OK, exit interviews are tough. However, conducting them is one of the best ways to gauge the validity of customer experience (CX) survey results.
Let’s face it. No one likes to recall their epic business fails. So, there is a tendency to focus on the positive, rather than dwell on the negative. And as long as cash flow is positive, why worry, right?
However, what happens when customer experience survey results indicate positive results. Then, those current clients “suddenly” defect and become former clients, much to your surprise. What happened? Let’s explore, shall we?
To be proactive and anticipatory, conduct exit interviews before external clients exit.
One of my clients, a local advertising agency, began losing accounts at an alarming rate. In fact, rate of client defection was on track to overtake and pass rate of customer acquisition.
Now, the agency insisted their post-project “So how did we do?” customer experience survey was a sufficient barometer of customer sentiment. However, cash flow and operations reality, compared to CX survey fantasy, told a different story. So did interviews with everyone completing these surveys. Overall, some current, as well as former, customers admitted they were not truthful about the quality of their experiences with that agency. Why? Because they did not want to hurt the feelings of the agency owner, managers and staff.
As a result of relying only on CX surveys, rather than combining with periodic Voice of the Customer research, the agency missed detecting the crystal-clear signs and symptoms contributing to customer defection.
Conduct exit interviews before suppliers exit, too.
Another client, a manufacturer, lost 30% of their customers over a 12-month time period and asked me to help them discover why. Not only did we speak with current and former customers. Also, I suggested speaking with their current and former suppliers, as well.
In this scenario, the small manufacturing company was not in the habit of sending out post-project CX surveys. In addition, their business model and corporate culture positioned them as order-takers, rather than innovators. So, yes, a lot of work to do on how their business was structured and functioned.
However, the most revealing findings from our research were the voiced needs of their current and former suppliers. Former suppliers had ceased being available to do business with this small manufacturer because the projects were too small to meet the current requirements from the supplier who, in fact, had grown. As a result, the manufacturer had to rely on a new supplier group and quality of output suffered, impacting customer experience.
As a result of this Voice of the Supplier exit interview research, the manufacturer reviewed their corporate culture and internal processes. Many changes were made, which resulted in higher quality output and improved customer experience and customer retention.
Customer, supplier and employee exit interviews are a necessary part of business growth, expansion and sustainability.
You can continue to bury your head in the sand. Alternatively, conduct exit interviews before anyone exits. Your choice.
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Babette Ten Haken serves organizations as a corporate catalyst and innovative speaker, strategist, coach and storyteller. Babette’s One Millimeter Mindset™ Workshops and Speaking programs leverage collaboration to catalyze professional innovation, workforce engagement and customer retention, especially in challenging Industrial Internet of Things environments. Babette’s playbook of IIoT team collaboration hacks, Do YOU Mean Business? is available on Amazon. She is a member of SME, ASQ, SHRM and the National Speakers Association. Image source: iStock