Leadership: Disappointments & Setbacks (Part 2)

Exit Surveys –

As a leader, one of the most important things you can do when you lose an employee or customer is an exit survey. If done correctly, you will not only find out why they are leaving, but you may be able to gain insight into ways to increase your business at the same time.

When done correctly, an exit survey may reveal internal issues, expose external threats, point to breakdowns in communication, and even give you ideas for ways to expand your business.

When conducting an exit survey, there are 3 key questions you want to be able to answer before you are done.
· Why they are leaving
· What they are thinking
· Would they ever consider returning


If it’s an employee, did they leave for a better paying job or more benefits? Was the work environment unfriendly? Did they feel unappreciated?

If it is a customer, did they get a better price? Did they need services that you don’t offer? Did you drop the ball? Is there an area that you need to improve upon?

When you can answer these types of questions, you will know if it was something that you need to improve upon. If your employee is leaving because of money, you may need to pay folks more to keep them. If the work environment is stressful, you may need to work to improve communications inside your company. If a client is leaving because of a need for other products or services, you may decide to offer additional products or services. If you already offer those, there may be a marketing issue.

What are they saying?

A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.
Proverbs 22:1

This is a good time to find out what they may say down the road. You don’t have to ask them directly, but you can gain insight through conversation.

Keep in mind that where customers are concerned, it’s often better to apologize than to be right. If they express a complaint, reply with understanding. Where applicable, ask them to make specific suggestions for improvement. Often folks will give you an opinion about your flaws, but the opinion is not specific enough to be helpful. Having them be specific will leave no doubt as to what they expected from you.

If they are appreciative of your services, but still feel the need to move on, consider asking them for a testimonial. If they have outgrown what you can do for them, perhaps you helped them achieve along the way. In any case, a testimonial is always a good thing.

Will they ever return?

If the employee was a really great employee, or if the customer was a really great customer, you’ll want to be sure they feel the door is open for them to return. Training folks is costly. Getting new business is also costly. Take advantage of this time to let them know that the door is open. Let them know that you wish them well, but if things don’t work out you’d love to have them back. Your goal is to somewhat indirectly eliminate the fear of humble pie if they do want to return.


Your challenge is to create an exit survey that will not only feel like a phone call from a friend, but also uncover any issues that you need to work to improve and / or give you ideas for future products and services that you’d like to offer. Remember, phone calls are better than questionnaires, and friendly conversations are better than third degrees.