Tell me more about the “silent customer”

Dear M & M:

Over the last two years my sales have declined. I started asking some customers if there was a problem because I hadn’t seen them in a while. I was shocked at some of the responses I got. I heard about the, “silent customer”. Can you tell me a little more about this?

– William

Dear William:

A recent article appeared online from MarketingProfs by Sean D’Souza that answers this question and gives some advice on the silent customer who doesn’t complain, they just leave and don’t come back.  The article states, “Never assume a customer who doesn’t complain is a happy customer”. According to a Bain & Company survey, “major companies typically lose half of their customers over a five-year period.” “For every customer complaint there are 26 other unhappy customers who have remained silent” –Lee Resource “Notice, it wasn’t ‘one year’ or ‘suddenly,'” writes Sean D’Souza at True You Marketing. “Clients have a tipping point. They get unhappy bit by bit and then it’s over. They are not coming back and they could even start telling others not to come. A book by Pete Blackshaw states on the front cover, “Satisfied customers tell three friends, angry customers tell 3,000.”  So, if you think that all your customers are happy with you—they aren’t.”

To illustrate how this happens, D’Souza recounts his disappointment with a major franchise takeout order of soggy, unappetizing chicken and fries. He called the restaurant chain’s toll-free number to complain, but was told that complaints should be directed to the specific location’s manager. D’Souza couldn’t be bothered—understandably—and simply chose to stop patronizing the restaurant. The local store lost a customer without even knowing it had happened. You can bet your customers make “silent” decisions like this on a regular basis—so make it easy for them to complain. Don’t rely on feedback forms. Ask customers for direct, face-to-face opinions. “Do it regularly and have them know whom they can complain to, if anything goes wrong,” says D’Souza.

It’s never fun to hear what you’re doing wrong, but here’s the upshot: By asking specific follow-up questions, you can create specific solutions that improve your business and satisfy a customer’s concerns. How was the service? Did someone greet you? Did you get what you came for? How about asking, is there anything else we could do? Remember D’Souza says, “A complaint is free intel—much cheaper than the research you pay outside vendors to conduct. Finding a new customer will cost you eight times as much as keeping an existing customer.” Sam Walton said it best, “There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”



To ask your questions: Call the Small Business Development Center(SBDC) at Cochise College (520)-515-5478 or email or contact the Sierra Vista Economic Development Foundation (EDF) at 520-458-6948 or email .


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