Why clients leave you: The silent threat of perceived indifferenceĀ 

customer service
An exit sign signifying customers leaving your business

Here's a number that might make you sit up and take notice: according to esteemed business scholar John Gattorna, a staggering 68% of customers stop dealing with businesses due to perceived indifference. Yes, you read it right. If that doesn't wake you up, we don’t know what else can!

Welcome to Momentum Business Insights, where we share our 21+ years of experience as business coaches helping small business owners like you to not just survive, but truly thrive.

Unravelling Myths and Delving Into the Data

Frequently, business owners believe that the key to expansion is acquiring new customers. However, as business coaches, we often witness a different reality. To illustrate this, let's delve into a very quick case study of a friend who embarked on a significant home makeover project with a top-notch builder we suggested.

Six weeks after settling back into her stunningly revamped house, our friend was completely dissatisfied, despite the flawless workmanship. The reason? The builder never checked in to gauge her satisfaction with the renovation. It's crucial to note, even a job perfectly executed can leave a bitter taste if the customer feels overlooked. This "perceived indifference" can silently sabotage your business.

Remember, this is not an anecdote meant to scare you away from running your business. It’s an alert to reevaluate your customer relationship strategy. If you're noticing a consistent customer drain, the cause might not be your pricing or even your product. It's often about how the client feels they're being treated.

Gattorna's study sheds light on why customers abandon businesses:

  • 4% Natural attrition
  • 5% Referred to a competitor
  • 9% Competitive reasons (price)
  • 14% Product dissatisfaction
  • And a staggering 68% due to Perceived Indifference

This is one pie chart you wouldn't want a piece of! If these stats don't make you want to connect with every customer you've interacted with in the past six months, then we're not sure what will!

WHY is all this so important…According to Bain & Company [1], a 5% increase in customer retention can lead to an increase in profits of between 25% and 95%. Now they are nice numbers šŸ˜Š

Deciphering Perceived Indifference

Let's quickly separate out the difference between customer service and perceived indifference. In the business sphere, "perceived indifference" behaves like a stealthy adversary. It's not readily apparent, yet, it’s the prime reason for a substantial customer exodus. But what exactly does it mean?

If you want a more comprehensive look at Customer Service, Read our article on How to Transform Your Customer Experience!

Simply stated, it's when your customers feel you don't value them anymore. They feel like you used to do things for them, but you aren't doing those things anymore. They might perceive that their business has become just another deal to you. And who likes being treated as just another statistic, right?

The issue often doesn't lie in your intent, but in your customers' interpretation. You might be overwhelmed with work, balancing multiple tasks, hustling to meet deadlines, and struggling to stay afloat (we've all been there!). But remember, your customers aren't privy to your daily challenges. They only notice the lack of follow-ups, the absence of "thank you" notes, the unanswered inquiries - in essence, the perceived indifference.

Consider this powerful quote from Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart: "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."

The Fallout of Perceived Indifference

As business coaches, we've encountered a plethora of hurdles facing entrepreneurs, but to be perfectly frank most business owners have never even thought of or even heard of perceived indifference. Let's look at the following scenario:

You walk into your accountant’s office for your annual review (we do hope you get a least an annual review). The receptionist greets you warmly, offering you a welcoming cup of coffee as you settle into the meeting room, accompanied by a choice of still or sparkling water. An hour into your meeting, the thoughtful receptionist checks in to inquire whether you've parked your car on a meter, offering to kindly top it up for you if needed.

Fast forward to your next visit. The receptionist’s greeting is a faint echo of the warmth you experienced before, barely amounting to more than a cursory nod. You are offered coffee again, but this time, the table only sports a jug of tap water. The proactive check-in regarding your parking meter status is absent, and to your dismay, you find a parking ticket on your windshield when you leave. Undeniably, you must take responsibility for the parking ticket, but this signals the onset of perceived indifference.

The crux of the meeting with your accountant may remain unchanged. The service is still good; valuable information is provided. However, you can't shake off a nagging feeling that you aren’t being cared for as attentively as during your first encounter. Will this feeling be enough for you to part ways with your accountant? That remains uncertain. Nevertheless, this is a prime example of how perceived indifference can begin to manifest.

The feeling of being devalued or taken for granted can breed dissatisfaction faster than a subpar product or service. In this scenario, the customer might not even realise exactly why they're unhappy, only that they feel less valued compared to previous interactions.

Staving Off the Silent Saboteur: Strategic Solutions

Avoiding perceived indifference doesn't have to be a Herculean task. It's all about caring for your clients genuinely and consistently. Here are some simple, yet powerful, strategies to help you tackle this silent saboteur.

  1. Train Your Staff to be consistent: Ensure your entire team understands the concept of ‘Perceived Indifference’ and the importance of making customers feel valued every single time. Encourage them to take the extra step to make the customer experience not only memorable, but also consistent.
  2. Listen: Keep your ears open. Your customers are continually giving feedback, both directly and indirectly. Engage in active listening, not just in personal interactions, but also by monitoring online reviews and feedback.
  3. Communicate Proactively: Stay in touch with your customers, even after the transaction has concluded. Let them know that you value their business and appreciate their choice to work with you.
  4. Personalize Your Interactions: Everyone loves being made to feel special. Personalize your communication whenever possible. Utilize customer relationship management (CRM) systems to keep track of past interactions and preferences.
  5. Ask for Feedback: Invite customers to share their opinions. An online survey or a quick phone call can provide valuable insights, and importantly, gives them a platform to voice their concerns.
  6. Demonstrate Your Appreciation: Simple gestures of gratitude, such as sending a "thank you" email after a purchase or providing loyalty discounts, can significantly impact how valued a customer feels.

As Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motor Company said: "If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person's point of view and see things from their angle as well as your own."

Conclusion: From Perceived Indifference to Cherished Importance

It’s quite a journey, isn’t it? From understanding the phantom menace of perceived indifference to implementing steps to show your clients that they’re cherished - it's a transformative adventure. But remember, it's an adventure that can lead to improved business performance, happier customers, and less stress for you.

If you're feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of making these changes alone, don't fret. As your trusty business coaches, we're here to help. We’ve seen the dramatic turnarounds that businesses can achieve when they focus on overcoming perceived indifference, and we’re excited about the prospect of seeing the same results in your business.

Next Steps

Keen to explore more? We invite you to book a Clarity Call with us, where we can dive deeper into strategies specifically tailored for your business. (Click here to book your Clarity Call) 

Or jump over to our online courses…there is a great course just for you: Customer Service Basics!

Momentum Business Improvement is here to support you every step of the way. Let’s embark on this journey together, improving businesses and changing lives. Remember, in the world of small business, it's not just about transactions; it's about relationships. And it’s time to make every relationship count.

Momentum: Improve your business…change your life!

[1] Source: Bain & Company   Retaining customers is the real challenge


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