The Last Customer on Earth

Shep Hyken
Contributing Writer
Shepard Presentation

What if you only had one customer left to do business with? Maybe this was the last customer on earth?

Norman Beck—my friend and faithful reader of The Shepard Letter—and I were talking about this idea and he shared another way of looking at it. In his words, “It’s like the last gas station you’ll see for miles as you enter the desert. Maybe you stop and make sure you have a full tank of gas.” Of course, you don’t want to run out of gas in the middle of the desert! In business terms, maybe you’ll focus on making sure this customer is happy, filling the metaphorical gas tank with an excellent customer experience, so you can last—or stay in business—until you get another customer.

Let’s pretend for a moment. What if this were true? Not so much that your customer is the last on earth, but that they are the only one you have. Maybe this is your first—and only—customer. Or maybe, due to a tough economy, customers aren’t buying or spending like they used to, meaning all but one have stopped doing business with you. Regardless, you just have one customer and you want to keep them. How? Ask yourself the following questions:

What do you currently do to add value for your customers? This is not a brainstorm of what you could do. This is what you’re already doing. Think about what you do that makes customers want to do business with you instead of your competition. Think about any compliments you’ve received from them in the past.

What are you doing that might cause your customers to leave? Imagine that you’re losing customers—this may not be true, but imagine it is. Consider any and all complaints you’ve heard about. This is a good place to start.

What do you do that is different from your competition? I’ve posed this question before. This is about differentiation—what you do that is unique or special compared to others. It could be something as simple as hours of operation. Do you offer a product that others don’t? Is your process different? Whatever you come up with, it must be something a competitor couldn’t say. For example, don’t say, “We have great service.” The competitor might believe they have great service, too. It must actually be different and make you stand out.

The over-arching question you should ask yourself is, “What would you do to keep your last customer?” Get a team together and brainstorm answers to these questions and others you may come up with. Once you have the answers, you may never have to worry about only having one customer—your last customer.

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