One of the most difficult yet valuable assignments my business coach ever gave me was the task of calling a long list of clients
that were in our inactive files. My job wasn't to try to talk them into coming back, but to find out why they'd left in the
first place. I tried to pass the work along to Donna, my receptionist, but my coach wouldn't hear of it.
"It will mean a lot more to these people if the call comes from you," Judy said. "Besides, you really need to hear what these
people have to say." So I started to make calls—at least five every day, no matter what. At first, most people I reached gave
me only vague niceties. After all, my practice was in the heart of the South where everyone knows how to be nice. But after
telling my coach how little I learned that first week, she shook her head. "You need to get underneath all that nice Southern
talk and dig out the truth—the real reasons they left."
Back into the breach I went. Sure enough, when I spent a little more time with clients and let them know that I really wanted
the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, they delivered. Boy, did they deliver. Consider some of the comments
- "I'd been coming to you for the past four years, but last time I visited you didn't know my name or my pets. It made me feel
like you really didn't care."
- "On my last visit to your clinic, it smelled bad. I was afraid you weren't keeping the hospital clean."
- "On the phone I was told that the charges would only be $15 to $20. But when I picked up Elmo, the bill was $75. I was shocked."
I guess it's true what they say, "The truth will set you free." But first it will irritate the hell out of you. It was tough
listening to those calls without defending myself or making excuses, but the information I gleaned was invaluable in turning
a lackluster practice around. Using those nuggets of truth my team members and I went on a search-and-rescue effort to discover
what drove clients away—and, if possible, bring them back.