Businesses burn customers. Often unintended. A considerable percentage are notrecognised or registered.

In all cases it is expensive and a cost of doing business. Lost customers,their revenues and contributions to profits need to be replaced – and fast.Demands on cash-flows dictate it. Aspirations for growth in overall numbers ofcustomers, transactions, revenue, profits and the like have to overcome thecontractions inflicted by customer attrition.

Interestingly, few entities have formulated, documented and implementedstrategies and tactics to address, neutralise and redress these realities.

Truly, this is a drag on commerce, efforts and growth initiatives.
Customer attrition is typically not planned. Disturbingly, the presence andconsequences are equally not addressed and redressed in a disciplined, plannedmanner.


COVID-19, the pandemic declaration, lockdowns and social distancing have,collectively, impacted society at large, lifestyles, buying patterns andcommerce. It is reflected in many statistics.

As a sweeping generality, many sensitive trading entities have long forecastand budgeted for a “churn-rate” (read client attrition) of around 20% perannum. The actual figures vary between sectors, entities, geographiclocalities. However, a doubling of traditionally accepted rates has not beenuncommon during the pandemic.

Some in business accept such as a reality – an inevitability. Their attendantfocus tends to be client/customer “farming”, enticement, canvassing anddevelopment.

Seasoned and hardened professionals accept the intensive and extensiveinvestment required to “win” and to establish positive relationships and themaintenance of new customers and clients.

At the turn of the millennium (the year 2000) and at the time of the releaseof my two books on service excellence, “Serves You Right! and ServicePlease!”, detailed research established that it was some six times easier,cheaper and faster to retain clients than it was to induce new customers ontothe books.

The vagaries of the coronavirus and the innate transactional nature of manyonline transactions have elevated that ratio to ten times or more.

Estimates on the lifetime value and the duration of mutually rewarding ongoingrelationships have changed significantly. In many instances interactions areappropriately measured transaction by transaction.

Forlorn and low expectations of loyalty, referral and repeat business abound.


Notwithstanding the high velocity and volume of client attrition, it isevident from consumer (individual and corporate) feedback, behaviour,perceptions and expressions, that many service providers lack disciplined,structured and supported follow-up and follow-through initiatives.

Many business leaders readily accept the loss of customers as a reality ofdoing business. Few conduct exit interviews to identify key causal factors andto isolate the scope and opportunities for formatting, documenting andimplementing remedial and recovery campaigns.

The presence and power of the known unknown is facilitated and accentuatedby a lack of investigation, analysis and counter-business developmentinitiatives.
Ignorance is not a virtue. It is expensive. And, above all, unnecessary andshould be avoided. Initiating personal contacts is a sound first step.


A concerted effort to reacquaint with past clients who have been “lost” duringthe past 12, 24 and 36 months can be fulfilling, rewarding and financiallybeneficial.

It is usually a rich pool of “new” demand, revenue and profits. Many pastacquaintances have been exposed to poor, lesser and unsatisfactoryexperiences. Their assessment of relevant values and service standards can bein one’s favour.

Encouragingly, that suggests buying cycles are shortened. Responses arequicker and more definitive. Hence cash-flows are accelerated.

As a further interesting aside and insight, there is the rapid obsolescence ofclient lists and data bases. People do change addresses, mobile numbers,employment, and life circumstances. Within 9 months active client lists anddata bases can be reduced by as much as 60%.

Hence, be sensitive and responsive to the attrition of company records andinformation. Aging occurs to accounts, Big Data and general information.


Like past clients, a significant percentage of market research respondents areflattered to be asked about their opinions, values, beliefs, perceptions andintentions. They are emotional responses, and foster self-belief of personalimportance and relevance.

That can be a pure subliminal force, which fosters and encouragesconversations. Indeed, word of mouth can, and should be a deliberatestrategy.

Regularly talking to, and interacting with existing, prospective and pastclients, do that. Marketing is, after all, founded on opportunism,communication and satisfying needs.

Customers need to be valued, respected and listened to.


Strategies, tactics and actions that seek to address and redress high andincreasing customer attrition rates need to be planned, monitored, analysed,refined, extended and supported.

Moreover, they should ideally be scheduled, reviewed and measured forefficiency and effectiveness.

Customer attrition is a cost of doing business, with little or no returns.Remedial actions can be resource-intense and relatively expensive. However,the returns are typically substantial and ongoing. It’s called cost/benefitequation.

All strategic plans need to be reviewed, to ensure that these essentialelements have been considered, documented, integrated and implemented. It isinvariably a rewarding experience. However, those initiatives can’t affordto be random, casual and considered time-fillers during downtime periods.


Client attrition should never be assigned to being an attributioncircumstance. That is, being part of the nature of doing business. “Churn-rates” represent opportunities and scope for retraining, broadening andextending customer bases. Indeed, given the cost/benefit ratios addressedearlier in this text, they can reasonably be deemed to be an attractiveprimary target audience. History and countless case studies have establishedthat, retrieved “lost” customers can typically and readily be converted to bestrong advocates and ambassadors.

On sporting arenas, coaches are inclined to loudly and repeatedly recite “thegame is not lost until the final siren is sounded”.

Play on.

Barry Urquhart
Business Strategist
Marketing Focus
M: 041 983 5555
E: [email protected]

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