These days, the race to win and keep top clients is more heated than ever, so you shouldn’t be too surprised if some of your more aggressive competitors start trying to hone in on your territory. If you’ve got a customer or two who has been grumbling about making the switch to another provider, now’s the time to swing into action. Here’s what to do if you find yourself on the receiving end of that dreaded telephone call from a prized client.
Thank your customer for taking the time to talk things over. Most clients who decide to switch to a new provider only bother to inform you after the fact, so if your customer is giving you a chance to talk them out of it, you’re in luck. Kick off the conversation on the right note by thanking them sincerely for the opportunity to discuss the situation.
Lend a sympathetic ear. The best thing you can do at this juncture is let your client do most of the talking. Let them speak without interruption, only breaking in if the conversation hits a lull or if you don’t understand something they’ve said. Convey a tone of respectful and engaged silence, and practice active listening by asking for clarification and rephrasing and repeating their statements back to them.
Frame your business partnership in personal terms. Although you shouldn’t take it too personally if your client ends up deciding to jump ship, you should try to emphasize your shared history and your mutual respect during the conversation. If you approach the situation from a purely economic perspective, focusing solely on the business aspect of the relationship, you’ll be missing an opportunity to capitalize on your connection and history.
Turn lemons into a learning experience. If it becomes clear during the course of the conversation that your client has already made the decision to switch to another provider, try to make the most of the situation by using the discussion as an exit interview of sorts. Attempt to pinpoint the primary factors that are driving the decision. Ask your client whether there were any shortcomings or problems with your products or services that contributed to the move.
Don’t burn any bridges. Even if things don’t turn out as well as you’d hoped, try not to alienate or insult your client. Make sure you end the conversation on a positive and conciliatory note, expressing that you sincerely hope to hear from them again in the future and that you wish them the best of luck in their endeavors.
How have you responded to the news that a customer is jumping ship? Do you think your response helped or hurt the situation? Tell us your story in the comments.