There comes a time in many businesses when a customer moves on, outgrows you or you move on. It happens all the time.
And why is that? Maybe you don't offer a product or service that a subset of your customers wants, or you have a service or product you can't carry or support anymore. It can be tempting to say "yes" to every request your customers have, but in many cases you may try to please them, but end up disappointing them, which can make matters worse. Or, perhaps they just need more than you'll ever have to offer.
Let's look at an example, 37Signals. A wonderful company led by entrepreneur, author, and speaker Jason Fried. He started his company with an online project management tool called Basecamp, which I'm sure led to customers requesting everything and anything. Because Fried and his team were trying to be in service to their customers, they obliged. But when you spread your business too thin, you need to rein it in and focus. With their announcement here they're doing just that. Focusing.
We experienced this ourselves a few years back at my email marketing company, VerticalResponse.
We released a product that some of our larger customers could use. It definitely wasn't a leading feature, but it worked and did the job. The problem was it was difficult for us to scale and maintain. When we started to see that maintaining the feature for just a few customers was taking time away from our focus on our core customers and their needs, we made a decision to have a difficult talk with the larger customers.
We let them know that we were not going to be able to continue to support their needs, but proactively provided them recommendations for vendors that would be a great fit. We didn't just leave them high and dry and that made all the difference in their response, which was overwhelmingly positive since we helped them make the transition.
This post was actually inspired by a personal experience I just had. I've been going to a great guy for acupuncture for years. On my last visit he gave me the news that he lost his lease and was combining his city and his suburban business which is located about 40 minutes away.
I asked him for a recommendation for another provider in the city and he simply said, "Check out Yelp." So after years of doing business with him, he just left me standing out in the cold, no needles to be recommended.
Have you ever had to help a customer leave you? Share your experience in the comments.