Grace on the way out

What’s the right way to treat someone on their way out? A customer, an employee, a partner? Breakups are hard, and our instinct is often to turn to anger or spitefulness. Maybe that’s cathartic in personal relationships (I’m not a therapist), but in business that’s very bad business.

When faced with a breakup, grace always wins over pettiness. That’s how we’ve always treated our customers when they are about to cancel or have canceled. We are kind, understanding, and want to leave a positive last impression. So I’m always surprised when I encounter the opposite.

When faced with a breakup, grace always wins over pettiness.

Just this week a long-time partner marketplace really disappointed me. We had decided to pull Postmark out of the marketplace because it wasn’t providing the full set of features and we weren't able to support our customers in the same way as our stand-alone accounts. We expected a smooth, amicable separation that would focus on our mutual customers and making it as seamless as possible.

What started as a positive discussion of how they could improve the marketplace to have us remain, quickly turned into a pretty aggressive and negative response. After we agreed to a timeline that would give us enough time to prepare our communication to customers, they unexpectedly moved it up. Which is fine, I’m sure they had their reasons. But then there was their email to our customers about the shutdown. The email came off bitter and akin to a nasty breakup, with ambiguous wording like “Postmark will be shutting down.” Customers started emailing to see if our entire product was going away.

Text saying "Postmark will be shutting down June 30, 2017"
BTW, we're not shutting down.

This was such a facepalm moment for me. How did a highly reputable company end up with folks who were given authority to burn bridges like this? What happens when our next product is a perfect fit? What happens when someone we know that runs a similar product asks about our experience? They lost not only respect of a partner from many years, but they lost any chance of positive perception that we could share.

Companies are so short sighted sometimes. Breakups in business are never personal. They're based on the individual needs of the business. But relationships you make are very, very personal. And, very powerful and long living. Building a relationship takes time and nurturing. It can be broken with a simple, poorly worded email.

Don’t allow your personal emotions or ego to ruin a relationship. Make sure every exit — be it a customer, an employee, or a partner — leaves a positive memory. You want people to come back, or to share great experiences. Our most vivid memory will be the one that had the most impact. You don’t want that to be the exit itself.

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