Flying back from a recent business trip, I saw an infographic in USA Today about the legroom available in many of the air carriers. It’s no secret; less legroom means more seats, which means more potential revenue. But, at what cost?

I was well aware of the legroom issue as I cramped into my middle seat. When I booked my trip, I could pay an extra $9 for a seat with more legroom. This seems crazy given the $450+ I already paid. Talk about nickel-and-diming the customer. There seems to be a race to the bottom in customer service in some cases. And poor customer service is a good way to lose customers.

Take a look at some of these stats from

  • In the average business, for every customer who bothers to complain, there are 26 others who remain silent.
  • The average wronged customer will tell 8 to 16 people (about 10 percent will tell more than 20 people).
  • 91 percent of unhappy customers will never purchase goods or services from you again.
  • If you make an effort to remedy customers’ complaints, 82 to 95 percent of them will stay with you.
  • It costs about 5 times as much to attract a new customer as it does to keep an existing one.

As we see here, having an internal mindset can be a detriment to our longer term survival of the business. Short term, some of these decisions we make to cut costs or increase revenue can be attractive (such as the shrinking legroom on airplanes) while longer term may lead to lower revenues as customers leave for competitors.

There are many touch points we can have with customers—presales, installation, customer service, etc. As a product manager, I like to conduct “voice of the customer” sessions regularly in order to understand what our customers are thinking, what they are concerned about, etc. The feedback I've gotten is that these sessions mean a lot to our customers. They like having a voice in the products and services we offer. This is one way to help retain our customers. Of course we need to deliver as well.

Recently at GE’s Intelligent Platforms business, we ran an Alpha release for an upcoming product. We made it very easy for our customers to access the Alpha. Nothing to install because we installed it for them on the cloud (See my previous blog post, “Forecast calls for the cloud” ☺). By doing this, we made it easy for them to try out the software without a lot of effort on their part. This was win-win because we could get feedback early in the process, and the customer did not have to take time to install the Alpha.

Because the customer could focus on using the product versus the hassle of finding hardware, doing the install and configuration, we were able to get better participation in our Alpha. And when we get real customer feedback early, we can make that part of our development process, which helps make our offerings better. We are able to take feedback and include it in our current product instead of learning about it after the release. It also helps us build the roadmap for the product based on customer needs as well.

Keeping current customers happy and engaged is imperative to business. Being involved in as many touch points with our customers and understanding which ones are working and which ones aren’t can help you course correct and ensure you have a positive relationship. Allow your customers a way to tell you what is and isn’t working for them so they aren’t the one that just leaves or worse yet, tells 16 people how bad you are to work with.

Keep the conversation going. What are the touch points you have with your b2b vendors that really wow you?

About the author

Paul Adams

Project Manager

Paul has spent more than 20 years in manufacturing with GE’s Intelligent Platforms business, focusing on product development. His deep industry experience comes from countless calls, meetings and visits to manufacturers around the globe to help solve their business challenges. Today, he works in Global Professional Services, which allows him to continue working with GE’s manufacturing customers at a more downstream function. Wonder what challenges he’s helping manufacturers solve today? Connect with Paul on LinkedIn.