Think Bigger

Why your best customers leave you

You can’t make this stuff up.

A few months ago, one of our Accelerator coaches was on a call with a customer. About a year earlier, this student had gotten advice that helped her make $35,000. This was their second time speaking.

“What’s going on?” her coach asked.

“Well, I’m up for renewal… but I’m not sure if I should sign up again!”

Think about that. Our coaching program costs $990 per year. She made $35,000, more than 30X what she paid. We’re talking about doing something that’s PROVEN to make multiple times her investment.

If you knew you could spend $1 and make back $3 (let alone $30), would you do it? Of course you would! And yet, when faced with whether or not to commit another year, she got squeamish.

The lesson: Even your best, most loyal customers won’t stick around forever. Even if you’re helping them make money.

This is really surprising. You’d think that when you helped people succeed they would be grateful and continue their engagement with you.

But this was one of our best customers. My team and I spent thousands of hours and millions of dollars to develop the material she was getting. And she’d gotten tens of thousands of dollars in cold, hard cash value from using it. And yet she wasn’t SOLD on continuing business with us.

WHY?

The loyalty trap

As an entrepreneur, watching loyal customers leave can be incredibly painful. You give everything you can to provide value to your readers — free PDFs, new videos, blog posts, video transcripts, new call recordings…

Yet more than 99% of people will never buy. Or if they do, odds are they won’t buy again.

You’re left sitting there, alone, a single thought running through your mind: I’VE GIVEN YOU SO MUCH VALUE. AND YOU’RE JUST GOING TO WALK AWAY?

I remember getting bitter about this early on. I’d written my blog for 3 years, for free, and the first time I tried to sell a $4.95 product, people accused me of selling out. FOR FIVE DOLLARS?

What, do they want me to come clean their toilet and do their laundry? 

Getting bitter is not the right answer. That’s a long, dark road ahead of hating people for years to come. Actually, that sounds kind of fun.

It’s very easy to become angry and jaded when you’re giving away more and more material free — even helping people earn tens of thousands of dollars — and they don’t appreciate it. If you’re not prepared for this to happen, it can be one of the worst feelings in the world.

I learned this through a lot of pain, so I want to share the approach I finally took with you.

The answer starts from a misunderstanding of loyalty.

How loyalty actually works

On a 1-on-1 level, we intuitively believe that if I, the business owner, help you, the customer, you’ll keep coming back. It’s a “covert contract,” or a contract that we have in our minds but never explicitly say.

On a larger strategic level, marketing “experts” have claimed that It’s cheaper to serve an existing customer than to acquire a new one. The conclusion: If you just keep your customers from leaving, you’ll earn more and spend less on marketing.

In actuality, both of these are wrong. Your customers might love your products. They might use them to improve their lives, make hundreds of thousands of dollars, or fall in love. But many of them will leave — for any number of reasons.

Also, the old adage, “It’s cheaper to serve an existing customer…” is true — but incomplete. The truth is, even your best customers will leave.

This is wrong. Even our best customers aren’t loyal. But believing they are sets you up to feel betrayed time and time again.

Customers aren’t loyal. And it’s a waste of time trying to convince them to be.

Intuitively, you and I know this is true.

Think about a store you used to go to. Back in the day, you loved it. But now, you just don’t go much any more. Maybe you had a bad experience. Maybe your tastes changed and you outgrew it. Or maybe the store got less “cool.” We all have places where we consider ourselves loyal, and one day we wake up and just say, “I’m not feeling it.” This is how loyalty ends: usually with a slow fade.

The same thing happens on a large scale to every business.

You would think that loyal customers would stick with you. It seems inconceivable that a customer who’s finding value would simply leave. In reality, almost all of them will leave.

Life changes. Priorities change. Competition changes. In reality, almost no one is 100% loyal.

Think of the brands known for having rabid followings, like Apple and Harley Davidson. In one of my all-time favorite books on marketing, How Brands Grow, the author reveals something surprising: Harley Davidson’s top buyers buy other brands twice as often as they buy Harleys! And Apple buyers were only slightly more loyal than customers of other top computer brands.

In other words, your best customers don’t just buy from you. They buy from other companies, too.

Fact: 87% of a brand’s customers don’t stick to just that brand. They’re promiscuous at best. And if they’re offered something better, they’re gone.

Who was loyal to Blockbuster when Netflix came along? And bookstores? Once it was cheaper/more convenient to order books off Amazon, people switched. Even in businesses with seemingly high “switching costs.”

Your most loyal customers aren’t as loyal as you think. Not only do they buy from other people, they’ll stop buying from you.

This is a hard fact to accept. Especially because it violates our intuitive sense of fairness, as well as the “loyalty” pablum we’ve all been fed. The truth is, you can’t simply run a business on loyalty forever.

For example, if you “froze” your business today and continued to provide amazing products to your customers, what would happen? Eventually, your business would die.

Loyalty is a powerful concept. But in order to sustain your business, you have to constantly find new customers.

 

When great results aren’t enough

Years ago when I was starting to grow IWT and hired Jay Abraham to coach me, his analysis of loyalty was one of the most counterintuitive things he shared with me.

We want to believe people are loyal. We want to believe WE are loyal. But we’re not. You can blame people for being disloyal or irrational, but it doesn’t matter. Human nature does not care about logic, it simply is what it is.

