How to Find Your Most Valuable Customer
Your most valuable customer isn't the guy who pats you on the back. Your most valuable customer is that disenchanted and disheartened soul that chose your product and then concluded that even your support center couldn't solve his problem.
He can tell you, as no one else can, where you are utterly failing. Unfortunately, you might never hear from him unless you seek him out–and are then willing to hear what he has to say.
Smart entrepreneurs realize the importance of customer feedback when building a new business. User surveys can provide valuable insights, but they often don't reach those customers you need to hear from the most--the least satisfied and most disappointed. Those folks aren't going to take the time to fill out a form or stand still for a survey to help you fix your business. They've moved on.
In order to find out where they've moved on to, and why, you'll likely have to gather some data on your own. Start with these steps.
Luckily, locating your most disenchanted customers usually isn't that difficult; just ask your support team. They'll know who they are, and might even describe them (off the record) as "pains" or "wackos." Get their numbers. Find a quiet place. Get ready to hear some criticism. Be prepared to learn some important information that may do wonders for your bottom line as you get a chance to repair problems you didn't even know you had.
Disenchanted customers really don't want to hear from customer service. However, they will likely take a call from the chief executive of the company.
And once you have them on the phone, you'll need to remember that those angry customers didn't start out that way. At some time in the past, each of them made an affirmative decision to purchase your product or service–they believed in your company and your offering. Only later did they discover a problem.
Your goal is to find out what happened, and why, so that you can fix it. As you call them, keep that in mind. They were in love with you--or at least liked you enough to give you their money. Now, they're like jilted exes--wondering what they ever saw in you and not really wanting to give you the time of day.
Failing the customer almost always falls into one of three categories: The product was truly faulty, the documentation was incorrect, or customer expectations weren't properly managed. Most customer service departments really only know how to deal with the first two.
Unfortunately, the customer who falls through the cracks is most likely to be in the third category. Managing expectations is something that needed to be done by the sales or marketing team, and is very difficult to repair in hindsight.
On the other hand, if you can identify where your marketing or sales presentation failed the customer, it can be among the easiest problems to fix–and will help you prevent any number of similar situations in the future.
And you get all that for the price of a phone call–and a few minutes of your time.
RON BURLEY | Columnist
Ron Burley is a nationally recognized consumer advocate and serial entrepreneur. He is the author of Unscrewed: The Consumer's Guide to Getting What You Paid For and senior partner at Brushfire Consulting.