It had been 13 years of ups and downs. Commitments and re-commitments. Happiness, ambivalence, anger, and satisfaction. All the emotions that come with long-term relationships. A phone call was the beginning of the end. All I wanted to do was anounce the end of the relationship. But I was practically screaming obscenities as I hung up.  No, I’m not talking about the end of a romantic relationship. This was the end of 13 year relationship with my cellular phone service provider- practically an eternity for this industry.

You Can’t Save the Relationship

The rep who took my call ignored my statement that the company simply didn’t offer what I wanted. He didn’t understand that I was upset about my treatment over the years and- by him in this phone call. I had been with this one company for the length of my entire cellular life thus far. I had begun this journey with them and now it was time to end. He didn’t understand that though I knew the relationship needed to end, it was hard. So, he treated it like a transaction and an opportunity to get me to re-commit to the company. Rather than what it was- the ending of a relationship.

Why Good Endings are Important

There’s a popular saying from The Godfather that often makes the rounds, “It’s not personal. It’s business.” But to customers it *is* personal. When you provide a product or service to a customer you become a part of their life- maybe even their daily life. When they choose to stop using your services, recognize it’s the end of a relationship. Don’t try to get them to change their mind, up-sell them to a different service, or bash your competition in hopes of keeping them as a customer. In doing this you miss the opportunity to end the relationship well.

How to End a Relationship Well

When someone no longer wants to use your service you’re presented with an opportunity in how you want to treat them. People remember how you treated them- during a relationship and especially at the end. And they talk about it! You can’t control the things happening but can help determine how you end things and what they talk to others about.

1. Recognize when you’ve lost them and let them go.

Don’t try to upsell them. Don’t bash their competition. Just let them go.

2. Treat this as a relationship ending rather than a transaction.

End it with grace.

3. Ask for feedback so you can learn. Thank them for their business.

In my situation this wouldn’t have changed my mind because the company didn’t offer what I was looking for in terms of product (I wanted an iPhone). But, it would have left a much better impression with me- especially after spending $15,000 and purchasing 8 phones over the length of our relationship. I would have tweeted about it to all my followers. I would have written a different blog post about what an incredible company they are- giving them free advertising and press at no cost.

Marketing Takeway

Business is more than a transaction- you’re building personal relationships with customers. You never know who they might talk to and you don’t know when they’ll need your services again. Treat them with care and kindness throughout the customer lifecycle all the way to the end. This builds goodwill for current and future customers.