Benign neglect? That’s not very romantic

Have you ever wondered why customers go away? Maybe it’s all about romance.

Most businesses and organizations devote a substantial amount of effort and investment to landing new customers.

Interestingly, very few pay attention to the other end of that process. That’s the point at which existing customers disappear. And each time that happens, you must gain a new one just to avoid losing ground.

Sure, people die, businesses shut down, and the product you sell may lose its appeal to some people. But what about the customers who leave you for other reasons? It’s been said that it takes six times as much money and effort to sell to someone new than to reach an existing customer. In other words, keeping a customer costs one-sixth as much as replacing one. That’s why it pays to learn what causes your customers to leave.

Most businesses assume that the loss will be because of something they did, but experience has taught me that the more common culprit is what they didn’t do. What I call benign neglect is one of the most consistent ways a business or organization can lose people over time. They’ll slip away gradually, barely even noticed.

Benign neglect doesn’t take any effort. In fact, that’s the heart of the problem. When you assume that customers, clients, or supporters are always going to be around, you take them for granted. You stop actively reaching out to them in an effort to keep them connected and feeling appreciated.

Once they feel unconnected and neglected, they become vulnerable. And that’s when one of your competitors smiles and catches their attention. The competitor makes them feel wanted and important, and they slip away before you realize what has happened. You can make a last-ditch, desperate effort to reel them back in, but how well has that worked in your life?

The only effective way to prevent benign neglect is through purposeful action. In romantic relationships, that may involve showing genuine interest in what they say, making time for them, and reminding them of their importance in your life.

The same holds true for customers. You can do something as simple as making regular contacts. Perhaps you can try to reenergize the relationship by offering some sort of special offer, discount, or opportunity. The key is that you have to do something. Take part of the time and money you devote to new-customer acquisition, and refocus it on retaining existing customers.

Not sure what customers really want from you? Asking, “Is there any way we can do a better job for you?” or “What can we do to improve our service to you?” demonstrates that you have a real interest in taking care of them and serving their needs.

Don’t be afraid to ask, either. It’s not a sign of weakness, and it’s a lot easier to romance them when the relationship is strong than to find yourself wondering, “Is there anything we could have done differently to keep your business?”