You hired the smartest people. You offer the best product. Your prices are competitive. Why are your customers leaving?
People Do Business With The Nice Guys
In "Fierce Leadership" author Susan Scott makes the point that when you land yourself in a competitive situation with all the above being true, customers choose the "nice guys". People want to do business with people that they have a connection with. People that they can talk to and people who listen. People who make them feel good about what they buy. And that is just too bad for the smart guys.
Joseph Pine ("The Experience Economy") wrote that today's economy is an "experience economy", indicating that customers are seeking more than a good product or good service. Using the product or service has to be an enjoyable experience which begins with the very first encounter a customer has with your business.
Deepen the Experience with Web 2.0
In a global economy that first experience often starts on the Internet and relationships are deepened through the tools of web 2.0 - social networks, comments, reviews, ratings and sharing. The customer experience is created not only through your messages but also through what others say about you. The media relations and advertising departments no longer control your brand. Your customers and staff do and they are a part of your brand conversations.
Engagement - The Glue In Your Brand
In the latest of the well-known "Did You Know" videos (also known as Shift Happens) Eric Qualmann's version says: "What happens in Vegas, stays in... Facebook, Bebo, MySpace..." Keeping loyal customers will require rallying the troops - and those troops are staff and past clients. Engagement and meaningful deep conversation create loyalty which becomes the glue in your brand.
Employees who feel engaged and who are a part of meaningful conversation at work, become empowered brand ambassadors. Engaged employees contribute to the customer experience (some airlines get this right - see Southwest Airlines and WestJet or just think about the Fish vendors at Pike's market in Seattle).
Also rally current customers - they are guaranteed to talk about a great experience. Help them along by providing the forum on your website, your social network page, or your blog.
Where to Start?
It starts with buy-in at the top. As the leader of an organization the buck starts and stops with you - setting the example, creating the tone. Scott tells the story where a top notch consulting firm with the smartest employees and managers who are referred to as "partners" could not sew up a billion dollar contract - only to discover that the competition won the contract because they were the "nice guys".
If customers are walking away, competitors stealing your staff, or getting the job done is like pulling teeth - check the level of engagement with your staff and your customers.