mad formal executive man yelling at camera

What Customers are you Willing to Lose?

Everyone talks about Sales.

Few talk about Retention (although it’s equally important to Sales).

Almost no one talks about helping some customers leave.

When you first revamp a Customer Support department, a good question to ask management is “what customers are you willing to lose?”. You could also say, “You understand that this process of change will cost you some customers, right?”.

Be prepared for raised eyebrows.

Sure, they knew their Support department was in disarray. They knew Operations had been hobbling, often for years. Yes, they want you to fix it.

What they sometimes misunderstand is how some “customers” are ones they bred and fed to an unsustainable level.

As Support Managers, we understand inherently the customer journey. We also understand what operations must be in place to keep and grow a healthy solid customer base.

Without an attitude that breeds calm customers, a percentage of customers will have grown to be two-headed monsters. It’s not their fault; it’s the company’s.

The company created expectations they couldn’t maintain (which is why Customer Support Operations must be revamped, among other challenges). The company made promises they couldn’t keep making. The company didn’t notice it happening; they just wanted to please the customer.

The inevitable changes must now be made. Call them “course corrections” rather than “changes”. The company got off course.

Some customers may have even championed the company while it sailed off course (often right into the customer’s harbor, but away from the harbors of growth and profitability). It was only natural for those customers to be happy when they got what they wanted, even though it was costing the company time and money it didn’t have.

The good news is that after the Course Corrections start, most of those customers will come around.

They knew all along it couldn’t last. They knew it was too good to be true.

When Customer Support Management communicates well, resets expectations, manages process changes thoroughly, and explains how the changes will actually benefit customers in other ways, most people turn out to be reasonable and understanding.

They know prices go up. They know services of a growing company will be streamlined. Serve them well and most will stay – and eventually be happier.

Some customers will leave. The ones who have been pampered (or lied to) can be noisy when they leave. They will point out their longevity, their loyalty, and their tolerances for past bungles. They may even attempt to go straight to the top, squealing (or screaming) to management, the CEO, or on social media.

Like tenured employees who can become lazy and accustomed to non-performant workloads, these customers were allowed to languish in a world that could not exist forever.

So, when management talks about wanting change, are they truly ready? Are they ready to field a few calls from past favorites and to say, “I’m really sorry, but we did indeed have to put this in place. I hope you stay with us, as I believe things are getting better overall, but if you need to take your business elsewhere, please know that we support you.”

Even better? Have a prepared list of your competitors on your customer documentation.

Does that concern you? It shouldn’t.

If they are truly great customers, they will stay (if handled as above). If they were spoiled, cost-sucking, time-consuming customers that were only getting special treatment, why not help them become your competitor’s customers? That’s a win-win.

When implementing a significant change, you can expect some customer loss. Top-tier Support and Operations teams know how to mitigate against loss.

When changes are properly handled and staffed for such changes, the loss can be minimal. But the loss can not be eliminated without undermining the very changes management hoped the Support and Operations teams would initiate.