Create New Business – Win Back Lost Customers

“This may seem simple, but you need to give customers what they want, not what you think they want. And, if you do this people will keep coming back.” – John Ilhan

The fact is that despite the simplicity of this thought, most companies don’t seem to have a grip on it and are unable to retain customers or even create new business by winning back the customers they lost. It is a given for any business that some customers will be lost for a number of reasons, but a company that can prevent customers from leaving because of poor service and other reasons that can be controlled, will be more successful than others. This phenomenon is true for any size of company and irrespective of how successful the company currently is. Most companies seem to err by not taking adequate measures or making the effort to understand the reasons a customer left and if they did it would be possible to create new business and maybe even more profitability. Winning back lost customers also does wonders for your market and industry reputation and people begin to view your company as a force to reckon with – after all, customers are not an easy lot to please.

Fortunately there are no “standard or prescribed” methods to win back lost customers. We know that no two customers are alike and neither are the organizations they represent. What should matter is your company’s ability to create new business through every such opportunity and bring back disgruntled customers in a way that makes them even more loyal and profitable than the last time they were in business with you. It would therefore seem like creating new business through winning back lost customers was an organizational ‘mind-set’.

Before going behind lost customers, determine why you should do so. The fact is that over time loyalty from customers not only keep the profits rolling in from them – these customers are more than willing to refer your business and service to others too. Customers, who left for reasons of poor service or some other reasons that let to disillusionment, are already aware of your company’s potential, which is why they were with you to start with. Focusing your energy to reigniting that faith will bring them back with the same gusto as previously, making them profitable as soon as they come back. This is a much better strategy than focusing solely on gaining ‘new’ customers. Research indicates that with current customers companies have around 60-70% opportunity to sell again, 20-40% chance to create new business through winning back former customers and the lowest percentage of 5-20% of converting a prospective customer to an actual one.

A word of caution though – we have determined repeatedly that not all customers are alike and there are some ‘ugly’ ones without whom companies are much happier. Every customer is not ideal – meaning that it is very difficult to maintain them, keep them happy or even have substantial profits through them. If there was such a customer who left, it would be best to leave them ‘out there’ and instead maintain your focus on customers through whom you are sure to create new business after winning them back.

Customers leave because they have lost faith and trust in your company and its offerings. So the first step would be to regain that trust. Again, irrespective of your company’s size, reputation and profit margins, no one can afford to ignore customers. To win back lost customers check on way to instil trust in the customers and each company can decide what the best methods would be for them.  Whatever you decide, we believe that your company should be focusing on being and doing the best they can in terms of customer service, products and other areas that directly impact the customer. When customers can see value in what you do, trust happens on its own. Your company could be the market leader, but no one is perfect and hence mistakes and service lapses are a given. Remember to never try to cover up your mistakes, but rather own up to them and convey the same to your customers with a speedy plan for rectification. Trying to hide your errors may work short term, but over time customers begin to distrust and lost faith – customers don’t lose time making their displeasure known especially since the rise of social media. A single negative comment could damage your reputation even if you make substantial efforts.

The harsh truth about trust is that it takes time and concerted effort to build but just one instance or experience can shatter that trust in a matter of seconds. So if you are out to win back lost customers do not expect it to be a cakewalk – it will take even more time. The key to success to get them back is being patient and continue trying. It would be crucial to remain extra alert about their current needs and expectations so that you can give them what they want. This again is an onerous and time expending activity and everyone in the company must be geared towards meeting this common goal. The process of understanding your ‘exes’ is complicated and you may not always meet with success – but if the former customer is worth the time and effort then you should figure out a way to create new business by winning them back.

With an understanding of what their current needs are, what companies must also figure out is why the customer left to start with. Was it something you did wrong or did they just stop needing your company’s offerings? Knowing the exact reasons for them leaving will make your ‘win back strategy’ more effective. In addition, knowing these reasons would help you identify whether you are repeating these with your current customers, who too may be about to leave. Apologizing for your shortcomings is part of the package – don’t overlook that.

As pointed out, your words may not be able to impress the former customers and you would need that something more. Offer the former customers great deals, incentives or maybe even referrals to other companies who may have products that your customer needs but are not part of your offerings. Customers should be able to perceive, beyond words, your commitment to winning them back and if you are able to show them sincerity, you could win them back sooner than later.

In your zeal to create new business through winning back lost customers, do not forget your current customers. Make knowing and understanding your customers on a regular basis a habit. The fact is many customers leave without providing a reason and if you are not paying attention to the signs and cues they pass on while they are still with you, it would be difficult to retain them. Why waste your precious resources in winning back customers whom you should never have lost in the first place? Invest in technology, send out feedback surveys, speak with the front-line staff to gain information – just some ways to keep a ‘finger on the pulse’ of your current set of customers. Customers communicate in many ways and would be prudent not to focus only on the words they speak – rather focus also on tone of voice, expressions, buying pattern changes, comments on social media and other such signs.

However time consuming, wearisome and laborious the task of winning back lost customers may seem companies cannot afford to ignore this vital segment of customers. With so many new companies and current companies changing their processes to match up to customer standards, it would be rather detrimental to let customers go and worse still to not create new business by winning back customers that did leave because you messed up.  Are you geared up to get your lost customers back?

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