To be honest, this was the most counterintuitive thing I ever learned about business. It flies in the face of what everyone tells us.

I’ll show you an example from my own life. I was with my trainer for 5 years. That’s 3x per week I worked with him. Total quality time, no cell phones or distractions. That’s more time than I spent with almost anyone else. Put on over 20lbs of muscle and completely changed my life.


Didn't get this one. Next time.

A post shared by Ramit Sethi (@ramit) on

Then one day, I woke up and decided it was time to move on. That was that. We’re still friends, but we don’t work together anymore.

It would have been easy for him to be bitter about that. Trust me, as a business owner, I’ve felt that way.

But the truth is, my goals changed. And because he’s great at what he does, it didn’t hurt his business to see me go.

So many entrepreneurs tear their hair out wondering why their best customers leave. Then they chase fruitless tactics trying to get them to stay — loyalty cards, adding more value, chronically over-delivering, when nothing you say or do will change human nature.

I’m sharing this with you now so you’re not one of them.

Please note what I’m saying very carefully:

  • Yes, loyalty matters. Having loyal customers is a massive competitive advantage that will help you scale a very large business. Just take a look at the math behind our 1,000 Top Customers.
  • You can build an army of loyal customers through attracting the right people up front, through multiple channels, and delivering incredible value through your products.
  • However, loyalty is not enough. Great products are not enough. In fact, even great results are not enough.

The answer: No matter how loyal your customer base is, it’s imperative that you become world-class at attracting new customers, forever.

I’m curious: Have you ever been super loyal to a business (or friend/girlfriend/boyfriend for that matter), then woke up one day and the feeling was gone? What happened?

If so, will you please share your story with us in the comments below? I read every reply.

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Join The Conversation

I had a very close friend in high school. We we’re very loyal. He would check on each other if the other didn’t show up to school. We’d defend each other against others. Everybody thought we’d be inseparable forever.

Then we went to the same college and immediately drifted apart. He placed more emphasis on making friends from the country we are from. I wanted to mingle with everybody and have an international set of friends. He wanted to participate in music and dance, I wanted to be great at public speaking, Entrepreneurship and Investing.

I just accepted that we have different goals and values and it took college to bring that to light. We still contact each other once in a while.

In fact I’m going to text him now.

While I agree with your statement “Loyalty is a powerful concept. But in order to sustain your business, you have to constantly find new customers.”, the reason customers are not loyal is because you don’t have a product that forces them to be. That is, you allow them the option to be unloyal.

When I read a book, after I’m done, I’m going to think long and hard about whether I read the author’s next book even if I liked the first one. I’ve consumed the product: it’s gone. Why should I buy the next one? What’s the delta?

I will not be ‘trading out’ JIRA or Trello or Confluence or Office 365 because I have no alternative. And I’ve invested too much in the platforms. These are services that don’t get consumed and add value every day. When I use Office 365 for a week, I have not consumed the product; I still need it the next week.

Think you’ll switch from iPhone to Android? What about all those paid apps and music? Think about switching from AWS to Azure? What about all of that work I’ve put in making those CloudFormation scripts? Where’s all my AMI’s?

If one focuses one’s effort away from providing a service to providing a platform, that is not ‘consumed’ on consumption it’s a lot harder for customers to be unloyal.

Now, still it’s possible for customers to switch, but the bar is raised an order of magnitude.

“I’ve invested too much…” I think that is key to many things. Especially relationships. We may not “feel” it anymore, but the thought of giving up on something we’ve “invested” so much in, will sometimes keep us going.

I think you may be confusing loyalty with entrapment. People are not “loyal” because they have no alternative – they are stuck. Rather than raise the bar technically so that people are stuck, make sure your customer’s experience of your company and product is excellent as well. You don’t want resentment to build until someone does come along to make jumping over that bar worth the effort.

Lisa, I agree that you want to keep making your product better. But if you can make it a platform and get others to buy in, the point is that there is so much more value than the ‘me vendor- you consumer’ relationship. Now there are hundreds of vendors dependant on consumers and visa versa: bam – network effect.

I agree with Lisa that you can’t confuse loyalty with entrapment! If there are no other viable options I probably don’t want to get sucked in to being your client or using your product and, if I *need* to do so (TV service in rural areas comes to mind) I will resent your company with a passion and *will* jump immediately when another option does eventually become available. Also people do change from one provider to another, whether it’s their cell phone provider or the manufacturer of the phone or their laptop etc. I’m a hard-core, loyal Android user but I’m investigating the iPhone X as a possibility when it becomes available in November. Not because I like Apple products in general (I don’t) but because its release corresponds with the natural end of my present phone’s useful life and because it apparently has some interesting features I don’t think I’ll find elsewhere currently. So, there are limits to my loyalty. Who cares that I’ll have to download some apps? And I don’t pay for music to play on my phone anyway. I’ve got stuff like Dropbox and Evernote, not iTunes or Spotify! As for Office 365, I’ve already worked (long ago) where we used WordPerfect and made the switch to Word (and the rest of the Office Suite) with no problems, and go back and forth seamlessly with Google Drive. If something demonstrably better came out, I wouldn’t hesitate to try it. Switching operating systems to Linux would be more daunting but I could certainly do it if I had a good enough reason to do so. That’s sort of like suggesting you’re stuck with Blogger or Mail Chimp even though your needs have changed, because that’s what you tried first.

