In the Trenches: Customers Who No Longer Use Us – Small Business Center
This week I take a look at how we think about dealing with Cranky Concierge customers who used us last year but haven’t this year.
Cranky on the Web – Customers From the Past
In the Trenches: Customers Who No Longer Use Us – Small Business Center
This where growing businesses either have to learn about market research or take their chances flying blind (irony intended).
Market research can tell you what your customers have liked, appreciated, cared about or didn’t. You can learn what made them happy, what disappointed them and what parts of your service they value most. You can learn your own and your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses and the difference between fans and loyalists. A fan will SAY they love you and your work but will turn around and use Orbitz if they think they are saving $12. A loyalist uses you without question because they trust you and value your product long term.
Market research can help you decide where to find new customers and how to keep the ones you have. It can help you decide when and where to spend money as well as save it.
Good research, however, is expensive. There are free online “surveys” you can e-mail out, but they are not qualitative. They might tell you a percentage of customers are happy or unhappy, but not why.
If you consider research, you have to think of it as an investment. You can’t do your job without computers, printers, telephones and web services. So you invest in them. Good research should be considered the same kind of investment. It can help you figure out if you’re going where you want to go.
You wouldn’t send a customer to the airport and tell them to just make their best guess about an itinerary once they get there. So why would you try to do that with your company’s future?
You probably know enough people to get some good thoughts or recommendations on market research companies and services to seek a few out, compare services, methodology and prices. It can be a big leap of faith, and research results can be very humbling. Often you discover weaknesses you never thought existed. But good research can also point up enormous opportunities for new services or to appeal to new clients.
It just depends on how high you want to fly.
Michael – Thanks for all the thoughts on this. Frankly, I don’t think we need to get into sophisticated market research. We’re small enough that we can reach out to the customers directly who no longer use us and ask them. In general, we’re doing something right because the business keeps growing significantly every year (so far, our revenues are up about 50% this year versus last) and we do get a great deal of repeat business. So for us it’s more about finding out what doesn’t work for specific individuals as opposed to on a general level.
I’m sure this will change as we get bigger, but I think that very structured market research isn’t what we need right now.
I used it once. Had a typical United flight that included an unscheduled night over at Dulles. Even then I didn’t see how value was added.
Jw_ – I do see that you used us back in 2012. But if you didn’t see the value then, why did you sign up in the first place? (That’s a serious question.) There will always be some people who don’t find value in what we do, and that’s fine. But if you thought there would be value and then it didn’t materialize, I’d like to know what you expected and you didn’t get. Feel free to post here if you’d like, but I’m also happy to take this into direct email.
I would suggest having a survey. You can make it neutral, friendly looking, and ask questions like what did you like about the service, what did you not like, etc.
My guess is that most people who stop using your service simply didn’t have any problems on their flight. It’s like insurance, if you go several years without an accident you figure you don’t need it.
Jim – Yeah, I think you’re probably right. Certainly the highest rate of repeat business comes from people who had something go wrong. And really, that’s ok. Though in cases like that, we could consider an offer that would give them a discount off urgent assistance if they get stuck and haven’t signed up in advance. Could be an interesting offer for someone.
As for the survey, that could work but I think I can probably get to the heart of the matter with even a simple couple of questions. I think we’re looking for more qualitative than quantitative data her, so an informational email might work even better.
I used Cranky Concierge for award travel business class to Europe for myself and my wife and for my son to Australia. We are happy customers. I am happy to pay an expert to figure out how to use my United Miles for trans-ocean business class travel at Super Saver rates. However, it has probably been more than 12 months since I booked those flights with Cranky. Soon I expect to call Cranky again for another European trip, but since we may not travel exactly once a year, we may use the service one year and not the next, even though as a non-status Mileage Plus member Cranky has all my award travel business.
Jonathan – Thanks for the info there. That’s the kind of answer I’d love to hear. If people are infrequent fliers (at least using miles), then that makes perfect sense if that’s what you’ve used us for before. But how would you feel if we sent an email to you asking where you’ve been? Would it bug you? Or would you like the proactive outreach?
You might also consider picking 3-4 customers and offering them something of value that isn’t a discount on your services, this way you’re not trying to “buy them back” you’re simply asking for some of their time and compensating them for it. Perhaps a $15 Starbucks card for 10 minutes of their time on a phone conversation.
Having a few of these conversations would be helpful before attempting something more structured like an online survey.
Nick – That’s true, and it’s something I’ve done with our more frequent customers in the past. I just had coffee with one person who gave me some helpful feedback. Of course, a simple gift card could work well if I wanted to just get a few people to speak.
Market research costs $$$$$ and will it be worth the expediture? Will it add value?
You can ask the same question re: your services. What value do you provide to clients? What can you do that they can’t do for them,selves?
visitor – We have no problem articulating the value we provide to clients and we see that with the growth in our business. But just because we think it’s easily articulated doesn’t mean everyone gets the message. So that’s what we need to find out. It’s getting feedback from the client side. But I agree that market research is probably more than we need right now.
I work for a survey research firm (albeit mostly social rather than market research). My sense here is that a qualitative approach is the way to go. My suggestion would be to write a brief, polite, and personal email to some of the folks who didn’t use you in 2014 expressing your interest in learning more about why. It might be helpful to expressly say that this is to help you learn so that you can do better and not a sales call and that you would be happy to either have a brief call with them or hear about it via email. Although offering a gift card as suggested above isn’t a bad idea, I think it isn’t necessary. Those who are going to provide thoughtful feedback will probably give it anyway and at worst the gift card changes the tenor of the exchange to one where it is a quasi-payment for the person’s time, and they are probably compensated at a higher rate. For me at least, when someone is making a sincere effort to improve, I am inclined to help out, even if briefly.
I would roll out the emails a few at a time so that you can adjust your message if it falls flat. To get the flip side of the coin, it might be helpful to ask similar questions of some repeat customers, too.
Thanks Ben. Sounds like a good plan to me. I spent a fair bit of time
this week trying to figure out the list of people to reach out to.