The New Stuff



When you move mountains to make a customer happy, you expect their ongoing business, right? But what happens when a loyal customer isn’t so loyal? When they turn to a competitor it can feel like a betrayal. What can you do to keep your emotions in check while taking steps to regain their business?


When you believe you’ve been wronged, insulted, or hurt by a customer, it’s easy to hold a grudge. One way to release that bitterness is to acknowledge your unmet expectation.

Resentment happens when you have an expectation of what customer loyalty means and your customer doesn’t live up to that expectation. Instead of being crushed when they go elsewhere, realize you simply had an expectation that wasn’t met. It will help you take a more rational approach to recovering the customer, or at least discovering something useful.


If you believe, “My best customer would never go to my competition without giving me a chance to bid,” it’s jarring when it happen. Fighting reality with, “they shouldn’t have…” or “they should have…” gets you nowhere – it just triggers more hostility. Instead, ask yourself, “Now what?” Instead of turning your customer into the villain of your story, realize she simply made a choice. Then, consider what your next steps will be. By managing your frustration, you’ll be in a better position to get her back. But until you manage your emotions, that will be difficult.


What’s important to remember is that holding a grudge will not earn back business and it won’t make you more effective on the job. In fact, it’s likely to cause you to lose more business. No one likes working with a resentful person.

When you feel resentful, ask yourself:

· “Is this resentment serving me?”

· “Am I more committed to the resentment or the customer relationship?”

· “Can I be honest with myself about what’s causing this resentment to stick around?”

While all three questions are powerful, the last one is the most important. What prevents you from letting go of resentment is often an unwillingness to take responsibility in some way. You can fool yourself into feeling powerful by sitting in resentment. You get to be right, justified and indignant (without having to take any action or risk) but it will cost you your peace of mind and that customer’s future business. To take responsibility means taking action by:

· Opening up a conversation with the lost customer with the intention of listening so you can learn and possibly restore the customer’s business

· Being open to discovering a perspective you might not have previously considered

· Updating your all-or-nothing expectations so you can remain resilient and approachable


Sometimes customers choose to give work to competing firms because of a significantly lower price, a charismatic salesperson’s pitch or pressure from their boss to spread the work around. Rather than resenting your client, look at it as an opportunity for them to see your value over your competitor’s. Sometimes a customer can’t fully appreciate what you do, until they work with someone who doesn’t go the extra mile the way you do.

When that wayward customer comes back to you, be welcoming and appreciative for their return. Any bitterness you hold will poison the relationship. Your understanding will help ease any discomfort that customer may have about coming back, cementing an even better relationship and creating even more customer loyalty.

You’re likely to hear, “I’m so glad to be back with your company. I never realized how much you do to make my customer experience so good.”

What about you? Have you ever lost a customer to a competitor only to have them return even more committed to working with you than ever before?

Marilyn Suttle is a customer experience and communication expert, conference speaker, and coauthor of the bestselling book, Who’s Your Gladys? How to Turn Even the Most Difficult Customer into Your Biggest Fan. Marilyn delivers conference keynotes and training, to help her audiences create strong, productive relationships. For more information email: or visit

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