Rishi, I don’t think you are seeing the big picture. You are correct on the majority of what you said – in the short term if everything remains constant.

But that will never happen. Nothing remains constant. Otherwise there would be no Netflix and Blockbuster would still be around. What if Office 365 started charging you $5 per file you create? You’d jump over to Google Drive in a heartbeat. And actually you could now, and get the same benefits of Office 365 for free.

Yes you may have invested a lot into iPhone, but I know people who have made the jump from iPhone to Android and Android to iPhone. You chose to invest heavily in one, which is fine, but to Ramit’s point it is also human nature to be irrational. One day you might wake up and decide the iPhone is not cutting it. It won’t be instant, but it’s that slight annoyance after months or years even of this or that – that you now realize has been eating at you. And if/when that day comes, you’ll move on.

Yes right now the amount of work you put into X doesn’t entice you enough to move to Y, but when Z comes out and disrupts the game, you may jump in a heartbeat.

WHOA. This is exactly how I felt. I have even said that very thing: “What else can I do? Come scrub your toilets for you?” I go so far above and beyond for my students it’s INSANE, yet find myself wondering, “Where’s the loyalty?”

Incredible article. Thanks so much for putting in writing how I’ve been thinking and feeling for years.

A guy I know who owned a hardware store once said: “There are 2 types of customers. The ones who will leave angry and let you know about it, and the ones who will just disappear. If you can discover why some just disappear, that’s gold.”

There’s a great restaurant within walking distance from our suburban house. Last summer, we went weekly for dinner and drinks. This year when the weather got nice, we were excited to return. That excitement turned to disappointment when they’d swapped our two favorite entrees for other items we didn’t like. Just like that, we disappeared, never visiting again.

I think I’ll reach out to the owner and let him know why. If nothing else, I’m sure he’ll appreciate the feedback. I know I would.

Similar experience. Went to a local sub/sandwich shop, not really because of the food, but because I really liked the owners whose attitude and demeanor always cheered me up and made my day. Then, I for a few weeks I saw them training some new people to serve, and then I stopped seeing them at all. At that point, I stopped going. I went for the feeling/experience I had, not the product (food).

That is an excellent point. And I think it would be great for the business owner to know why you left. That’s invaluable information.

same here. I make it to my fav coffee shop almost every day just because of the people – owners, staff. actually sitting here right now. oh, and customers – really good people get attracted to this place.

we became good friends with the owners and staff of this coffee shop but they still have that customer-first attitude and I feel myself a vip every single time I come in. I feel welcomed, connected, respected, special. I guess that exact feeling makes me come again and again. (and we always laugh.)

and I will stay as far as I feel this way.

the people I get connected on a daily basis mean a lot to me. and we have that opportunity to choose.

whenever I go to the local markets, grocery stores, coffee shops etc. where I buy something and exchange vibes, I carefully select the person I’m gonna get connected to.

I choose a cashier before I queue up. I choose a barista before I order my morning coffee.
does he/she look in the eyes when talking? does he/she smile? do they listen? what questions do they ask if any?

of course, it takes much longer than just go with a flow but i do it consciously and it always pays me back.

I have great conversations with those people. I always learn from them.

and I will stay as far as I feel this way.

Yup, the personal connection can trump almost everything else. Thanks for your comment.

The time I shared with the owner how the food really was:

I found a local Lebanese restaurant via Yelp and really loved the idea of a local mom-and-pop restaurant in a typically franchise-heavy suburb. I had talked to the owner on the phone for almost 20 minutes before the first time I went (to make sure they had an allergy-friendly option for my son). She went over and beyond to make sure we had a great meal and experience. I came back almost monthly, taking my out-of-town visitors and celebrating family occasions here. Then, one night the chicken dish that I always order came out a bit dry. I was disappointed since it was one of their signature dishes.

About halfway through the meal, the owner came to ask how everything was. I shared that the chicken was a bit dry. It wasn’t going to prevent me from coming back (since I figured the chef had an off night), but I wanted to let her know so she could tell the chef and correct it for the next customer.

The owner got defensive and said that there was NO WAY that the chicken could be dry because she watched her cook marinate it earlier that day. She told me that her cook had been with her for almost 7 years and made the chicken perfect every time. Then she walked off!

Had she apologized and asked if we wanted another dish, I would have politely declined and would have been perfectly happy. However, due to her attitude and response, I have not been back since. That was over two years ago.

Unfortunately, we (internet marketers) are just a commodity in the eyes of our customers. They will remain loyal as long as we are providing value. When they sense there will be no value added to the relationship, they leave. The customer who left you after earning $35k apparently has achieved her goal(s). She isn’t motivated to earn more so she sees no value in renewing her membership.

This is just human nature. When we are full, we are no longer hungry. Be thankful you were able to “feed” her as long as you did. If you offered a “lifetime” access for free, I bet she would hang around. This, at least, would give you the opportunity to present her with future offers.

Suggestion: Stop referring to yourself as an internet marketer. In fact, stop associating with internet marketers.

I never call myself one, nor do I want our business to be compared to IM.

