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Brand Management

How Brands Should Say Goodbye To Customers

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Customer Experience

Brands and customers part company for all sorts of reasons. Relationships are tidal. We outgrow the need for a brand or product, our tastes or priorities shift, we don’t live where we lived or work where we worked or spend our time doing what we used to do all the time, perhaps we decide to pass on the latest upgrade.

And, objectively, that’s a healthy thing. Those ebbs and flows provide markets with movement. They ensure that new players can enter and gain new customers and current players can change their position in a sector as they gain or lose followers.

Most brands have their heads around winning new customers. They seem less certain on how to say goodbye with good grace. But how you do that can, in the longer run, and in the context of your brand, be as important as how you welcome customers in the first place. Wishing them well on the next stage of their journey, and assisting them to start that stage in the best light, may well put you a lot closer to welcoming them back.

The critical thing is to stay true to who you are and what you stand for, while keeping your mind open to opportunities to improve. The key question is, why are they leaving and what can you as a brand learn from that?

  • If you lose business on price, that probably means your value equation isn’t clear enough or strong enough. Don’t try to re-negotiate the result by radically repricing. That just makes your whole value structure look arbitrary and untrustworthy. If you honestly can’t afford as a brand to deliver what they want for the price they’re prepared to pay, then don’t. Explain why you can’t accept the arrangement and politely walk away.
  • If they’re leaving because of a perceived wrong or shortcoming, that probably means your relationship management and perhaps your problem escalation processes are patchy. Acknowledge that they feel the way they do, and (particularly if they have a point) tell them what you are doing to fix the problem they have identified. At least ask if you can be in touch when you have an answer. That keeps the relationship going and shows good faith in looking to rectify a situation.
  • If they’re leaving because they perceive the grass is greener, then you either have lost profile in the marketplace or you have failed to remind your customer of the value you bring. Try to find out what they think your competitor has that you don’t. You could do this through a survey or an interview. The insights gained from this exit poll can be very revealing.
  • If they don’t take up your latest offer, or they go somewhere else for it, then you either haven’t provided them with a good enough reason to change, you’ve lost ground as a brand or you’ve simply asked too much of your customers. Take a long hard look at what you’ve been asking them to buy and whether, in the context of what you’re asking them to spend, their priorities and what your competitors are offering, it’s really worth it for them.

Lifetime value is pretty much a thing of the past. You have to assume for the most part that customers have a limited loyalty timeframe. You can’t (and often shouldn’t) fight to keep the business at any cost. But you must always fight to keep your good reputation – because at some point, the customer who left you will be ready once again to move on.

How you said goodbye can have a lot to do with whether they boomerang to you or leapfrog to yet another player. Even more importantly, how ex-customers remember you can have a huge influence on whether new customers embrace you.

The Blake Project Can Help: The Customer Experience Workshop and The Brand Positioning Workshop

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education

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5 Comments

Amy on April 15th, 2014 said

If a company loses a particular customer base because your brand is no longer relevant to them, is there an allowable window of time where you can try to win them back? In other words: if they are gone too long, is there any hope that they will return?

Hilton Barbour
Twitter: ZimHilton
on April 16th, 2014 said

Wonderfully eloquent as always. Certainly categories like airlines & telco have shown us that churn is an active part of mature categories. Sadly, when these categories were in their infancy they relied on massive deal & promotion-type communication to force switching – what that wrought was to “teach” customers that their product had no or limited value. How could it be valuable if you’re prepared to give it away for free?

Now, when retention is so critical, how do you “unteach” that behaviour and customer perspective? How do you convince customers that your product is valuable NOW when you were prepared to give it away for so many years.

Loyalty, NPS and LTV pundits would suggest there remaining life in those frameworks. I would agree IF, as your article recommends, you’re looking at the behaviours that are causing churn…and genuinely try to address those issues.

markdisomma
Twitter: markdisomma
on April 16th, 2014 said

Agree Hilton … Once taught, behaviours (and the attitudes that endorse them) are much harder to “unteach”.

Amy on April 17th, 2014 said

Great article! So true about keeping a good reputation and how you want to be remembered by ex customers and perceived by potential new ones!

Murray Dixon
Twitter: MurrayDdot
on April 17th, 2014 said

Great article. The farewell phase of the customer journey is so important. It’s a fantastic chance to leave a positive impression of your brand. How well a brand does it shows whether they view their customers as people to sell to, or people to talk to.

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