The Silvertrac Extra: A Blog & Podcast for the Security Guard Industry

047: How to Bounce Back After Losing Your Biggest Client

Aug 14, 2015 3:05:00 PM / by Chris Anderson

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It’s one of the toughest things to deal with in the security industry. No one ever likes to lose a client, but when it’s your biggest one, an account that contributes a significant portion of your revenue and has helped you bring in new customers through referrals, it can be hard to recover.

I’ve experienced that dreaded Monday morning phone call when I worked as an operator, and we’ve talked to Silvertrac customers that have lost major accounts. These are highly experienced, highly capable companies that have had customers leave through no fault of their own. 

Do A Post Mortem

When a customer turns in their 30-day notice to let you know they’re leaving, don’t react emotionally and try to convince them to stay. Losing the contract is tough enough, you don’t want to do or say anything that would cause them to warn other property managers out there not to hire you.

Instead, politely ask if you can schedule an exit interview with them to discuss their reasons for leaving and how you can improve in the future.

The goal is to meet in person, however, even a phone call will help. Losing a customer can prove to be a great learning experience so do your best to gather as much informaiton as possible that will help you avoid these situations in the future. Here are a few questions you'll want to ask:

  1. Why is the contract ending?
  2. Where did we go wrong? 
  3. Was this an avoidable situation?

Don’t press them if they don’t want to answer a question, and try to keep the conversation short and professional.

Make sure you come prepared ahead of time. Do an internal audit, figure out if what issues were happening on the site, and come to the meeting with a general idea of what went wrong. If the customer thinks there were obvious issues and you say you have no idea what went wrong, that just reflects poorly on you.

Of course, sometimes things are out of your control. Maybe the property is struggling financially and feels it has to go with a cheaper competitor. Maybe there’s new management that wants to clean house and bring in people they’ve worked with before. In these situations, there’s really nothing you can do.

Most of the time, though, there are common issues that drive customers away. Poor officer accountability, lack of communication, or sloppy reporting are among the most typical problems we encounter. If you find yourself losing significant customers, it might be time to reevaluate your customer retention strategies. Check out some of our previous tips on how to hold on to significant contracts

Once you've conducted the exit interview it is time to assess whether this is a one time incident or part of a bigger pattern. Here are a few things to think about once the interview is finished:

  • Was this termination a one-time incident or part of a bigger pattern?
  • Ask yourself whether you understood the customer's expectations?
  • Evaluate where the breakdown occurred. Account manager? Supervisor? Security Officer? 
  • Are there some internal adjustments that need to be made to correct this issue? 

How To Move Forward

Once you’ve figured out what went wrong, your focus should turn to retaining your top guards from the account. The competitor taking over the account will likely try to hire them away from you so they can have officers that are already familiar with the customer, the property, and the required tasks.

Even if the customer left due to poor guard performance, there should still be some high-quality employees that were working on the property. Do what it takes to get these guys onto other properties and keep them happy. Maybe even take the opportunity to replace poor performing guards on other properties.

As tough as it can be, try to think of the loss of this customer as an opportunity to bear down and improve your business. Use the exit interview as a wake up call to help you identify and correct any issues or mistakes that were being made.

Without the big customer, you can focus more on delivering the best possible service to your remaining clients. You can devote more of your best guards to those properties. Supervisors can spend more time managing and optimizing those teams. Customer service specialists can respond more quickly when they have issues.

Don’t Get Comfortable 

“The mindset of ‘What’s the most I can do to deliver value to my customer?’ will always win and will always retain clients more than ‘What’s the least I can do to make sure I don’t lose this contract?’” said Johnny on today’s episode.

I knew an owner who started out very successful. He won a bunch of huge accounts, grew rapidly, and was raking in profits.

You know what happened? He got comfortable.

He started spending less time in meetings with clients, stopped looking for ways to improve, and lost his competitive edge. All of a sudden, he stopped gaining new clients and started losing them to competitors that had the mindset of delivering the most value.

Maybe you’re like that owner. Or maybe you’re just starting out and didn’t realize how hard it would be. Whatever the case, losing a big customer can be a sign that there is a deeper issue with your company. Take the opportunity to refocus, get more engaged, and find new ways to deliver value to clients.

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Topics: Customer Service, Best Practices

Chris Anderson

Written by Chris Anderson

Chris is the Founder of Silvertrac Software and has been working in the security industry for more than 25 years. He enjoys working with our clients everyday to help them grow their businesses and really enjoy what they are doing.

Chris currently lives and works in Seal Beach, CA.

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