How to Handle Losing Long-term Clients

How to Handle Losing Long-term Clients

 The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”  Ben Franklin

Way to go Ben, well said! 

Now why isn't that as true today as it used to be?  What do I mean?  Well, I’ll be honest and much as I like to say we are the “best of the best” in the asphalt business, we have lost some clients over the years -- and more so recently. 

Keep in mind, you can’t ever win them all, but I do think you should try.  I’m talking about clients that we have had for decades, that someone else comes in and beats us by a nickel -- and away that relationship goes. 

Clients have forgotten about the bitterness of poor quality and are ever so hungry for the sweetness of low price.  We really strive hard to properly dilute our sealer to the manufacturer’s recommendations or to pave to the agreed thickness, for example. But nothing gets me more than to lose a bid to a competitor with a less-than-stellar record. (I do find it more than amusing when visits to the site afterwards show exactly what low price got my ex-client.)

The problem then comes, should you swallow your pride and re-bid the work if ever invited again? 

I’m in that boat now, having lost two long-term clients last season. It’s a loss I took very personally. Over the years I looked after those clients’ sites as if they were my own, and our crews always went out of the way to make sure the clients got more than they expected (standard operating procedure for us as we always try to exceed expectations). 

But now, should the phone ring this season or next with those former clients on the line, do I bid or not? 

The business smarts in me would most likely say absolutely. After all, you miss 100% of the shots you don't take, so I’m for sure not going to make a basket sitting on the bench.  The cynical, proud side of me says to tell them to stick it in their ear and enjoy “the bitterness of poor quality.”

This may be something I have to live with for a while, but hey, it gave me great footage for my “what not to do files.”

Seriously, though, it does pose a difficult question that many of us probably face at one time or another. I have spoken to several other contractors and the bag is truly mixed.  Some say “bid it, bid it all,” while others say, “don't even take the call.” 

At the end of the day, all we want is work and, safe to say, decent work that turns a profit. For me, taking that emotion out of the loss of a long-term client (or two) is a challenge I've yet to tackle.