Most companies have invisible customers. And, unlike Kevin Bacon in the movie “Hollow Man”, these customers do not choose to be invisible. They are made invisible by employees. It happens every day. The bad news is, these customers will cost your company a lot of money.
The good news is, it’s not hard to prevent invisible customers. Here are some tips on how to make sure your company never has invisible customers.
In my work, I see three types of invisible customers. They each require different approaches.
1. Ghost Customers
They are physically ignored, as in a store or restaurant and the employees literally walk by them without helping them or acknowledging their presence in any way.
2. Empty Customers
Customers can also be ignored from a solutions perspective. This happens when a company (or employee) ignores why the customer is there. They focus on selling the customer their products and services rather than helping the customer accomplish what they want. Their experience leaves them feeling empty.
3. Automatic Invisible Customers
A common way customers get ignored is when they are “automatic” customers. This is any customer who has to take an action to stop being a customer. If they do nothing, they remain a customer. Some of these are subscription business models but others are simply based on contracts or inertia.
Some examples would be: Insurance, banking, fitness club, website hosting, cable and Internet access.
These customers get ignored in that they get treated worse than new (or potentially new) customers. A company might focus too much on attracting new customers. So they do little for existing customers. And the comparison can be striking.
How to prevent invisible customers
The solution to avoid these three types of invisible customers depends on the situation.
The best way to prevent Ghost Customers is to greet and acknowledge every customer every time. No exceptions and no excuses. Encourage and motivate your staff to notice and acknowledge everyone, no matter how busy they may be. Build it into your process. Make it a standard for everyone to meet.
Focus on what they want rather than what you wan to sell them. Remember, customers come to you for help accomplishing something. They don’t show up wanting to be sold something so you can fill quota or move inventory. Talk to them, ask questions, listen and then help them find a solution.
Automatic Invisible Customers
Compare what you do for new and potential customers with what you do for existing customers. Is there a large gap? How much time, attention and resources do existing customers get in your model? (And up-selling or cross-selling does not count because it’s focusing on what YOU want.) Ask your existing customers how they feel about being a customer today compared to when they first started. Is it better or worse?
Answers to these questions will help you prevent automatic customers from becoming invisible customers.
Preventing invisible customers means you acknowledge and take care of every customer. It means you do not ignore them in any way. It’s not hard to prevent invisible customers. And if you do, you’ll be rewarded with more loyal customers and a healthier business.