With the economic downturn in Alberta the past few years, some of my customers have had to cut back and the first thing to go is discretionary spending...like the items mentioned above. I always keep in touch with my customers through email, phone calls and an in-person visit if I am in the area. For one customer, in particular, I always got the same answer: “Sorry Russ. It’s really slow right now and we have to be careful with what we spend. We will definitely call you if we need anything.” They were a smaller customer, but every customer is important, regardless of the amount they purchase. It all helps contribute to the bottom line. It had been a year since I had received an order from this customer so I decided to drop by and say hello. Susan was very honest with me.
“Russ, we had a guy come in here a few months ago with an unbelievable sale on some shirts. We had no choice but to buy them from him,” she told me.
“Susan, you always have a choice. I wish you would have called me as I’m sure I could have done something for you. How did it work out?” I asked.
“Well, it seemed like an amazing deal at the time and we did get the shirts eventually, but once the guy saw the size of our order he really wasn’t interested in dealing with us. It took a long time and the communication was poor,” she answered.
“I’m sorry to hear that, Susan. Well, not super sorry, as I’d love to have you back as a customer.”
“Russ, we learned our lesson. You’ve always taken good care of us when we needed something. We won’t go anywhere else again. You’re our guy!”
This customer had been a customer of mine for about six years. They didn’t spend a lot each year but I really liked them and you never know what they will do down the road or who they will introduce you to. I have had two great referrals from them to customers who have been using me for about five years now. It hurt to think that they went somewhere else but I appreciated her honesty.
A few things come to mind with this situation above.
- Always keep in touch with your customers. Use the touch points they appreciate you using. Don’t keep phoning them if they prefer to be reached by email, but if you don’t get a reply, a quick call is all right.
- Don’t take it personally. Don Miguel Ruiz wrote The Four Agreements and one of those agreements was to not take it personally. People are free to work with whomever they like. It doesn’t mean they don’t like you or you have done something wrong. All you can do is be there to help them and keep in contact with them. The more you do for your customers, the better chance you will have of keeping them as a customer.
- When times are tough, people may not be able to buy what they will usually buy from you. Find ways to make what you sell more affordable or see if you can offer them more economical options so they continue to use your services.