Customer loyalty: you have to earn it

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Those of you in business of any type whether medical, construction, retail, food or travel industry, or any of the thousands of business types out there:

What are you doing to retain your customers?

The following incident occurred more than two years ago and serves as a good illustration of failed customer retention.

I moved to a suburb of Seattle in 1997 and became a client/patient of a local chiropractor.  This Doctor of Chiropractic knew all there was to know about me structurally because she treated me for fourteen years.  One of the issues of which she was keenly aware was my cervical spine (neck) discomfort.  After much deliberation and procrastination, I finally decided to have it surgically treated.  I had discussed my treatment options with my chiropractor at length throughout my time as her patient and she concurred that I might very well benefit from the C5/C6 disc replacement and fusion.

Xray of cervical spine
Xray of cervical spine – not mine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One week before my surgery I attended my chiropractic appointment and upon my departure that day I was wished well with the goal of returning for treatment once my neck fusion was completely healed.

Fast forward one year.  During that year of healing I did not receive a phone call, nor did I receive a card; I received nothing resembling any indication that they valued my previous fourteen years of patronage.  So I did something about it.

I wrote a very kind but professional letter expressing my disappointment in the management of this chiropractic office – a business that consists of one chiropractor and four staff members.  I told her that I was offended at having been ignored.  Here’s an excerpt from my letter:

I am offended by an apparent disregard for a patient’s longtime loyalty and patronage of your practice.   In my mind, I felt that a provider of chiropractic care, which is so much more person-focused than traditional medical care, would value the patient/doctor relationship and reach out to this patient given the length of her patronage.  That was not the case, so I have chosen not to resume treatment under your care.

You can be certain that I received a call within days of sending that letter, a call that went to voicemail while I was away from the house.  The doctor fell all over herself gushing and oozing with regret while at the same time explaining her reason for doing nothing: “I wanted to protect your privacy.”

Come again?  Does that mean you were disrespecting my privacy each time your office called to remind me of the 100’s of appointments I attended for fourteen years?  No.  You wanted to be certain I would show up.  And how does sending a card to my home disrespect my privacy?  It doesn’t.  The excuse was weak and I stuck to my guns.  Businesses need to realize that the least expensive and best marketing strategy involves word of mouth advertising.  On the flip side, the least expensive and worst marketing strategy involves word of mouth advertising.

How much money have you lost because you ignored your customers?

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