How to Rebound After Your Biggest Customer Says Goodbye

Date: December 30, 2009

These days, even your most rock-solid customers can walk away. But if they do, it doesn't have to spell the end of your business. Here are six tips for surviving the loss of a major customer.

1) Understand why the customer is severing ties with your company.

You may learn that they're unhappy with an aspect of your product or service, but assumed that it couldn't be improved. For instance, they may be switching to a lower-priced competitor under the mistaken assumption that you can't match the competitor's rates. It may be impossible to win back this particular customer, but it might allow you to rectify a customer-service problem within your organization that could negatively influence your relationships with other customers.

Related: How to Deal with Difficult Customers

2) Don't dwell on the negative.

When hit with the news that a valued customer is walking away, it's natural to focus on what you could have done differently. While it's important to look back over your association with the customer and make note of how you can improve certain functions, in the first couple of weeks after losing a valued customer, you need to focus on how your company will carry on without them.

3) Talk to your lawyer.

If you don't have a business lawyer, ask other business owners you know for a referral. A lawyer can help you determine if your company can weather this storm and advise you on how to avoid bankruptcy.

4) Get aggressive about reducing expenses.

If you have to layoff some of your staff, offer them the alternative of becoming independent contractors. That way they can work for you when you need them but they also have the freedom to work for other companies. If cash flow is an immediate concern, talk to creditors about how they can help you. Consider moving your company to smaller, less costly quarters.

5) Step up your service to your remaining customers.

Make customer service a high priority. Encourage your sales staff to spend more time talking to customers about how your company can better serve their needs. If customers request price breaks, do what you can to comply so that they won't take their business elsewhere.

Related: 6 Things to Tell Every Customer Who Walks in the Door

6) Learn from your mistakes.

If one customer represents more than one-third of your revenue, it's a sign that you need to grow your customer base. Look back on how much time you spend with your biggest customers, including the customer who left. If you tend to take these important customers for granted, turn that around by scheduling regular lunches and dinners with them. Meanwhile, offer better incentives to your sales staff and other employees to encourage them to find new customers.


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