For me, it is the realization that I have better options and/or outgrew the person, business, etc.

Recently, I went to a physician that I have been loyal to for over a decade. At my last consultation, things felt differently for me and I intuitively felt that it was time to seek another physician for my specific concerns. Also, the atmosphere of the office changed along with staff. I was glad to have had her as my physician for the previous decade yet I needed to honor the fact that it was time to put closure on this relationship.

Great example. And if you’re on a growth path, “outgrowing” the people you used to learn from is actually a normal thing. I have a few teachers who continue to challenge me — and have, for over 10+ years — but I’ve also outgrown many.

I see this time and again with my clients. I have created a “loyal” client auto pay program and a “I’m not sure yet about this Pilates stuff” payment option. I have had clients for several years leave, usually with a good reason, lately, I have changed so they had to go. I always have a new client coming through the door to replace them. Like your trainer, I don’t take it personally as best as I can. Sometimes I catch myself doing just that and stop to remind myself that I am not loyal to where I shop either. I continue to market and network to attract new clients because if I didn’t, my business would die. Love your stuff, keep it up!

I followed a new workout routine consistently for 17 weeks (a first for me) and got decent results.

Soon after, I ended up talking to a major online influencer about a new program he was starting and immediately decided to switch to his plan for the next 6 months.

I had no clue about the effectiveness of his program but I did know that this was someone with whom I wanted to start a working relationship based on my other goals.

Good or bad, I think loyalty is relative.

Oh rats, there’s a dismissible link at the bottom of the page to download a 5-day email funnel, but I can’t click the link from my iPad. I was excited to use it to test iPad’s newly added support for files :)

I was just talking about the psychology of this from the other side – the seller’s side, vs. the buyer’s, with a friend from Brazil. She was emotional about the loss of loyalty of someone. I thought about Ramit “I only have feelings on Wednesdays” Sethi. I said one of the advantages to being American is that we culturally tend to do things for ourselves, and not as much for external validations from, say, customers. In other words, I’ll provide value to a customer, or even be charitable, because I get joy from it. If they don’t appreciate it or take it for granted, it might miff me for a short time, but I, in my American culture, will tend to move on quickly. I wasn’t doing it for their praise or validation. I’m delusionally self-confident enough. Just a thought on dealing with losing a customer’s loyalty. You are providing this great value to the world, because it is what you want to do. You love doing it. It is your calling. It is important to you. That’s what keeps you going. You have a message, and there are others out there who still need to know you.

Ashley hoseney

I have to agree with Nikki D. It’s realizing that you have better options out there or you outgrow a person/product.

The best way to explain it is like reading a book. Once you’ve read it you have the main “nuggets” that you retain and implement into your life. You can keep rereading and implementing until you have mastered it. Then you move on to the next book that fits the new place you’re at in your journey.

Thanks for stating this unpleasant fact honestly. Although not fun to hear, it is true. Good to see in black and white.
I’ve left stores either because I found a more convenient option or just wanted a change of scenery, and nothing the first store could do would change that.
As for email lists, I had a subscription I loved and opened every one. I take posts seriously, and after seeing posts being reused (more than once!) I lost my interest, it’s value in my eyes decreased by a LOT.

Don’t think your customers don’t notice – if I like your work, expect me to read everything you write.
Don’t recycle on me.

I just want to say that this article has just done what no counselor, psychologist, therapist, family member or friend has been able to do for me. I am in med school and last year I was seeing a classmate (I know, probably wasn’t a good idea). We basically lived together no red flag signs either. Then oops I got pregnant and he walked away from me. Just like that. Left me with a baby and stopped speaking to me. I have kept thinking, what happened to the loyalty? I felt betrayed.

Like I said, NO ONE has been able to help me until reading this which finally just drove it home, you cannot make someone loyal. Theres a million reasons like you said. No amount of my energy could have changed what he did. The argument about the ethics of it is another conversation, but dammit you nailed it when you said it is human nature to not be 100% loyal.

I follow you in preparation for when I open my acupuncture practice later. But thank you for this post which totally gives me clarity on another level, non-business related. I feel like with some more peace of mind, I can actually focus more on finishing school and opening a successful practice instead of brooding about the past.

This was timely. Thank you.

Sometimes we come back, though.

I was a T-Mobile customer for 18 years. I haven’t had to worry about minutes or messages or data on my cell phone since the mid-90s. They took great care of me over the years, even gave me free plane tickets once upon a time. Any problem I had, the first person I got on the line resolved above and beyond my expectations.

Then, a couple months ago, I called about a phone upgrade. Despite three different calls, where they agreed I’d been sold an upgrade plan that would give me 50% my upgrade–twice–in that time, meaning they made nearly $1000 on top of my service, they were unwilling to cut me a break.

Verizon offered the same phones, data, and plan for $40/mo less. T-Mobile lost an almost 20 year customer (and nearly $4000 in revenue) over $160 up front for a phone upgrade.

I was more saddened than angry.

First Verizon bill was nearly double what they sold me. Second month required an upgrade, making the plan $50/mo over what I would have paid TMobile.

I hate Verizon.

Keeping an eye out for TMobile’s next promotion where they eat the contact cancellation fees from Verizon and I’ll likely switch back.

Still, the trust is gone. And that makes me sad.

