with marketing, we'll review weekly how much business has increased each and every week, and since we started. They are up approximately 8 times, and estimated to be around $10M.

    Before we started actually monetizing it, their sales were up but they hadn't related it to what reason. The sales department was assuming it was them, sales reps were trying to take on some of it, but when we actually set up a measurement system to measure where it all was coming from, then it was obvious, and now they go WOW, we wish we'd hired your earlier.

    But, I still have an occasional detractor. For instance, someone from the board of directors complained about my fees and asked the President to see to it that they find someone cheaper, or hire someone on their own staff that would be cheaper.

    But we know exactly what every dollar spent on me generates in additional multipliers. Yes, they are looking for a replacement, and I am helping them by using that multiplier. They are looking for someone who'll generate 200 times more for every dollar spent. And there isn't another marketing company, or employee that'll step up to that plate.

    Submitted Aug 9, 2010 8:38 AM

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