The Society for the Advancement of Consulting® has asked its global members to comment on what actions to take when a key customer departs. "We are a global association of top consultants," notes SAC CEO Alan Weiss, PhD. "and we regularly ask our clients and our members what they are seeing. Here's a representative sample."
"Losing a key customer can sink a small business and put a major dent in a mid-market company," said Phil Symchych, president of Symco & Co., (www.symcoandco.com) a Regina, Canada based consulting firm that helps mid-market companies and small businesses to maximize profits, valuation and owner's wealth. "The key is to maintain strong relationships at multiple levels and ensure that you are delivering quantifiable value. If you can prove the client's ROI on your services, then they will keep you around.
"However, you will lose a major client due to sale of business, owner retirement, illness or external events that cause business failure. The key is to actively—and at least, quarterl—ask for referrals and continually grow your prospect pipeline.
"Beware of success. If you grew your business just by answering the phone, then you're headed for a shock when the phone stops ringing and you don't have any prospects in your pipeline. You should be marketing like you don't have any clients at all (but can afford to be selective) and you should be relationship building with your existing clients as if they're being courted by your strongest competitor."
"As a global business consultant and former supply chain executive, I've seen a dramatic increase in the importance of customer service for manufacturers and distributors," points out Lisa Anderson, President of LMA Consulting Group, Inc. in Claremont, CA. "My clients' customers expect more for less with quicker delivery than ever before. Customers are willing to test drive the competition. Thus, if you lose a customer, it is exponentially more difficult to regain their business; however, I've found a few strategies which achieve success. 1) Collaborating with customers on programs such as auto replenishment, consumption based orders and with innovative logistics partnerships can create new interest. 2) Partnering with customers to dramatically reduce lead times can give you an edge."