The Journey of Boomerang Clients

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
—Arthur C. Clarke

No business likes losing clients, but it happens from time to time, and sometimes the reasons are unknown to us. Some clients will be forthright and give a reason while others quietly walk away. And sometimes a client leaves and well … we’re glad.

Sometimes the reason a client leaves is something I call the “False Glitter Effect.” What this does is hoodwink people into believing something is true when it really isn’t, thus casting a seemingly hypnotic trance over them. It gives people unrealistic expectations based on marketing propaganda versus reality. In some instances the False Glitter Effect leads customers to a place of frustration and disappointment.

It can strike in different ways at unexpected times, including when people are shopping around for a new or replacement product because they erroneously believe it’s something they need but don’t currently have. It can also present itself when people aren’t shopping but come across something that “sparkles” and catches their eye. And there will always be peddlers selling wares that are “the best thing to come down the pike” and that only an “intelligent consumer” would consider. Who doesn’t want to be labeled as intelligent?

The unfortunate part is that customers may already have what they need with their current product and not know it. In the case of a first-time product, people may not have anything to compare it against, so if the product looks shiny and sparkles, it must be precisely what they need … right?

Often when people believe some specific “something” is their ideal option, they can be preyed upon by sellers who will tell them exactly what they want to hear. When consumers don’t understand the full bounty of what a product offers, and how to use it to its fullest capacity, they have done themselves a disservice.

Exhibit A

Here’s a case in point: Our company had a long-standing staffing client who left for a software provider that it believed offered a better report generator. We subsequently learned this client assumed that the formatting, level of detail needed and the robust nature of what it required was not going to be possible with our software.

The fail here is that everything it needed in a report was right at this client’s fingertips. We know this because, after four weeks of using the new software, the client canceled the new contract and returned to our company. They had been sold fancy marketing fiction by this other provider. In addition to the reporting not being as functional as promised, there was a lack of necessary performance with the software that created many other problems.

Incredibly, the software had an appalling lack of basic functionality, including missing an online employment application, which should have been an immediate deal-killer. The client could have investigated other vendors, but upon due consideration and realizing the grass isn’t always greener, it decided to return to our organization and build a dialogue around its concerns.

Needless to say, the client was happy to learn what it previously didn’t know about our software’s functionality, and it’s now using it in a more informed and productive manner. Despite numerous attempts at creating open lines of communication that would have educated the client on existing functionality, we failed to connect. In reality, the situation was an easy fix and one that a dialogue would have solved had the client engaged with us; it would have saved a great deal of frustration and thousands of dollars.

Price Vs. Value

Price and value are often perceived as being the same thing, but in actuality they generally aren’t. Price is the ticket cost of the product purchased. Value, on the other hand, is the worth and usefulness the product brings as a solution to you and your organization.

A high ticket cost doesn’t always mean you’re getting a better-quality product, and likewise a lower ticket cost doesn’t always denote poorly made. This is why you need to consider both. When assessing value along with your budget to make a purchase, it’s critical to understand whether the intrinsic value for you is in accordance with your needs and whether the price tag is affordable. A thorough understanding of how the product will perform and solve problems for you should be the driving force in your buying decision.

Exhibit B

Another recent boomerang client returned to us after three months. In this case, the owner of the returning client is friends with the principal of a competitor’s software product. The lure here was that the friend’s product was new to the market, so a “friends and family” discounted price was offered. What the owner didn’t evaluate was the intrinsic value this new software would bring to her unique business.

The end users quickly discovered the software did not satisfy the requirements of their day-to-day processes. Initially they believed the new software interface had a more appealing dashboard layout, along with stronger search capabilities in social media and within the database, but they soon came to learn it lacked overall functionality when compared with the capabilities of my company’s software.

Additionally, they were told that career center updates were included in the contract cost, but a few months later discovered they would need to pay extra for this enhancement. Upon their return to us, we discussed the motivation for them to have initially left and what we needed to know about their business to partner with them adequately again. To their amazement, much of the functionality they believed didn’t exist with our software actually does.

In this instance, employee turnover had led to the client having a group of new users who were not briefed on the software’s functionality, leaving them with limited skills and knowledge on how to properly use it. We now have a partnership that involves two-way communication so we can understand their needs and address them as necessary.

Communication is Key. Building Relationships Is the Goal.

Consider your personal relationships and the people you like and respect. Business relationships are built on these same fundamentals, and at the crux of strong relationships lies open lines of communication.

One of the best ways for software buyers — and any consumers, for that matter — to get the most out of a purchase that comes with customer support is to stay in touch with their provider. Ask questions often, and if you’re unsure about any element of the functionality, seek out answers. Misunderstandings, miscommunications, lack of communication and assumptions can ruin a B2C relationship quickly. The only way to have great communication is to build a solid rapport and develop respect for each other’s business.

Developing a partnership based on trust and open communication will get you into the fast lane to find the real understanding of what you need to know. Without a doubt, communication is the key that avoids misunderstandings and ushers in trust.

What We’ve Learned

As with any relationship, be it personal or professional, good communication is at the root of understanding and satisfaction. Both businesses and consumers need to break out of their traditional roles of provider and purchaser. This type of relationship actually works against longevity, equality and long-term success. Instead, consider building consultative partnerships to bridge the gap and develop better working relationships. This holds especially true when you’re purchasing a mission-critical piece of software for your business.

If a client leaves you for undisclosed reasons, it behooves you to ask lots of questions and conduct formal exit interviews. As in the case of the clients mentioned in this article, you may be able to salvage those relationships and discover the reasons behind their desire to go with a different provider. Clearly if we had better lines of communication with these clients we would have understood and addressed their issues and saved them a great deal of time and money.

The lesson for us and our clients is a simple one: Developing enduring partnerships and relationships with strong lines of communication is where the real partnership magic lives.

This post is sponsored by SmartSearch.