If you scare customers away, will they ever return?

I was reading some research conducted by Harris in 2007 and published by RightNow that said that, “ 80% of respondents said they would never return to an organization after a poor customer experience.” Clearly those surveyed were consumers with a plethora of options available to them such that they could afford to be so cavalier in their attitudes towards an organization.  Or are B2B organizations also affected?If you agree with the statement that “companies don’t buy, people do,” then you’ll agree that B2B companies purchasing from vendors and suppliers are made up of people with emotions, expectations, and frustrations.  While they may be somewhat less fickle than consumers, they are no less likely to resent a poor experience, tell others about it, and if left unchecked, find another vendor.

Competition is too intense to be reliant upon contractual “customer lock-ins” or “switching costs,” or other barriers to entry.  Contracts are easily broken, technological or even service-based differentiatiors are fast becoming commodities, and customers are free to shop around.  In many cases the only thing that prevents them from doing so is the opportunity cost of the time and effort involved in finding, evaluating, and trialing another vendor.

So many systems are put into place to monitor and analyze customer behavior so you can sell more product.  Eventually, customers begin to resent being pitched, sold, or cajoled into buying yet one more thing they don’t need.  They become bitter, and eventually leave.  Rather than trying to find out how to lock your customers in, you should be trying to find out more about what your customers need, want, and are willing to pay for.  What value do they place on you and your products or services?  How does your product help them achieve one or more of the following Value Drivers:

  1. Increase Revenue
  2. Decrease Cost
  3. Mitigate Risk
  4. Assuage an emotional need?

Most importantly, how can you adapt your products and services to improve your customers’ lives?  How can you help your customers further increase revenue?  Do you even know how they are able to do so by using your product?  How might you help them better educate THEIR customers so they can close the deal much more quickly?  How might you help them cut costs, reduce waste, or make staff more efficient so they can grow without adding headcount?  Are their regulatory or other risk of failure you can help them minimize?  How likely are they to face this risk and how severe is it?  Can you help your buyers look good in front of their customers or their bosses, thereby appealing to their emotions that may provide a more compelling reason to buy?

The answers to these questions can only lie in detailed customer insight into why your customers buy from you and what they value the most.

If you are simply pushing products and trying to convince prospects to buy, you are destroying value for your business.  Your customers will recognize that your sole intent is merely to transact business.  They will treat you like nothing more than a vendor from which they will attempt to extract every price concession possible.

If, however, you are trying to improve your customers’ position and make it easier for them to succeed, then you have a much greater chance of creating value.  Your perspective will be more long-term, you’ll focus on your customer’s overall success and the entire experience in dealing with your company.  In the end, you’ll end up selling more stuff.