When Customer Relationships Cease

Here's a short story from a terrific new book, Marketing Your Retail Store in the Internet Age,” by Bob & Susan Negen:

“Bob recently spoke to a musician who told him about the store where he bought his first drum set.  He went on to become a professional musician and of course bought more drums, sticks, and all the other accoutrements of a professional drummer.  One day he went into the store and although the owners greeted him by name, they never left the work they were doing to help him.  He left, went to the music store down the street, and never went back.

His statement was, 'They acted like they didn't care.  They knew I was going to buy something, so they didn't bother helping me.'  Not only did they lose a good customer, but their competition down the road gained a great new customer.”

Have you ever done that?  If you run a business, do you simply take your customers for granted?  Does your store have this mindset, “Where else are they going to go?  We have the best (selection, prices, etc.)  He's going to buy it anyway.”

Let's turn the perspective around.  When you are shopping, how do you feel when a store's employees ignore you?  Doesn't it drive you crazy when you see store staff chatting on the phone or performing clerical duties while you try desperately to get their attention and assistance?  That behavior irritates me.  At best it leaves a sour taste in my mouth.  At worst, I abandon my shopping – in that store – and go somewhere else to find it.

We are witnessing Divorce: Retail Style.

At the very least it is abandonment.  At the worst, it is a messy divorce where the aggravated party makes headlines and tells everyone how your store stinks and that the people who work there are creeps.

Don't let this happen to you.  Don't take your customer relationships for granted.  If you do… they will cease or break.

Customers have choices.  And in the Internet Age, they have a world of choices.  Their choices come in all colors and sizes and at multiple price points.  Romance your core customers.  Keep the relationship fresh.  Keep them coming back to your store for life.  Give them reasons to prefer to shop at your store.  Don't let your relationship with your customers grow stale.

I can't find the source, but I remember reading a definition of a relationship.  It stuck with me and I use this quite often during my training and speaking engagements:

“A relationship is initiated by similarities.  It is built on common interests.  But it can only be sustained through a mutual benefit.”

When the relationship becomes one-sided…  When a mutual benefit no longer exists… the relationship is terminated.

Sam Walton – the founder of Wal-Mart – was guided by this philosophy:

“There is only one boss – the customer.  And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”


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