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Would You Rather be a Customer or a Prospect?

Companies treat prospects inordinately better than they treat customers. This might be understandable since we all know that good prospects come at a real premium today. But is it acceptable?

It reminds me of the story of the person who dies after living a life that confused those that were to make the decision about where he would spend the afterlife. Confused them so much that they decided to give him a “look-see” at his options. So the sent him first to spend a day in hell.

He arrived to everything he enjoyed during his life on earth—great food, beautiful golf courses, terrific music played in perfect venues, and on and on. And the guy in charge? He was terrific too—welcoming, charming, adaptable, the perfect host.

Day 2 arrived and his decision-makers started to send him in to see heaven for a day.

“No thanks,” he said. “I am good with hell. It’s everything I could ask for, so just send me there.” Space being at a premium, they complied with his wishes.

He arrived to find quite a different setting than the day before. It was horrible! It was worse than everything he had been taught to expect—hot, everyone toiling, no food (let alone the great food he was treated to just one day earlier). He found his host (who displayed none of his grace from the day before) and confronted him.

“Hey, yesterday, there were golf courses, great meals, the music was inspiring. Where is all of that? What happened?!?”

With a wry smile his host said simply, “Yesterday, you were a prospect. Today, you are a customer.”

It happens in real life too. Think about businesses like mobile phone carriers. Who gets the best deals? The new customers. If you are already a customer, you are still paying rates from the time you signed your contract. And unless you know to ask about new services and offerings, you don’t enjoy them.

Another way this pops up is with what I think of as “campaign promises.” When chasing a prospect, companies make all kinds of promises. Once the prospect becomes a customer, are those promises kept? Or are they as fleeting as campaign promises made by politicians?

Think hard about the way that customers are treated. Revenue earned from customers is far more certain than revenue that might be earned from prospects. Shouldn’t they be treated at least as well?

About the Author

Phil Bounsall

Phil Bounsall

As president at Walker, Bounsall is focused on the development and execution of strategies and operating plans designed to enhance Walker’s position as a global leader in customer intelligence. Bounsall also works with Walker’s client service teams to help meet the needs of Walker’s clients.

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