We think and talk a lot about building and strengthening relationships with customers. The conversations tend to focus on first impressions, on-boarding, maintenance, and growth. It’s less common to hear about the process of ending a relationship. It can be uncomfortable to think about.
What should you do when a client or customer is ready to say goodbye? Or maybe it’s you who is ready to move on. As hard as it can be to acknowledge this interaction as another part of the relationship, what happens here is so important.
How can you make this experience of saying farewell as special and generous as you try to make all your other customer experiences?
Some companies make it painful to part ways. It feels like “good riddance” rather than “thanks for the memories.”
I’ve been known to demonstrate some… idiosyncrasies when I’m eating a meal (especially at restaurants). When the food arrives, I’ll lean my face in real close. I let the steam and smells drift into my nostrils. I inhale real deep. It’s the first moment of the meal I want to capture, savor. A chef cliche says people eat with their eyes first. But really, it’s the nose. Smell is hard-wired to the gut and the soul, setting us up for what comes next.
The first bite. A first taste impression. A friendly (or hostile) hello. Our experience now has something to hold on to, to compare to our expectations. The food right now is at its most ideal temperature and presentation. Some meals have a first bite worth writing home about: a magical taste explosion; the second bite is eager. But for other meals, the second bite can be reluctant. Or maybe curious: does it get better? Some get no second bite at all. An often unfair resolution perhaps, especially for foods that really sing as you become more closely acquainted.
After many bites comes my next meal moment, when the food and I are starting to understand one another. The perfect bite. Can all the ingredients and tastes be layered on the fork just so to capture the meal’s full depth and essence? Can we align and collaborate with purpose to create this one, perfect bite? Sometimes the meal is so balanced, several subsequent perfect bites are possible. Does a high percentage of perfect bites make a truly perfect meal?
Even after this perfect bite (or several), comes my favorite and most important meal moment. The last bite. By this point the meal has nothing left to prove. We’re saying farewell. But the last bite can sometimes be even better than all the bites that came before. It will be different, of course. A meal changes during the time it takes us to eat it. But this last bite is a finishing touch. Look at all we experienced together and how soon is it until we can do this again?
I called the experience of saying goodbye “ending” a relationship, but as Eric mentions in the tweet above, leaving is often temporary. And even if it is permanent, that relationship happened and the feelings it created will continue to exist. And this final interaction will certainly linger.
How can you shift what you’re doing to make your goodbyes as exciting and warm as your hellos?