How To Lose Customers in ten simple steps

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1. Ignore them.
A few months ago, my wife and I went to Best Buy to buy a new TV. After thirty minutes of standing around in one of the TV aisles, trying to make eye contact with salespeople who were too busy yapping and NOT making eye contact with us, we took our business across the street to Circuit city, where a very friendly salespereson greeted us, answered our questions, and helped us check out. We then returned to Best Buy, found the floor manager, and told him what happened. By then, it was too late for him to fix it.

Best Buy used to be our first choice when we were shopping for electronics. Now, it's our second or third.

2. Lie to them.
Promising one thing and then not doing it is bad. Very bad. Heck, it's inexcusable.
Employee #1: "Yes, Mr. Blanchard. Your installation is absolutely free."
Employee #8: (Three months later.) "I'm sorry, but the installation was $150. You must have misunderstood what the installer told you."

Um... no. I don't think so.

3. Sell them crap.
If it breaks easily, needs constant repairs or doesn't work the way it should, the likelyhood that I will buy your product again or recommend your brand to anyone drops to zero.

4. Don't make things right when you should.
See #3, above, and don't make things right.

5. Treat them badly.
You aren't the soup nazi. In the real world, bad service isn't cute or funny. It's the best way to turn all of your customers against you.

6. Treat your employees badly.
Without great employees, you're dead in the water. Unless you want to do everything yourselfand can take care of five customers at once, answer the phones, mop the floors, order stuff, receive deliveries, stock the shelves, and acept returns all by yourself, you need employees.

At any given time, you are either attracting talent, retaining talent, or chasing away talent. If you are chasing away talent (your people keep quitting), something needs fixing. Fast. Great people are worth more than great real estate. Remember that.

Just last week, I watched a store owner treat one of his people pretty condescendingly in the middle of his store. The employee tried to hide her frustration and be professional, but her boss dug into her even more, then laughed about it. (I guess he thought he was being cute.) I felt really bad for the employee, who was just trying to do her job and was visibly embarrassed. Every customer there was also embarrassed by what was just happening. I watched a woman put down a pair of shoes she was waiting to buy and walk out. The store's mood immediately turned sour. I handed the dumbfounded store owner the handful of things I was planning to buy, and told him that he had just lost a customer because of the way he treated his employee. I pointed at the woman who was walking out. He shrugged and said "win some, lose some."


"She'll be back," he said.

No she won't, I replied. And neither will I. Probably none of these folks either. How funny do you think you are now? Learn some manners. Then, I walked out.

7. Don't listen to your customers.
Shut up and listen. Watch. Observe. Whether or not they actually come out and tell you how they think you could improve their experience, they will tell you what they want.

8. Stop caring about your customers.
Focus on improving your customers' lives, not just giving them a reason to spend their money with you. It isn't about how many eyeballs your ads reach or how many promotions you offer. It's about the value you create for them. Look at your business from THEIR point of view. Your customers are your livelyhood. Care for them, and take care of them accordingly.

9. Copy your competitors.
Why offer something cool and unique when you can be an exact replica of your competitors, only with a different logo on the door? After all, your customers only care about low prices anyway, right? The faster you decide to become as boring and bland as everyone else, the faster you'll be able to engage in profit-shredding price wars with your larger, better financed corporate clones. Wow. That business degree sure paid off!

10. Convince yourself that anyone gives a flip about you or what you have to say.
Oh wait... that goes for bloggers too. Darn.

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