How to Lose a Good Customer

Hardly a day goes by without news of a company reeling from digital disruption. Yet, there’s also the sobering fact that many organizations lose customers for far more mundane reasons. Here are three companies I parted ways with in 2016.

Wells Fargo. I’ve banked with Wells Fargo for many years, but thanks to incredibly inflexible policies, I finally had to leave. The final straw was an untenably low mobile deposit limit that often forced me to drive to a branch office or ATM. However, twice last year, when I headed to an ATM to deposit checks after hours, the machine was out of service.

Then, when I asked a representative—and later a supervisor—to set a higher daily and monthly mobile deposit limit, I was greeted with an ironclad “No.” This, despite holding a Premier Relationship Account. What happened to analytics and valuing valuable customers?

United Air Lines. The airline would not budge on reinstating my son’s frequent flyer miles without a significant fee—even though I have accumulated nearly 310,000 lifetime miles with the carrier. It turns out that my son began using a different email address and never received a notification of expiring miles. So, there was no way to know that we had to initiate a transaction to keep the miles active.

Since then, I have purchased tickets from competitors for a business trip to France, a vacation in Spain and France, and a 2017 trip to India and the United Arab Emirates. The cost to United in total revenues? About $10,000.

AT&T Wireless. Actually, I had no problem with AT&T in terms of performance or service. This issue occurred because I travel internationally between one and three times each year and, on these trips, I was racking up charges of $500 or more—even with the company’s international data plans.

T-Mobile, which doesn’t impose a surcharge for international data, caps speeds overseas. But for email, basic mobile browsing or using apps, this isn’t an issue. The takeaway? If your competitor offers a far better product or a price that extends to thousands of dollars a year, you had better change or accept that you will lose customers.

Of course, it’s impossible to be everything to everybody. But, today, a company should have a pretty good understanding of the customer relationship and offer the products, services, tools, plans and flexibility necessary to motivate a customer to stay. Loyalty must be earned every day.


Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard writes about business, technology and other topics. His book, The Internet of Things (MIT Press) was released in the spring of 2015.

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