Win-Loss Analysis: Simple Insights

Here’s a simple question: Why did your company win or lose its last 50 customers? Surprisingly, even the most customer-focused companies often cannot answer this question with confidence. Market intelligence typically comes via the sales force which may filter, abbreviate, or distort account histories. Furthermore, when a negative result has occurred, such as a failure to purchase or renew, customers often don’t tell sales reps the full or accurate reasons behind their decisions. Finally, account histories are often anecdotal, and not analyzed systematically as a group. As a result, management must draw conclusions about customer behavior based on inputs that are incomplete, inaccurate, or both. Even when companies recognize the limitations of their knowledge, they are typically not in a position on their own to gather better information directly from customers.
To fill this gap, we’ve developed our win-loss program, which takes an independent, objective, and systematic look at a sample of recent customer wins and losses. Through in-depth interviews with customers, we identify the key factors that contributed to the wins or losses. These drivers may include the product content or functionality as well as other factors, including technology, customer support, pricing, and sales effectiveness, among others. After conducting even a modest set of interviews, we are able to connect the dots and discern patterns that are often eye-opening. Here are some examples of recent findings:

  • A best-selling reference product for healthcare institutions was experiencing an unexpectedly high rate of cancellations. Despite praising it as a great product, ex-customers told us they cancelled it because of low usage. In digging deeper, we found that the underlying cause was a lack of ongoing vendor support to foster successful product rollouts and ongoing usage across the enterprise. The notion that “if you build it they will come” was simply not working to attract internal users.
  • A training product was being replaced by a competitors’ inferior product. Although the competitive product was significantly less expensive, our investigation showed that price was not the primary driver. The real reason was that the entire enterprise had standardized on a specific learning management system that was incompatible with our client’s training product, forcing loyal users to abandon it in favor of a less-preferable product.
  • An educational product used to certify new professionals was selling well, but then failing to be renewed. Our analysis showed that customers had lower demand for the product once they had trained their initial crop of new recruits because of low staff turnover, and could not justify renewing the product because its pricing was set to accommodate a large group of learners.

After making these kinds of diagnoses, our win-loss program recommends remedies that can improve customer acceptance and retention. Such recommendations could include a broad range of potential changes, including product improvements, pricing restructuring, re-vamped support programs, or organizational changes, among others.

About Lee Greenhouse

Longtime strategy consultant focused on the business of information content, applications, and services.
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