At Your Service: When customers leave

Russ Dantu
May 16, 2019
By Russ Dantu
What happens when customers leave and you aren’t sure why? Maybe they were only your customer because of a one-time special project. Maybe they closed their business and therefore don’t need your services.
Maybe they just wanted to try someone else and will return. Or maybe their heads were turned by a service or price-point you couldn’t offer. Knowing which of these is true is critical information for the survival of your company.

If we don’t keep in touch with our customers, some will feel we don’t value their business and go where they think they are treated better. I have lost only a handful to dropping the ball but I have lost quite a few others over the years for various reasons less under my control. I hate losing customers! So when it happens, I always do some digging to find out why. Their usual response is that my service is fantastic but management changed and had a friend offering the same service; they are downsizing; or they found the product cheaper somewhere else.

When customers leave, we can ignore it, fret about it, or actually do an exit interview with our customers to find out what truly is the reason. Here are a few ideas for you to try the next time this happens to you.

Contact your customer immediately. Ask detailed questions as to why they are leaving and see if there is anything you can do to change their mind. Get the facts before assuming you know why they left. Sometimes it can be as simple as them not liking their current salesperson and switching them to a salesperson who might work with their personality (or taking over their account yourself). You might save the business. Sometimes it’s just a matter of them feeling like you don’t value their business because you never thank them or keep in contact with them. Going on the defensive won’t help here. Suck it up, apologize, and try to save the account if you can.

Take their feedback seriously. If they complain about your processes or policies, then maybe it is time you jumped on the other side of the counter and thought like a customer. Are your methods customer friendly or are they in place to make things easier for your employees?

Change the communication channel. Some companies insist on just emailing customers. This may work well for some of your customers but others may prefer you call them, text them or visit them. If you do your homework properly, you’ll know this before it gets to the point your customer is leaving. When I first meet with a new customer, I always ask which type of communication they prefer. They appreciate this and it keeps them happy. If they have left, pick up the phone as that is the best way to get a response.

Don’t burn bridges. It’s easy for us to get upset and maybe tell them to take their business elsewhere because we don’t need them. But what if they go somewhere else and realize the grass isn’t greener on the other side of the fence? If you burn that bridge, they’ll find a different provider instead of coming back to you. Always let them know you have appreciated their business over the years and hope that you can be of service to them somewhere down the road.

Apologize. Sometimes it is hard for us to swallow our pride or admit we dropped the ball. It’s always easier to pass the buck. But if you are as good as you think you are with your customer service practices, then be big enough to admit you were wrong and apologize for an error.

We all work extremely hard to get new customers and surveys show that it costs us five times more to find a new one than to keep an old one. Focus on your existing customer base and do all you can to keep them happy from the start. Maybe you only have a small piece of their business right now. By truly recognizing them as an important part of your business, you just might get rewarded with a bigger slice instead of always having to look for new customers to replace the ones that leave.


Russ Dantu is a 30-year veteran of the rental industry and has been delivering workshops, seminars and keynotes on customer service for over 15 years. For more information, visit russdantu.com or email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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