Are “Dark Matter Customers” Poised to Impact Your Business?

darkmattercustYou probably have a bunch of customers that are effectively invisible to you. If there are enough of them they can make a major impact on your business, and you will never see it coming.


The other day I caught up for coffee with a former colleague. The conversation naturally turned to some of the projects we both were involved in for the large corporation that he still works for.

One of the major projects was around bringing the organisation into the 21st century with a digital service strategy. This meant improving online access for customers to get their account information, adding mobile apps to do the same, text messaging, collecting email addresses and exploring social media for service instead of just brand marketing.

This sort of thing is very expensive at scale, and the business case was predicated on the fact that customers would move their inquiries and transactions from the costly call center to the lower ongoing cost of the digital tools we were building. So my friend was telling me that the uptake of the digital tools was doing very well and they were hitting or exceeding all of their download/sign up/transaction targets.foter-callcentre

But there was one problem…

Call volumes into the call center have remained constant throughout.


This is a problem for the business as the shift in call volumes was what they were counting on to fund this project.

But chatting we agreed that this is actually a minor problem compared with the opportunity that has now presented itself.

The real issue is; there were these customers there all along but they were not interested in calling the call center, so they were effectively invisible to the service division. Karl coined the term “Dark Matter” Customers for this in reference to the physicists issue of unaccounted for mass in the universe which they believed is made up of “dark matter”.

The ramifications of this are significant. Particularly in a large silo-ed business. These Dark Matter Customers were not engaging with the call centers, and while a few may have engaged with the retail stores beyond the initial sale (if they bought in a retail store and not through the online store), the majority did not.

So if the organisation didn’t know they were there and failed to engage with them, leaving them vulnerable to competitors who would engage with them. In a very competitive market!

Having now identified these customers, this company has a huge opportunity to nurture an asset that was previously invisible to them. The potential to offer additional value through up-sells and add-ons tailored to suit these customers, should cover any expense incurred in creating the digital platforms. And that is ignoring the benefits of greater retention that will arguably naturally occur with this engagement (retention, alas, is often overlooked).

But what does this mean for you and your business?

Even if you are not a multi-billion dollar corporation the chances are that you have customers who prefer different methods of interaction.

This is particularly important if you are in a service industry where an ongoing client relationship is critical.

changing the channel

Often smaller businesses will focus on the channels that the owner prefers to use themselves. This alone is a big mistake.

Your preference should be for the channel your clients prefer!
But beyond that, you should use multiple channels for your multiple individual clients.

So if you are not a twitter person, and you are running a business, then you should at least test to see if your clients or prospects are using it, regardless of your personal preference.

For a great overview of this I highly recommend the book “Changing the Channel – 12 Easy ways to make Millions for your business”  by two of my go-to experts: MaryEllen Tribby & Michael Masterson.

The book is a few years old now and doesn’t look at the service aspect of business. It is much more sales focused, but will open your mind to a few new ways of looking at things if you are a business owner who hasn’t considered multiple channels of engagement before.


I would love to hear of your experiences with Dark Matter Customers or communicating through multiple channels in the comments below.


Photo credit: kalieye / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Photo credit: alanclarkdesign / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)

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About Chris Hanlon

Chris has worked in or owned small businesses most of his life, before lured into the corporate world where he spent over a decade. However his passion for small business has remained, and taken life in The Profit Wizard blog, his published book, and some coaching he does for a variety of businesses. You can follow Chris on Twitter @TheProfitWizard

2 Responses to “Are “Dark Matter Customers” Poised to Impact Your Business?”

  1. jackmo November 22, 2014 at 5:02 am #

    it’s a good point about not assuming your preferences are the same as your customers. I hate voicemail and pretty sure I lose heaps of jobs by not checking it enough.

    But for small bus it’s super easy to setup
    -contact forms

    I guess having the correct processes to receive and respond is often overlooked


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