Wishful Thinking and Long Term Customer Loyalty Can Create a Risky Blind Spot

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Imagine that you and your executive team have invested months and months on research. Despite the lingering tough economy, you have even hired some people to launch a complementary product/service.  The new offering has the potential to expand your customer base, increase your profitability, and solidify your company’s position as an industry leader.  Sounds exciting, doesn’t it?

We’ve noticed that these days, when business owners are in this position, they conclude very early on in the process that the new product will be a huge success.  That makes sense, really.  When you have a great deal riding on a new product during uncertain times…it had better work!

But hopes for the success of a new product and a need for everything to work out can lead to blind spots.  Ironically, we are seeing wishful-thinking blind spots hurting well-established companies with great reputations and loyal customers.

ABC Inc. recently introduced a complementary product that looked like it would provide tremendous benefits for their customers. The product launch was a little rough, but there were understandable reasons for the problems and the customers didn’t complain.  The folks at this business are highly skilled, hard working, and personable.  The overwhelming majority of their customers love them.

The owners of ABC Inc. asked our strategic planning firm to do a strategic assessment and lead a strategic planning retreat.  They wanted to build on the complementary product/service lines and make sure that ABC Inc. is ready for exponential growth.  During the research stage of our assessment process, we conduct interviews with employees, key vendors, and a representative sample of each type of customer. To our surprise, 20 straight interviews revealed that the customers of ABC Inc. didn’t like the new product/service and didn’t view it as complementary.  In fact, their customers felt a sense of loss. They had liked what they had and thought that the new product/service had reduced their benefits, interfered with their interaction with the nice people of ABC Inc., and reduced their choices as customers.  Some customers expressed anger that they were switched to the new product/service without being asked.  Some customers had concluded that ABC Inc. must have created the new product/service for its own convenience and/or increased profits because they (the customers) couldn’t see any benefit for them.

WORSE, the customers were reluctant to tell any of this to the nice folks at ABC Inc. The customers didn’t want to hurt their feelings or upset them.  Some customers were already shopping the competition, but planned on remaining “friends” with the nice folks at ABC, Inc.

It was interesting to see how angry the “nice folks at ABC Inc.” became when they heard and read this information.  Even though a quantitative customer survey corroborated our findings, they couldn’t believe that their loyal customers were unhappy.  It was beyond comprehension that some customers would actually consider changing vendors instead of just telling ABC Inc. that something was wrong. A few folks at ABC Inc. became angry with us.  It must be those negative consultants; it can’t possibly be the new product line!  Ironically, the long term loyalty and strong connection between ABC Inc. and its customers added to the blind spot. 

Think about a family.  Imagine that your elderly aunt decided to get her hair colored and pay for plastic surgery to look and feel younger.  You think it’s a waste of time and money.  Plus it just doesn’t look right.  Would you come right out and tell her?  Be honest with yourself now.  Are you sure?  You don’t want to upset her.  It’s her decision after all. You are just one person.  Maybe you decide that it isn’t worth the risk to speak up.  Long term loyal customers can feel like a reluctant niece or nephew.

Are you sure you would be receptive to customer concerns and complaints after you had invested a great deal of time and money to create a new service/product and need it to succeed? How long would YOU argue with the research?

Aldonna R. Ambler, CMC, CSP has earned the right to be called THE GROWTH STRATEGIST®. She has won over 2 dozen national and statewide “entrepreneur of the year” awards for the resilient growth of her international businesses across 4 recessions.  Her midsized BtoB service, technology, and distribution clients get on…and then stay on…the published lists of the fastest growing privately held companies. Ambler is in the process of launching her 8th enterprise. All of her current service businesses (strategic planning, executive advisory, growth financing, talk show, speaking, and search) help privately held midsized companies achieve accelerated growth with sustained profitability®. 2012 is Ambler’s 8th year hosting a weekly peer-to-peer-to-peer syndicated on line talk show that features interviews with CEOs/Presidents of midsized companies (typically between $20 and 200 Mil/yr) sharing success tips about the growth strategy-of-the-week. An archive of over 300 interviews is available at www.GrowthStrategistShow.com. She can be reached toll free at 1-888-Aldonna or at Aldonna@AMBLER.com.

About Aldonna Ambler:
Known as The Growth Strategist®, Aldonna Ambler built and grew a suite of companies to help midsized B2B companies achieve accelerated growth with sustained profitability® A Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), Ambler has addressed over 2000 audiences and hosted a syndicated online talk show about growth strategies for 9 years. As a growth financing intermediary, Ambler raised over $1 Bil dollars for midsized companies. The winner of over 2 dozen prestigious national and statewide "entrepreneur of the year" awards, Ambler is available to speak about “profitable growth during any economy” and/or serve on the board of a growth-oriented privately-held company.

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