How to spot a wavering customer
By Don Sadler
IT’S ONE OF the worst feelings a small-business owner will ever have: finding out that a
longtime and profitable customer is leaving.
“How did that happen, and why didn’t we see
it coming?” is usually the first thought that
comes to the owner’s mind.
The best way to avoid this painful scenario is to learn how to spot the early warning
signs of a wavering customer, says Sherry
Rahbar, a Costco member and a partner at Los
Angeles–based CFO Edge ( cfoedge.com),
a provider of outsourced CFO services. “Then,
take action before it’s too late,” she adds.
For example, if customers have let it be
known that they’re not happy with your products or service, this should be an obvious red
flag. “Take action immediately to find out why
your customer isn’t happy and then take steps
to rectify the situation,” says Rahbar.
But unhappy customers don’t always
voice their displeasure. Is a customer no longer returning your phone calls? Are their payments arriving late? Has the volume of their
tact person leaves and is replaced. “You don’t
have a relationship with this new person, who
might be ready to hire another vendor he or
she is more familiar with,” Rahbar says. “So
move quickly to establish a new relationship
whenever your main contact person changes.”
Also, if a new competitor enters your territory, immediately reach out to customers
who might be vulnerable so they’re less likely
to jump ship. “The same idea applies if an
existing competitor rolls out new and
improved or cheaper products or services,”
Spotting wavering customers before it’s
too late comes down to being proactive
instead of reactive, Rahbar stresses. “All of
your employees who have customer contact
should be trained in how to recognize early
warning signs like these, as well as what to do
when these signs are spotted.” C
Don Sadler is an Atlanta-based freelance
writer who specializes in small business.
orders gone down markedly? Or are they
sending out other subtle signals that everything’s not going well, like changing their tone
when they talk to you from friendly and
chatty to more businesslike?
Another challenge is when a main con-
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