Fall leaves are a lot like customers. They typically don’t depart simply due to the lure of a competitor like gravity invites a leaf to the ground. They are pushed out by the negative force of poor service or indifferent service.
All my life I thought that fall leaves departed the tree because they got too old to hang onto the branch and gravity bested their grasp. It does not work that way. Peter Raven, president of the Missouri Botanical Garden and a renowned botanist, reports that trees literally throw their leaves off of the limb. It is much like a customer throws a service provider off their preferred list.
Here is how leaves become the prey of gravity. As days get colder and shorter, trees create a hormone that sends out a chemical message (much like social media) and triggers the creation of cells that appear at the spot where the leaf stem meets the branch. These abscission (the root word for scissors) cells make a microscopic sized cut that gradually severs the leaf from the branch.
Customers have their own form of chemical messaging that leads to severing ties with a service provider. Too often service providers assume customer turnover is the result of a customer’s needs changing or concern for the price. And, that does happen. But, like the leaf, a service experience that signals an indifferent service provider more often customers leave a service provider. Today’s customers are seekers of value. Not ho hum, okay, satisfactory worth–they expect obvious real value. They seek a positive return on their investment of time, hassle and funds.
It means creating delightful experiences that perpetually remind customers they are important all the time, not just at the spring of the relationship. It involves communicating and serving through the channel, style, and form preferred by each customer. It means keeping ties to customers strong and vibrant. It requires making service as effortless as possible. It entails keeping all promises, even those implied. And, if an incident occurs that puts the customer relationship at risk, it requires a world-class response that repairs the relationship as it corrects the hiccup.
The fall of summer brings changes in nature. The fall of service can bring alterations in customer loyalty unless service providers build strong ties that bind, not apathetic incidents that separate. The law of gravity does not care if you agree with it or not; neither do customers with a beef or a bore.