Does this sound familiar? A busy CEO installs an automated phone-answering system, figuring it will save lots of time and money. "At first clients said it was terrific," recalls Ed Winguth, owner of a $1-million executive-search firm, in Los Altos, California. But soon customers started saying the system was too cold and annoying because it forced callers to sit through three levels of menus before reaching a human voice. Repeat customers really got annoyed.

Winguth, Donahue & Co. finally scrapped the system after two years, suffering $4,000 in repairs and six days of downtime--and the loss of four prospective clients. What's more, Winguth realized a larger truth from his experience: If clients could complain so heartily about the phones, what else was on their minds?

Winguth realized he also needed to follow up with repeat clients after making a placement. His new approach proves that a lost customer is an ideal prospect. And Winguth recently won back a client after five years.

Copyright 1997 G+J USA Publishing