Like I said in August, relationships don't last forever.
A 50 percent divorce rate is the accepted norm, and the only way to assess whether "till death do us part" is accurate is to wait for one partner to die. My previous column focused on an even more common kind of split, that of product or service provider and customer, but the lessons still apply.
Now it's time to consider the natural consequences of splitting with a provider: starting a new relationship and continuing your life. Not every relationship needs to be replaced immediately. No matter how mad I get at my favorite shoe manufacturer, for instance, chances are I won't have to worry about finding a new brand for at least a few months. Then again, why would I have a falling-out with the company unless I was currently interacting with that company, and why would I do that other than to buy a new pair?
Getting and keeping customers on the rebound is always a little tricky. On one hand, they're typically very highly motivated to make a decision, especially if they're in the market for an essential item, like household gas/electric, Internet or cell service, or pizza. (Look, I take my pizza seriously, OK?) On the other hand, the motivation is getting away from the old provider, not moving toward a new one. A rebounding customer is like a rebounding newly single person: easy to get with if you play your cards right, but likely to ditch you once the itch has been scratched, and possibly hard to please on top of it all.
So what's the solution? Businesses don't typically have the luxury of being able to spot a rebound opportunity from a mile away—sitting alone at the bar, pounding shots and eyeing every likely candidate—so they must remain open and accessible at all times. You never know if the next person in your queue is just casually looking around, a calculating shopper doing research, or an angry and bitter single in need of something fresh. Social analytics companies are working hard to identify the differences, but you can't count on accuracy and timeliness at this stage. Every prospect is a potential LTR, if you treat him right and the timing is good.
One thing that businesses do that folks in the dating world usually don't is announce their latest conquest to the world. My Twitter stream has dozens of recent examples of this—crowing about how New Customer X just finished migrating its data from the old provider. I expect this from customers, since they're the ones who feel they weren't getting what they needed. It would be considered petty if it was about a new girlfriend/boyfriend, but all's fair in business. In this case, though, the pettiness is on the vendor side, though they usually call it advertising. Most people don't care what CRM system a major banking institution uses, but they do care who the CRM company's customers are, and which ones it's won and lost. Telling the world you just earned that bank's business is one thing; telling the world you just took it away from your rival is tacky. "I'm dating Bugs because Daffy was inadequate" is marginally acceptable; "I'm dating Daffy's ex-girlfriend because he was inadequate" is asking to get a piano dropped on your head.
Marshall Lager is the founder of social CRM advisory firm Third Idea Consulting, and has no idea why people accuse him of using public forums for personal therapy. Discuss it with him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or www.twitter.com/Lager.