I work in the confectionery industry and in India with Diwali coming up, its the biggest time of the year (for my company, well to make money!)

But it has been an insanely slow season this year. Besides, one of our top clients who we’ve been serving for 6 straight years in the field of corporate gifting decided to not go ahead with our products this year! It came as such a shock cause that one order is a given! We start approaching them early on, give them all the options first to choose from, customize every damn thing from the paper that the chocolate box is made from to deliveries across the country! We have been taking care of EVERY. THING.

And it just wouldn’t leave my mind..I haven’t been able to get in touch with the concerned person yet but I definitely want to know 1. WHY would they do that? and 2. Just like that? Without any prior notice?

But yeah, should have seen it coming cause I mean, what? Was I expecting them to stick with us all life long? Maybe not – but wasn’t mentally ready for the anticipated departure either!

Gahhh..don’t know!

Shaquille Telford

I needed to read this.

I’ve been in sales for about 2 years, and one of my first clients told me that she wants to work with someone else. I felt like a guy that just got broken up with because someone more attractive came along.

Now, that I see this, I know not to take it personally even when clients that you did so much for just decide to leave you.

Thanks Ramit!

I’m glad that I read this post today. I really needed it because recently, my fiancée just abandoned me without a word. I blamed myself for it but now I realise that human nature is out of our control.

Loyalty is a fickle little thing. You can’t beat yourself up every time someone’s loyalty ‘expires’. There will always be other people/customers/potential partners out there. You just need to be strong enough to think logically (e.g. people will get bored or find something/someone else) and not emotionally (e.g. they don’t appreciate all my free blog posts).

It is really hurtful to see these people go. I’m not sure what to do about it except to have more customers so it doesn’t hurt so bad and don’t pay as much attention to it. At the same time, I understand that as a customer you use what you need and aren’t necessarily looking to always buy something, the way biz owners are always looking to sell. Perspective goes a long way, but so does hustle.

Just a few weeks ago I got an email from a subscriber telling me that she had enough from my articles and decided to unsubscribe.

I was shocked. What I’ve done that made her unsubscribe?

But yeah like what you said Ramit, people aren’t loyal 100%. So I’ve better focus on who are still need my help.

The one who has move on let him find his own path or person that will help him latter.

Thanks for this great post, Ramit!

Great article. Thanks!!

This has happened multiple times in both my personal and professional life.

I have found myself suddenly finished with personal friendships that have been with people I deeply love and care for. It’s as if something just shifts inside, like we have learned everything we needed to from each other and it was time to move on. Often, we remain acquaintances but not the type of friends who talk multiple times a week and work through everything together. Same with mentors, etc.

Similarly, one of my clients who worked with me for 4 years texted one day and said, “I think I’m done now. I love you so much and you have changed my life. Hands down, I am different and feel incredibly powerful because of you, but I now need to stand on my own two feet and do other work.”

Part of me was really sad to see her go, but I knew that it was the perfect time for her to move on and space was made for so many others.

This is a great post and the balance you present between loyalty and keeping the new energy flowing is is great.

Thank you!

My younger sister and I were inseparable before I moved in with my dad in the 8th grade. 14 years later, we are like strangers. It bugs me a great deal, and she still resents me for leaving (I had very little choice in the matter), but at the same time, I don’t dwell on it and am ready to start a relationship with her when she is ready.
On a more professional loyalty platform, I’m loyal to a “community” of businesses. Those who all have the same goal-the Ancestral/Primal community-but am also seeking out other people/businesses that may be new or outside perspectives. So I am heavily invested in Mark Sisson’s Primal brand, but I also will promote Dave Asprey’s Bulletproof brand, and numerous others. So long as the message is congruent among them, I don’t really see myself not supporting them with my money and time.

Thank You, Ramit, it was right in time.

Last two years I delivered a huge amount of free information and almost gave away my school membership, (the first tickets were about $7), just to found out a few months later that my members are leaving. More than this, they didn’t value my generosity and super affordable price, they didn’t even start training, they just pay for it for no reason.

So when I read this: “What, do they want me to come clean their toilet and do their laundry? ” that was so close to that what I thought, LOL.

But well, I was never a loyal customer myself, and that’s why I always tell them with a smile that no issues, I understand. I glad that some of them messaged me, to say that they stop the membership. At least they message.

Grow the audience on a daily basis must be my goal for the next year.

Which other methods, apart of guest posting, would you recommend, Ramit?

Best line ever. “Getting bitter is not the right answer. That’s a long, dark road ahead of hating people for years to come. Actually, that sounds kind of fun.” lol

Great article! It’s many truths! Now I won’t it take it personally next time I lose a client 😉 (Not that I did – but sometimes when you’re feeling sensitive you do wonder about it)

I’ve had a couple issues with loyalty lately.

A client who has been using my services for 15 years just left in a huff and I don’t think he’ll be back. I can’t say I’m too broken up about it because frankly he always was a pain in the ass, demanding and fussy. He did tell me why he was not happy, and yes it’s always useful to have that feedback to analyze. And analyze it I did, and concluded that I was just as well off without him.

Next, I changed gyms. My former gym owner practically burst into tears when I told him. I had been working out there for about seven years. I left because my trainer left, and I followed her to her new gym so I could continue training with her. So that’s me being loyal to her, but you know what? I’ll probably leave her too someday if someone better comes along. I try not to cling.

