Why are you leaving me?


Here at The Marketing Clinic clients often tell us how they have lots of data about a concern and yet don’t understand the reasons why consumers are behaving in the way they are.

A client recently told me that her company was losing 20,000 customers a day! That’s some attrition rate and, even for the biggest companies, it is clearly not sustainable. Crucially it represents a colossal problem in satisfying their customers either in product performance or at the customer service level.

Of course, much work was being done on understanding why their customers were leaving, but on further examination it became apparent that much of this was based on analysis of standard questionnaires and feedback to customer service staff.

No one ever got an accurate answer when asking someone directly why they are leaving a relationship and it’s the same with your customers. Asking why they are leaving will often generate a comprehensive response, though these tend to be rationalised reasons, focusing upon the practical, tangible aspects of their dissatisfaction such as specific product attributes, examples of poor customer service, price, more attractive competitive activity. 

In fact, each consumer that you lose has been on a journey from being a satisfied – or at least a neutral – customer to being sufficiently motivated to change their behaviour, to end their use of your product or service, and even to find an alternative.

As with the journey from encounter to loyalty, the journey from loyalty to leaving is one of many steps, some tangible such as product or service attributes, price etc. but many of the real drivers are emotional and based in psychology.

If we stop for just a second to think about it, we realise that it is not the attributes of the product or service but the way that the consumer responds to them that is really important. It is the way they feel about our brand, the emotions that a customer service call provokes, it is how much they value our product or service and how we build or undermine these feelings towards us, that draw customers in or push them away.

An analysis of the rational reasons for leaving is great. It gives us clear tangible reasons that customers are leaving and we can scope and set up projects to deal with these problems – how can we improve the way that we deal with system failures? How can we improve how the product works in this type of situation? etc. And this may help…

…but when we understand the whole customer journey from loyalty to leaving –the rational issues and how and why the consumers’ emotional responses drive their behaviour – then we can really start to understand and tackle the problem of customer attrition.

It may well be that we need to open a new call centre to handle customer call volume or that we need to accelerate the updated version of our product. Alternatively, we may also discover that much easier and lower cost solutions such as small changes in our vocabulary, a different response to a customer query or a small change to our product, our packaging or communications may make a huge difference.

Over the years The Marketing Clinic has been helping clients, from multi nationals to smaller more specialised product and service providers, understand their customers’ journey to loyalty and the journey from loyalty to leaving and how they can improve customers’ emotional responses to their brand, their product and their service. 

We have consistently proven that while it may be easier to focus on the more tangible aspects, understanding your customers’ emotional involvement with your brand can be immensely powerful and often lead to quicker, cheaper and unique solutions to big problems.

Chris Lukehurst is a Director at The Marketing Clinic:

Understanding the connections between the consumer experience and emotional responses.