Have We Forgotten About Our Customers?

With all the turmoil and trauma of these economic times, it’s easy to fixate on doom and gloom. This company is having another layoff, that one is cutting back production, another is going bankrupt.

You’d think the companies who are left would be falling all over themselves trying to impress their existing customers. Unfortunately, in many cases, that’s not what’s happening.

Oh sure, we see lots of sales and great “buy now” deals. That’s great if you’re buying toilet paper or groceries, but when you’re making a large purchase or buying a complex product that has a significant after-sale service and support component, you need more than low prices today. You need to feel you’re going to be taken care of and supported for the life of that product and beyond.

Furthermore, if you’re already a customer, it would be nice for the organizations you’ve been loyally supporting to do something that tells you they appreciate your loyalty and are willing to reward you. (A recording saying “we appreciate your business” while you wait on hold doesn’t do it.”)

It’s frustrating to see companies bend over backwards to offer deals to entice new customers, yet tell the old loyal standbys they can’t get that deal because it’s for new customers only. Huh? Perhaps someone should remind these companies how much more expensive it is to continually sign up new customers rather than keep the old ones. And that losing a customer means not only losing the current sale but all the potential future sales during the life of that customer (which is why the metric for customer lifetime value is so important).

As an example, I’ve been a customer of a local UPS Store since before it was a UPS Store. I see they are running yet another special for new customers. I know better than to ask about this because I’ve been told before these specials are for new customers only, not old customers like me. Furthermore, they’ve introduced some new services that they are quite happy to charge me extra for, but I’m willing to bet are bundled into the fees for today’s new customers.

Sprint, which for the least several years has been the poster child for customer churn, is trying something different. They’re now offering extra discounts and services to long-standing customers. These include discounts on calling plans, more flexibility in choosing plans, and the ability to upgrade to new phone equipment in less than the standard 2 year period.

It’s definitely a step in the right direction. Whether it’s a big enough leap to help Sprint, who has been struggling mightily, is still to be seen. But perhaps if they’d had programs like this in place there wouldn’t have been as much churn to start with. This doesn’t replace good quality products and services and top-notch customer support. Those are a given to compete effectively. But in this day and age when consumers are spending less and contemplating purchases more, it’s even more important to let them know you haven’t forgotten about the people who’ve been with you all along.

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