Business development · 4 May 2016

don’t try this at home: How ignoring my customers helped me grow my business

Imagining what would happen if you ignored all your customers can be insightful
When other priorities caused a shift of focus away from my small company, it became obvious who the most loyal customers were.

I never planned to simply stop answering my phone to them, but other things got in the way. Like many young professionals enjoying the benefits of a portfolio career, there have been times when Ive struggled to fit journalism and running a tutoring agency into the 168 hours available a week (everyone knows entrepreneurs don’t really do sleep).

And so, in the midst of working across multiple projects, I let clients fall by the wayside, ignoring emails and calls and WhatsApp messages because I thought I didnt have time to deal with them. Unsurprisingly, most eventually stopped trying and went elsewhere (quite rightly so).

But a few persisted. And when it finally it hit me that Id be a fool to turn away such dedicated customers, after Id apologised profusely for doing so and put the effort into making it up to them with great service, these persistent prospects quickly turned into my best clients.

Of course, Im not proud of neglecting customers it’s hardly a business strategy with much to recommend it, on a personal or business level. Not returning calls is embarrassingly rude, and if disgruntled customers had taken to Twitter to complain, that could have been the end of it.

But imagining what would happen if you did do this is a thought experiment capable of providing invaluable business insight. Taking a minute to have a think about which of your clients would keep calling and emailing until you finally got back to them can provide an insightful peek into the customers that are really driving your business.

The idea that there might be benefits to doing so are nothing new. The exercise is simply another way of proving to yourself something that Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto uncovered out in 1896 that 80 per cent of the effects of an activity come from 20 per cent of the effort. The Pareto Principal? named after him by a management consultant posits that in business, this means that 80 per cent of your sales will come from 20 per cent of your clients.



Hannah Wilkinson is a reporter for Business Advice. She studied economics and management at Oxford University and prior to joining Business Advice wrote for Kensington and Chelsea Today about business and economics as well as running a tutoring company.