Keeping your customers: a lesson learned

Posted: March 17, 2009 in Uncategorized
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Sitting in India, we have the luxury of having someone to drive our car, having someone else to wash our car (manually) daily, etc. I have been enjoying these privileges too.
I have had a separate person who cleans the car and another one who drives me around. Recently, we got a new driver, who after having spent a few weeks with us, suggested on his own, that he can also wash the car, and can he do that please? Thinking to be one of the very trivial decisions, I agreed. And got a message sent out to current car washer, that he should stop washing the car from 1st of March.
He earns what I consider, a very small sum of money, for washing my car daily. And I did not even think about this, when I decided to make the change, to have the car washed by the driver.
However, come the first Sunday of March, and the car washer sought the opportunity of my presence at home, and came up to see me. I thought he may be wanting to settle his account. But I was surprised.
He made a fervent plea to me, to allow him to continue to wash the car. He asked me if I had any complaints of his washing. And if not, why do I want to deprive him, of his earnings of me? Also that based on a certain regular flow of income, he has his expenditure planned out, and losing one, will affect him. In short, he appealed to me, at all levels.
And ultimately, I saw reason in his argument, and decided to let him continue the service.
I could have insisted to change, and he would have not been able to insist further, but he made a strong case, and wanted to get his point across. He spent a good 15-20 minutes, making his case, and ensuring that the opportunity of having an audience with me, was well utilized. And he retained me.
I thought about this, as a lesson in customer retention. In present tough times, when our clients are changing vendors to save costs, or for other reasons, are we trying half as hard, to keep their business? Because for the car washer, it impacted his life directly, he was more concerned. In a corporate environment, the loss of a single client does not necessarily translate immediately, or at least apparently, to a personal loss. Does that make us a little complacent about letting the business go without putting up an adequate fight??
Think about it..

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  1. amreekandesi says:

    Very insightful observation!

    Retaining your business was very important to the washer man, but even in less critical instances the effort of making a pitch and putting your point across can only help the business.

  2. Sanjay.

    Very pertinent in the current times…

    Your comment about a personal loss (financial or otherwise), when losing a customer or a part of the customer’s business, I would think, is actually hitting a lot of Corporate Executives hard as well – right now…

    I have an entire set of friends in India and elsewhere (unfortunately not in AIG, Citi or any other bailed out blue chip), who have taken a hit on their annual incentives because customers pulled out! And that impacts you – if not on your survival measures such as groceries or your children’s education – but definitely on any of those extras that you may have budgeted for…

    Your car washer man – of course – it would hit him where it hurts most…!


    • Sanjay Mehta says:

      When the personal loss is being felt at the corporate executive level, is it translating to more efforts to retain business? If not, it is still not hurting bad enough?!

  3. Well, after reading this post I have two thoughts crossing my mind, before which I would like to state, that I never felt the recession hitting, till I saw a couple of my friends really taking a hit.

    I am an entrepreneur and have always maintained that serving the customer to the last brink is highly essential. In fact this is what I proposed at the NASSCOM EMERGE forum (

    Sanjay, I agree to you, times are tough and we have to touch base and keep up with our clients, holding them tight, coz we all are sailing in the same boat, and my belief is that, this time will help us forge amazingly strong relationships with the clients, which will mean stable business once the situation improves and settles!


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