Posted by: joannabrandi | August 21, 2008


As soon as the rain from Tropical Storm Fay passed yesterday I rushed down to the beach. I had been away for over two weeks and I missed my favorite spot. Breathing in the sea air renews me, so even when windy or cloudy, I take my walks at the beach.

And windy it was. I tucked my ipod deep in my pocket and put my sunglasses on to keep the sand out of my eyes. It’s my habit to walk against the wind on the walk out, so the walk back is a little easier.

It didn’t take long to notice that a lot of beach was gone.  The storm had done some damage, and perhaps eighty feet or more of beach washed out to sea.

I drank in the fresh air after two days of being stuck indoors during the storm, at first all I was feeling was gratitude for being able to have nature so close to home.

But shortly I started thinking about a client. Their customer base in one sector of their business is eroding, and has been for a while. I know my training and my message is powerful, but I wondered. Would it begin to turn the tide?

When over time you cut cost by cutting service it begins eroding the trust your clients had. Growing by acquisition builds the customer base up again (just like the beach did over the past few months following terrible storms a few months prior to that.) But when scrupulous attention is not paid to the culture and how to deal with customers of the “former” company, over time, we see erosion.

The world is changing. The customer is changing. They have the power. When they start talking out loud and on the internet, the jig’s up.

All organizations need to take a closer look at what they are doing to stem erosion. If you didn’t have a good relationship with the customer when they left (because like everyone else, they’re cutting back a bit) you certainly won’t be able to win them back when the financial weather changes again.  Marketing and advertising dollars don’t buy trust, they buy interest. You can’t buy trust, you have to earn and build it. What builds trust is consistently doing the things that make the employees and customers feel valued, special and important.

It happens easily. Even to me. We all tend to take our customers for granted. Erosion. It’s a sign.

Time to build up the dunes.



  1. JoAnna

    A good analogy and – as ever – well portrayed.

    However, I cannot help wonder whether there is another form of erosion that gives an early warn signal for an eroding customer base – eroding staff AKA staff turnover.

    I would be interested to know whether you, or any of your readers, have any statistics that can prove the correlation between the two.

  2. Bay,

    While I don’t have any statistics handy there is a correlation between employee turnover and customer turnover and it would make sense. When employees are not treated right and leave there is a lack of continuity in the intelligence of the company. Relationships are severed, trust is broken.
    I know that I have seen stats on them – perhaps the people over at Service Profit Chain are able to help.

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