Do you mind if I reply to myself? I hope that’s a No. The client who huffed off is calling me and trying to get back in. I’m not answering. I’m sure this is me being very unprofessional but you know what? I do not need this piddling amount of money in exchange for prolonging this high-maintenance business relationship.

It sure can be painful, but relationships keep developing – they can mature, or stagnate, or deteriorate, but change is inevitable. I have been working in mental health for a long time. I know that I have continued to learn, and my skills have improved. So what I offer does change and develop. Similarly, I expect and look forward to the time when the people I work with will feel able to move on. Even if I believe that what I can offer further could benefit people more than they can see, in my experience they often come back and do more work if what we have already done has been effective and worthwhile.

Hello Ramit,
Thank you for bringing up this subject so artfully as you always do!
I am an entrepreneur myself, I have had my own business for 10 years now and I was and still am interested in this subject.
Yes, you might feel overwhelmed at times by this state of truth – customer loyalty – as parents might feel deep sorrow when seeing their child not being grateful after they have given him 20 years of their lives, as a spouse might feel after having spent a lifetime next to a partner who cheats on them.
When this times arrives, I believe we must not fear breaking the report as for both parties to get the chance to feel sorrow.
After you have given a lot to your clients, after you have connected emotionally to them, YOU HAVE EARNED YOUR RIGHT to break rapport in whatever form you see suitable, be it a list cleanup or a direct good bye.
Although we do not know each other – better said I know you, better than you know me- it would break my heart to one day see an e-mail from you:

“Hi Artemisa. This is Ramit. I am contacting you because after many years of having helped you with my best advice, after putting my heart into my articles, you have never given me a sign of affection or appreciation for my work, and you have never shared my articles… It breaks my heart to do so, but I have to remove you from my e-mail list, as I need to be surrounded with the best audience that makes my life worth living. ”
I would instantly jump off my chair! And of course, do everything to stop that from happening. and tell you I wrote a few times.

You might consider it an extreme measure which could cause rage amongst some fans – but isn’t it worth trying? :) I bet sales would magically rocket, as you would wake people up from their sleep. :) (But do not do this with your entire list …)

The break up with clients/ potential clients as the breakup with any other partner can prove to be more valuable than a continuous dialogue. But The Breakup must be real.

As for the loyalty, some other people said it better than me so here is an article I would like to share with you – as my token of affection and great appreciation for you, your dialogue and your sleepless nights in service of the vision of good you have for us all:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/connect/better-business/leadership/accenture/brand-loyalty-challenges-and-expectations/

This is interesting to me because I’m just leaving a career in non-profit fundraising.
Many non-profits use a combination of guilt, loyalty, obligation and/or habit to bankroll operations but we all know that younger generations are less susceptible to guilt and less likely to join based on obligation. The “why are loyal donors leaving” question has been plaguing traditional fundraisers for years and it’s an exponential problem with no easy answer.
Ramit, your alma mater famously gave up their phonathon two years ago in an attempt to cater to donor desires. This caused questions throughout fundraising, because NOBODY likes getting phonathon calls. Ultimately, Stanford could afford to make this decision because of the amount of endowment they have. They made a calculated decision to cut a source of revenue and take a chance to listen to their loyal customers.
What do you think about their move and has it affected you?

Thanks for the article, Ramit. Did the accelerator coach ever find out why the customer didn’t renew? You left me hanging there after a great set up to the story. Concluding episode?

I’m not surprised the customer didn’t renew. She had had only one interaction with an Accelerator, right? That’s not a relationship. Yes, she made a load of money, but isn’t it illogical to assume that she would NOT have made all that money WITHOUT one coaching call with an Accelerator? Team Ramit is good, no questions, but THAT good? I make sure that if a customer leaves it’s mutual thing, and I do that by investing time, care and feeding in the customer’s success…way more than one call over the lifetime of their customer agreement, just like Ramit did with his PT.

When I was small, my mother and I would go shopping and we would always buy creams, toileteries, and cleaning supplies from the same brands over and over, the ones that she chose. I hated that. I wanted to have the power to choose my own cleaning products, toothpastes and creams because all the other products from the competitors looked shiny and had awesome chemical features. When I started living on my own, I was happy to have the power to buy whatever I wanted. I chose a few chemical brands to be loyal to and stuck with them…that is until I found out about the zero-waste movement and read up more about the environment that I completely switched over to buying indie cleaning products that are vegan, biodegradable, and with endlessly recyclable packaging. My values changed over time and so did my buying choices.

Hi Ramit,

The client choices don’t have to be defined on a loyalty/disloyalty scale. Sometimes, like you said, they need change. And that’s something that is 100% about them, not about your business. They can also be taking a break from a particular strategy, service, or brand. People do change and they do get interrupted. You know this more than anyone: consumption is psychological. In any case, of course, you cannot get bitter, because people are free. They want you to want them to be free. I feel like that’s the part that gets true loyalty, over a long period of time. I might not see a friend for a very long time, but if I love them and there is respect between us, the loyalty will always be there.

