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A Sure-Fire Way to Kill Client Relationships


Robin RobinsBy Robin Robins

Below is an email I received from a business that sells an online subscriptions to market research, which I had canceled:

Hi Robin. I see that your membership expired recently. Would you be willing to spend 15 minutes on the phone with us to share your feedbackwhat you liked and disliked about your membership and why you decided not to renew? We’re very interested in learning what we can do to win back customers like you. To thank you for your time, I can offer you a $20 Amazon gift certificate or a $100 discount on Pro membership. Your choice. Thanks! Katie

Whats wrong with that? Sounds like good old-fashioned marketing and customer service, right? WRONG. Heres why: This is the first time Ive heard from this company in over a year. I vaguely remember purchasing a membership when I was doing  research for a client. Since then, Ive completely forgotten about my membership, never getting anything in the mail, email or by phone to connect with me. Therefore, my reply was as follows:

Katie, I dont need to take 15 minutes of my time on the phone with you to explain whats going on here. Its been a year since I enrolled in your membership and since then have received ZERO communications in any form whatsoever. In fact, I completely forgot I subscribed until your recent email asking me why I havent renewed. I have received no thank-you notes, no follow-up, no updates, no new materials posted, no birthday cards and no your membership is about to expire” notifications. Nothingnadazip. As a MARKETING EDUCATION site, you should know better than to ignore customers like this. Shame on you. Youve let an entire year go by with NO communication and now you want me to believe you think Im a valued” member because its time for me to pay up for another year of being ignored. Want a million-dollar idea? How about showing a little love toward your customers before their membership expires?

Oh, it gets betterher exact reply in whole was:

Thats strange. We usually send out a few emails to people. Did you change your email address?

Geez. Where do I start? I wont bore you with back and forth that ensued, but I will point out a few key lessons:

  • First, she offered no apology. She also didnt say “thank you” for taking time to provide feedback. Instead, she suggests that it was probably my fault that I didnt get their emails when clearly I havent or I wouldnt have responded to the one she sent me asking to renew. (Hello, anybody home?)
  • Second, her answer indicates either shes clueless about how her company communicates with clients, or it doesnt have any type of systematic process for following up with new clients or communicating with members possibly both.
  • Third, she said she would see what we could do” about the fact the company wasn’t providing any type of follow-up, which means nothing will happen and nothing will change. This is opposite of what she said in her email about being very interested” in learning why I left. Of course, this is no skin off my back. I hope she actually has a manager that is paying attention to this communication and is smart enough to act on what I shared with her.
  • And finally, I had to send a final email to her stating that I wanted the $20 gift card promised for providing feedback. On that, I got no response. Over a month has gone by and I still havent received it. Again, it’s indicative of very poor customer service.

Heres the email the company should have sent:

Dear Robin, I see that your membership with us has expired recently. We really dont give a rats butt about you or why you left, but we do need your money, so for the short term, well pretend we care so we can get you on the phone with one of our tele-sharks. If youll let me waste 15 minutes of your time on the phone to try and sell you a membership renewal under the flimsy guise of customer service” and caring about your feedback, Ill send you a $20 gift card because if you were dumb enough to fall for our crappy service once, it will probably only take that much to dupe you again. Oh, and since we clearly dont care about follow-up and have zero systems in place, you probably wont get the gift card anyway, but what the heck … it sounded good, huh?

For channel partners who reading this, heres my advice:

  • First, dont send insulting communications like this to your clients when its time to renew their contracts. Dont try and tell them you care about them” when you havent communicated with them in months only to reach out when you want more of their money. Customers arent stupid. Everyone loves to throw around the term relationship selling” or trusted adviser” when they indulge in this exact behavior.
  • Second, dont dare blame the marketing campaigns youre sending for your poor results if this is how you treat clients and prospects.
  • And finally, if you really want to fuel more referrals and get customers to buy additional services, why not delight them the first time they do business with you, or at a minimum, deliver what you promised?

We recently asked all of our customers to provide feedback on our products, promising a 350-plus page book full of marketing campaigns and examples in exchange for their feedback. Even the negative ones got it, and those that were unhappy were personally called by me to find out what we could do to make it right not to try and sell them more stuff, but to genuinely find out how we could make them happy and improve our services. Not only is this just good business and good marketing, its the right thing to do.

In this economy, its no surprise to me why so many IT services companies are struggling. They hardly ever send any type of communication to their clients and prospects, then wonder why they dont get more referrals, get clients to take their advice and buy over and over again. This kind of laziness and stupidity is almost expected of big companies, but for a small business delivering an intimate service like IT services and support, its inexcusable. Maybe its time you put together a six- to 12-month plan for thanking clients and sending more than a holiday greeting card once a year for the thousands of dollars they spend with you.

Robin Robins, president of

Technology Marketing Toolkit Inc.

, is a marketing consultant, sales trainer, and author who provides marketing strategies for small to medium VARs, systems integrators, MSPs, solution providers and IT consulting firms.

Twitter: @robinrobins
LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/robinrobins


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