Sometimes They Come Back

There’s a quite famous story about how allied forces during WWII wanted to make sure (wisely) that their planes were as well protected as possible. Initially, they did this by looking at all the bullet holes in those planes that managed to return from battle and created a recommendation to strengthen the most damaged areas. However, a clever fellow by the name of Abraham Wald realised that the truth was in fact the opposite. If the plane was able to return with damage to those areas, then the problem apparently lay in those areas which hadn’t been hit!*

Why is that relevant to you and your business? Well, there’s a lot of focus, and rightly so to a large extent, on looking at your most valuable segments in order to grow your business. I, myself, have advocated that frequently to anyone who will listen. Identifying a group of your customers who are loyal and spend well is crucial and lays a strong foundation.

But what about those that currently don’t become your big spenders, should they just be discarded and written off? Maybe not. What if there were a few discerning features that they shared which you could remedy and then add that entire group to your business?

Recently, I was looking to buy some more books, having just finished three brilliant ones (including Humble Pi by Matt Parker ** which inspired me to write this post) and I went to the same website where I had purchased the first three. When I bought those, I knew quite precisely what I was looking for, so didn’t pay too much attention to the website, but second time around, not looking for anything in particular, it became jarring. I tried so hard to stay loyal to a Danish company by checking my Amazon recommendations and then jumping over to see if I could find them on the other site, but that just also made me realise the price difference. So in the end, after about 30-40 minutes of frustrated attempts at finding something good, I ended up just grabbing them off Amazon, which took about 5 minutes.

Does that mean I wouldn’t have been a great customer for the first company? I would like to think not seeing as I love books (yeah, the physical kind, just can’t get enough) and buy at least 3-4 each month, apart from gifts to others. But if the user experience is such that switching from page 2 to page 3 in the search results “forgets” that I’d selected English books as a parameter and therefore shows all books and is generally exasperatingly slow, then I’m sorry, but you’ve lost me.

How many customers are you losing because of “simple” things? How much time do you spend reviewing those customers who nearly become loyal? Who have sent all the right signals in their behaviour on your site but then drop off because of just one little thing? Maybe it’s a search page that doesn’t work, maybe it’s a form they don’t like, maybe it’s that font you’re using.

In short: Never lose touch with those customers who are already loyal to you, but always also look to the next group and see how you can make easy gains.

* yes, I’m aware that this bias has a name, but in these COVID-19 days, it feels wrong to use the term for anything but people actually recovering from serious illness

** to avoid betraying my loyalty in this tale, I’ll let you look the book up yourself and purchase from your own favourite purveyor of reads