Tuesday, July 19, 2011

These Boots Were Made for Walkin'

I am a cable customer. I have been with the same cable company for over five years now. Yet, on a daily basis, I see commercials for great deals my cable company is offering to new customers. Five years of faithful service obviously doesn’t mean much to them.

I met a business owner who had the same philosophy. She had opened a new restaurant and was bending over backwards to court new customers. As a new business that made perfect sense. But, what about the customers who had found her business and started making repeat visits? What about us? When I proposed the question to her, her response was simple (rude but simple). She told me I didn’t know a thing about running a business. Funny, she’s no longer in business.

As important as new customers are to a business, keeping existing customers is just as important. Customers can and do leave. I recently left a pharmacy that filled a difficult (and expensive) prescription for my dog. Marty is a toy poodle with Cushing’s disease. He’s too small to take a pill (even a scored pill) so his medication has to be mixed into a liquid suspension. It’s pricey.

Over the last 18 months, the price has gone up three times with no notice. The first time represented a 27% increase and the second was a 33% increase. When I asked, after the second increase, for an explanation, there was none. However, I’d been a faithful customer so I don’t think anyone thought an explanation was warranted. After all, there are only so many local pharmacies that do what they do.

Well, I called around and found a pharmacy that would do it for a lot less and they were exceedingly polite and customer-focused.  Maybe they were so nice because I was a new customer, only time will tell.

However, there are a few lessons to be learned.

1. I’m no longer a customer of the original pharmacy. They lost my business. After that first, and last, discussion on the reason for the increase, there was no further communication on my part. They will never know why I left.

2. I will leave the new pharmacy too if I don’t get the service and price I’m looking for. Will I tell them why I’m leaving? Probably not. I’ll just vote with my feet.

3. Most faithful and unhappy customers are like me. Loyal customers are often taken for granted but we will only be pushed so far. Many of us stay because it’s convenient and leaving would be a hassle. Yet, we all have limits; the pharmacy exceeded mine (the cable company is coming close!).

Keeping ALL customers happy should be a priority. Retaining customers is just as important as attracting new ones.