The 3 Main Reasons Good Customer Relationships Go Bad

By Roy Barnes, Bob Kelleher

Your relationship with a customer is a little like a marriage. Keeping it on track requires hard work and focus. Sometimes, these relationships run like well-oiled machines. Other times, dirt, grit, and plain old neglect begin to gum up the works. And on occasion, the machine breaks down altogether. The relationship ends, and you’re left wondering, “What the heck just happened?”

Customer relationships end for the following three reasons:

  • Inflicting one too many minor wounds: More often than not, a customer ends his relationship with a company not because of one big failure on the company’s part, but rather because of the slow, cumulative effect of several tiny mishaps.

    Take flying. When you fly, you expect the airline to run on time, the staff to be friendly, and the in-flight Internet to be operational. If any one of these expectations occasionally isn’t met, you probably aren’t too upset. But when failures in these areas begin to stack up, it puts your relationship with the airline at risk.

  • Failing to acknowledge and take responsibility for mistakes: Everyone screws up. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. But the real failure is acting as though nothing has happened. When you make a mistake, no matter how small, ’fess up and take immediate steps to rectify it. Your customers will appreciate it!

  • Failing to communicate when things go bad: Everybody knows that things sometimes go wrong. But when they do, it’s up to you to immediately communicate that with your customers. Unlike fruit, problems don’t improve with ripening. They get worse — a lot worse. Just ask executives at Target Corp., who, after suffering a data breach in late 2013, waited close to three weeks to alert some 40 million consumers to the problem. Needless to say, customers weren’t happy about the lag time — and still aren’t.