I’m a prime example of someone who is only loyal to a point – the point where you stop providing good service at a reasonable price. I do believe in rewarding good service with consistent business, so long as we still have need of that service. I was never a rabid Apple fan though I’ve used their products for years, I’m not loyal to any cell phone, cable, or insurance companies, if the price stops being right. I’ve refinanced mortgages for a better rate, and Chase is trying to lure me in as a Private Client but that’s just not happening because I had a horrible experience there with their banker a couple weeks ago. My money and I are out as soon as I conclude my business.

The surprising answer to your question, though, was the first example that came to mind was someone I would not have thought would bother with generating loyalty, but does – our contractor in the Bay Area not only delivered his project on time, and on budget, which is absolutely unheard of from every single person that I’ve heard contractor stories from, he includes a one year guarantee on all his work no matter how big or small the fix. You would think that he wouldn’t bother – the demand for labor here is unbelievable, contractors can just about name their price and someone will pay it, and he can pick and choose any project he wants, always. Instead he treats every customer like gold and that’s what generates new business for him. To top it off, he keeps his old customers, too.

We are all promiscuous in the end because there will always be “better” options for us in every aspect (job, friends, significant other, products) of our lives. Loyalty is to be true and stay with someone or something even when you know you could get a better deal out of someone/thing else. There are some exceptions though to what you claim Ramit, i.e. Coke, my grandpa lived and died drinking Coke and despising Pepsi, talk about loyalty. I think the main point here is that times change and we do it with it. Sometimes we may not even have a “logical” reason for leaving someone/thing, it’s just…life….

In the health world people are incredibly not loyal, it’s something I see with my own clients and every doctor, chiropractor and trainer I know has told me the same.

People come to you because they are in pain and want it fixed. But then getting better is hard. They start to balance the pros -the results they’re getting- and the cons -the discipline, the cost, the time- and they decide to settle for something in between.

It still bums me, in fact it’s what has disappointed me of this work. When I get a new client I’m not as excited as I used to, I don’t engage as much, because I know they’re probably going to disappear before they’re really done.

At first I thought it was something wrong with my coaching, and maybe it’s true in part, but now I know it’s just how it works. It’s sad because it makes it hard to be on my A game.

That’s why I can’t wait to productize: this way my work is done and I don’t have to know it if they choose not to complete their course…

Very good insight. And it really sucks to hear how this has changed your view of your work. However, I wouldn’t say that productizing will necessarily change that. (It will give you more customers, though.) The real change will come from (1) Accepting that this is human nature, and (2) Getting higher-quality customers. I do think that over time, you can find joy in working with these customers, even if they’re not necessarily loyal for life.

Thanks for a great article Ramit –it really triggered me!
As a customer, I have no intention of being loyal. That said. I’m the most loyal person there is.
So why not as a customer?

Because I believe that I benefit WAY MORE experiencing different kinds of teachings, offerings, information and so on. I value the first delight in discovering new “shipping ways” as a student.
It’s not only the material i want to learn, but also the delivery: The design, the writing style, the humor, the systems broken down, the editing of the videos, the personality of the leader. If I keep coming back to the same person, I don’t get that variety. I’ve already taken about 20 courses, and I love that extra benefit. By now I’ve also gotten very picky…

I decided to stray away from long commitments as they tend to fizzle, and then I’m there because I already paid for it, although I lost interest (or discovered what i signed up for wasn’t solving MY problem…). The membership ones, can be tricky.. sometimes if the material is good, and the price not too high, I’ll stay more, out of loyalty and as a sign that I’m happy with the efforts, and not there to wipe as much content as possible, as quickly as possible!

I do have loyalty for people though. People I admire and respect. I have quite a few people I follow and love, even if i’m NOT their customer. I may one day become, or never become. That depends on so many things. Still, I feel loyalty to them, caring and witnessing their journey. And my door is open…

As someone who puts content out there, I’ve noticed that some people are really into me, and at other times not any more. Some of them buy, some never do, even if they open every email from me. There is a lot going on out there…
It’s not easy to provide content all the time, but it’s also not easy to consume.
Customer Monogamy doesn’t exist! 😉

Thanks for sharing this article. I think it is all about your customer’s psychology and point of view. But I also believe that, we should not put it OFF completely and let the best customers go away. At least we should fairly have systems to engage them back, try to know what went wrong, search out his changed interests. May be we may find some glitch in our product that we need to improve in next version. So if you can’t STOP your loyal customers from leaving you, at least you have to try to find out WHAT happened there?

Hello Ramit.

Thank you so much for this article on customer loyalty.

It came just at the right time to brace me up for potential “disloyal moves” from my customers as I set out to grow my business as a Financial Intelligence Coach.

2 brands that I’ve ditched and they’re interlinked. The common theme: Gillette lowering product quality and taking advantage of loyal customers.

1 – Parker Pens (acquired by Gillette in 1993)
I used Parker Pens throughout my school years in the early 1990s. Then Gillette acquired the company in 1993. Within a few years after the acquisition, all of Parker’s products deteriorated massively in quality. Their ink started blotching on their ball pens. Their high end pens started to degrade (metal started to get rust-type spots etc). I even sent back a $100 pen to get repaired by them at no charge. Since 1995, I never bought a Parker pen ever again.

I actually switched to using Fountain Pens which are way more expensive (my most expensive pen is a Graf von Faber-Castell at $600 and the ink costs around $30 per pot!). In contrast my Parker Pens used to cost a fraction of that.

