Learning From The Exit Interview

Exit Interview - Learning from losing clientsBusiness owners, CEOs, and hiring managers alike can learn a lot from feedback gained in exit interviews.  There’s a lot a typical employee might hold back during their tenure for fear of jeopardizing their job, but of course that becomes a non-issue once an exit interview is taking place.

The same concept can be true of a business and its clients. When a client chooses to discontinue service a brief survey or conversation can reveal a lot if there are flaws in the delivery of service etc.

Even when the exit interview fails, it can succeed.

Largely it would seem that the success of this conversation is dependent on honesty from both parties. If your client claims the cancelling of your service is purely for budgetary reasons and turns around and works with your competitor, for example, there’s obviously a disconnect in your relationship. While it’s possible that you’re simply dealing with a dishonest person, there could be other factors at play. Don’t get discouraged — even though you didn’t necessarily get a straight answer in this hypothetical, it can still raise some useful questions.

  • If it truly is about price, is your competitor notably cheaper? If so, does their price negatively affect the quality of their service as it compares to yours, or are they doing something more efficiently?
  • If price doesn’t seem to be the real factor at play, why didn’t your client feel they could be honest with you?

There are generally three areas from which the issue can arise: quality, speed, and expectations.

Quality – Does your product or service perform as advertised?

Speed – How promptly can you deliver your product or service? Even if it has great quality, if your service is sluggish you may lose customers to speedier competitors.

Expectations – This is probably the most important. If expectations are clearly set early on, the customer will know exactly what to expect in terms of speed and quality (as well as price). If expectations are not clearly set, you may run into surprises mid-project when your customer is unhappy despite everything going exactly to plan. Bottom line: you might be delivering exactly what you think you promised, but if for whatever reason the customer was expecting something else they may not end up satisfied.

You might make the best vanilla ice cream in town, but if they wanted chocolate it’s not going to matter.

Evaluate your target market.

Asking these type of questions is always useful, even if you determine the problem wasn’t directly on your end. Some people are unreasonable. Even so, being conscious of certain characteristics can help you refine your customer base going forward. Wouldn’t you prefer to stack your deck with ideal customers rather than those predisposed to be dissatisfied?

6 Responses to Learning From The Exit Interview

  1. Corey November 1, 2012 at 7:39 pm #

    That last part should say “I wonder in which sectors different parameters might need to be applied to the same ‘problem?'”

    • Brian Watkins November 2, 2012 at 10:07 am #

      One thing I’ve seen a lot of (and have done myself) is thinking a certain type of person/business would be a great customer based on certain observations and early assumptions. The reasoning makes perfect sense early on, but further experience may show that for other reasons that were tough to see before this customer is actually far from ideal. Patterns may even emerge to the point that you can say “I notice that X type of business routinely is disorganized, has no budget, or never makes time for business communication.” If you find those sorts of things to be repeatedly true, you can’t really help X effectively and it’ll be a headache for you in the trying.

      Sometimes feeling like you never have time, that you’re always behind or paddling upstream can be alleviated by shuffling who you do business with to a demographic that has a pattern of being a good customer. It sounds easier and more obvious than it really is, but it’s definitely a worthy pursuit.

  2. Corey November 1, 2012 at 7:39 pm #

    Probably your best business article yet. Great work. Totally true per my experience yet something that is not immediately obvious – better people read here and not learn from any sort of negative experience.

    Also broadly applicable… obviously it applies to many different spheres of business.

    I wonder what sectors different parameters might apply to the same “problem?”

    • Brian Watkins November 2, 2012 at 9:57 am #

      Thanks, Corey! It’s good to glean something positive from an otherwise frustrating experience whenever possible. When you’re a new business, especially, there’s a lot of change and sometimes big feelings of “what am I doing?” It’s easy to feel like you don’t have direction, but there’s a lot to be learned from experiences like this even when the answers you receive are totally not what you’d hoped for.

  3. Marty October 30, 2012 at 5:46 pm #

    Great article. Love to share this article with our lead salesperson at work

    • Brian Watkins November 2, 2012 at 10:10 am #

      Yeah the bit on evaluating your market is big for sales folks. Sometimes it’s not a problem with the product or your sales approach, but simply who you’re talking to.

Leave a Reply

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons