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I’m absolutely serious.

empty bird cage with an open doorNot every customer, of course. But the ones that aren’t right for your product offering? Send them away.

We’ll call them a wrong-fit customer. They have an edge case you can’t support, your product isn’t set up to handle traffic of their size, or they actually need a different type of product. We all know these customers don’t belong with us yet we try to convince them to stay with our product.

It’s a natural instinct: keep the customer at all cost! That’s money! My CFO likes money!

The thing is, you can actually make more money by sending a potential customer away than by keeping them.

If you wrangle a wrong-fit customer into continuing to use your product, they will cost you in:

If you let a wrong-fit customer go, especially if you point them towards a company who is a better fit, you get:

As we’ve said before…you can make money with your support team.

Example 1: Dr. Scott McKinzie

Last month I finally went to the dentist for the first time in 3 years. I called the best place I could find on Yelp: Dr. Scott McKinzie. They discovered that my copay was going to be immense. Instead of trying to convince me to go with them, they pointed me to a competitor who would have a cheaper copay for me.

Storefront with a sign that says word of mouth What’d I do? I immediately wrote them a glowing Yelp review, which will undoubtedly contribute to other people (with different insurance plans) choosing them.

Example 2: T-mobile

My poor little G1 smartphone was getting pretty long in the tooth and I wanted a new Android phone. But I’m very picky. I hopped on T-mobile’s live chat to see how hard it would be to cancel my contract.

Evan Hamilton: I’m thinking about switching to Verizon for the Droid 2 because there are no good T-mobile QWERTY android phones right now (in my opinion).
~John D.: That's fair enough. Looks like your contract is going to end on 10/22. It’ll be $50 to cancel now.

That’s fair enough!? Where’s the upsell, the begging, the threatening?

It never really came. John Doe mentioned the myTouch, I said I didn’t like it, and he proceeded to be incredibly helpful explaining how to port my number to another carrier, how not to lose my archived text messages, etc.

The Droid 2 ended up not being my cup of tea, so I kept my eye out for new phones. When rumors surfaced of the G2, the sequel to my phone on T-mobile, I was more than happy to wait the two months until the phone came out. I bought it on the first day it was available.

By not forcing a sub-bar phone on me and making it easy for me to leave, T-mobile actually got me to sign on for 2 more years as their customer.

So…why aren’t you sending your customers to your competitors?

Birdcage photo courtesy of Ulf Bodin.
Store sign courtesy of Paull Young.