2 – Gillette Mach 3 razor blades
Recently (i.e. July 2017) I stopped buying Gillette Mach3 blades which I’ve been purchasing since around 2001 (that’s over 16 years of purchases!). Over the last 3 years, Gillette have lowered the quality of the blades, the handles and basically jacked up the prices massively. Since July this year I stared buying German Blades from Merkur. They are ultra-high quality and a fraction of the price, even though they are of way higher quality.

In both scenarios, the company has taken advantage of customer loyalty then screwed customers. I’ll never go back to either of these products.

“The only thing constant is change.” To expect loyalty forever from others — in love, life, or business — is to deny ourselves the opportunity to grow, to be ignorant of all the times we’ve switched loyalties ourselves, and to reject a fundamental trait of human nature. When people leave us — customers, friends, or lovers — those are the richest times of personal growth and business development. “Was it me or him?” (Probably both.) “Can I do something to change his mind?” (Maybe, but be clear on your reasons.) “Can I learn something valuable from this?” (10000% YES.) “Can I use this opportunity to improve myself, my life, or my business?” (10000% YES AGAIN.) That being said, I pick my battles: I’ve been using the same brand of eyeliner for twenty years now, but have jumped gyms 3 times in the last 6 months.

Thanks, Ramit, for yet another thorough, thoughtful insight into the most fascinating puzzle of all: people. (Also: PABLUM! Word of the day.)

Here’s my take on the subject. I’d love to hear your comments.

Attrition rate is one of the things you can’t get rid off.

Clients are always going to leave, it’s just natural. Sooner or later everybody dies. So don’t resent them.
If they’re gone because of something that’s your fault try and fix that. If they’re gone cause they’ve outgrown you or your service at least try to get a referral or recommendation out of them.

Most people don’t measure growth and are content with their “loyal” following. The real problem is not that they are not loyal to you is that you are exclusive with them, that’s why your business hurts when they leave.

•••

Just wanted to share the following with the growth lab community, IWT readers and those that have stumbled across Ramit’s material like I once upon did…
This post comes at a perfect time as I’m starting my own venture as a would-be entrepreneur and reminds me of a conversation I recently had with a small business owner (coffee shop & roasting company) and how he focuses his efforts on continuously enhancing the small town experience for his patrons so that it becomes a staple/culture at his shop and ultimately becomes what differentiates his shop versus his competitors. It also serves the purpose of reminding me that customers leaving will be a part of my reality as I venture into the realm of client services. Thanks again for the timely content!

This is so right Ramit.
Thank you for the article. It helped my understand and make peace with my best students (I teach public speaking) leaving me after completing the first course or half way through the advanced group. What I couldn’t understand is, this students were saying I almost saved their lives from shyness and not advancing with their careers.. something’s that completely changed with the coaching program.. and yet they left me. Following through later, I learn that they are kicking ass in presentations and leading their teams.. which made it more counter intuitive, until today.. now it’s clear it is because they accomplished their objective and that’s ok.

All the power to you

Such a great article Ramit!

I think it’s really important to make a distinction between loyalty and respect. You may never really have customer loyalty. But I would argue that having the respect of your customers is more important than loyalty, and yields greater dividends. What do you think?

I am a physiotherapist, specialized in Manuel therapy to treat patients with back problems. I have also noticed that is not uncommon for patients to try other therapists. Because it is closer to Where they live, Because they heard good things about the other guy, or just Because they are curious. Lots of patients come back afterwards after comparing another practice. And they spread the word why you re better than others. (At least, those Who come back). So i Don t panic anymore either😄

I’m grateful to hear this message today. I am thinking about how customer loyalty is part of or reflects the culture of monogomy. The for many impossible fair tale that one person will be their everything and only love. Being poly it is totally natural to me to have different relationships that have different levels of intamacy and frequency. I also rarely go to one source for info on a certain topic: movement, human fitness, business, ect. Does anyone buy their clothes from one store?
I heard many detractions of going into post partum fitness because they wouldn’t need me forever and I would always have new clients. Maybe their is a bigger benefit there. I don’t need loyal customers. But advocates yes please. The ones that speak up for you.

I am in service industry so this happens all the time. People come with a standard for themselves and when it reaches there they leave. It is like holding hand and crossing busy road or journey upto a destination. The only way to keep going is adding new people.

Definitely have experienced the feeling of betrayal.

I think what’s challenging is knowing where the line is. Sometimes it’s true you can do more to increase engagement to reduce churn, but sometimes people just decide to move on and shift their priorities.

We are creatures constantly changing and evolving with ever-growing expectations. Does not matter how big, fast or better are our experiences, we will always be chaising for the new, for the different, for what we have not yet lived.

So businesses should evolves, not just solved todays problem but to offer what customers will need tomorrow, as IBM did.

I never believed in putting all my eggs in one basket…agreeing with your submission…
“On a larger strategic level, marketing “experts” have claimed that It’s cheaper to serve an existing customer than to acquire a new one.”

Customers are like kids who easily get tired of that toy at hand which they craved for initially BUT to be on the lookout for new excitements.

And that’s why, a new business making an entry into an industry would have as a good strategy a very convenient switching cost to itself which prospective Customers would find attractive.

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