Don’t give up on lost customers

“If we don’t take care of our customers, someone else will.” – Unknown

The market is huge and getting bigger by the day. Is it any wonder then that companies are scrambling to keep customers? There are companies who have managed not just to keep customers but also turn them in to raving brand evangelists and have the time to also seek new ways to attract more customers to increase business and replace any lost customers. These companies have probably given up on the lost customers and have probably not thought of why they lost them to start with. Such an oversight will most surely result in the same happening again. Currently raving customers would probably be upset by some lapse (that you chose not to delve upon) on the part of your company and walk out the door.

It’s probably easy to give up on lost customers since the thought process would say that you did your best. But companies just cannot afford to give up on these lost customers because the market is far too big and you might never see them again if you don’t try to get them back. The fact is, it’s easier and less expensive to get lost customers back than it is to attract and gain new ones. The task of reaching out to a lost customer could be an ego hassle for some companies and a daunting task for some – the customer rejected your company and its offerings. The fact to keep in mind however is, the customer went away because of some unpleasant incident they encountered with your company. What will do about it? The first would be humbly and honestly accept the service lapse and understand the instance that led to the customer’s departure. The second would be analyze what business or process failure led to the lapse that led to the lost customer. Before dealing with the lost customer, it is important to understand what led to the event that made the loss happen.

– ‘Know’ the customer who left. Just keeping track of lost customers is not sufficient, it is important to understand the kind of customers that are leaving or have left and notice a trend. This will make it easier to segment and reach out to them again. They were your customers once and obviously like what you were doing – so the chances that they will give you another chance if you try harder are quite bright. The customers that have gone to competition are the ones to be going after. The other kind of customer who has probably stopped buying the product altogether will still not buy and so the effort towards this direction would need to be only of reconnecting.

– Lost customers need to be a separate segment within your customer base. The reason for the segregation being that the approach towards these customers would need to be different. Their needs would be different, their expectations would probably be higher and they would need a different ‘kind of attention’ if you are to succeed in getting them back. The important thing is to re-establish contact and keep the lines of communication open once again. It would be wise to do a bit of ‘homework’ on the present status of such customers to get some understand on their current needs and wants. Keep communication with these lost customers simple yet unique and highly personalized. Rebuild their interest by showing them how your brand and offerings can benefit them and contribute to success.

– The truth is the customer may not yet be in a reconciliatory mode. Your company’s ‘winning back’ strategy must begin with a sincere and unfeigned apology. This must be conjoined with trying to find out what led to their exit and what will it take to get them back as customers. Companies must absolutely refrain from using this as an opportunity to upsell – trying to do so will most certainly backfire and probably turn the relatively calm customer to an irate one. The customer is giving you a chance to explain and recover from the loss use it to not only get them back but make a recovery that is worth being talked about and shared. Actively listening, taking notes, offering immediate and relevant support and a solution and a heartfelt offer to the customer to come back to your company – should be able to clinch this opportunity in your favor.

– After collecting sufficient information from a few lost customers, use your CRM software to understand a trend that could be pulling your company down without you even knowing it. The reasons that customers left you could very well have a common thread and be distinct from another group of customers that left. Put together relevant, personalized and well-crafted messages to target each group to make it easier to win back the lost customers. Customers want to be listened to and when your company makes it obvious that they are making every attempt to listen and act, it will be possible to recover, if not all, some of the lost customers.

– Of course, if you are able to get these lost customers back, ensure that you handle them with loads of ‘TLC’. Segment them separately and check back with them more often as to whether they are happy. Receiving this specialized and preferential treatment always goes down well with once angry customers and plus it will help your company to keep tabs on whether there is a slight potential of a problem and resolve it. It would add more value and serve to give the customer an added sense of confidence if the absolute top line person called these customers once in a while. The ‘lost and now retrieved customers’ need to be assured and reassured that there is someone at the highest level too who will pay attention to their problems.

So why should companies care about customers that left? There are many others too why not attract them? We know from our knowledge of customer behavior that engaged customers are loyal and profitable, customers who are referred by them are already partly sold on the company’s offerings and so lost customers that come back, make a bold and formidable statement of confidence in the market for the company. This is the kind of ‘publicity’ and customer faith that leads companies to greater heights than making attempts solely towards fresh cold prospects. Having made these statements on the importance of getting back lost customers, from a company perspective it is vital to ask and answer some questions before chasing these lost customers.

– Does your company really need and want them back? Surprised! The fact is that not all customers are equal – so if your data showed that these customers were not really ideal for your business then going after them again really makes no sense. All that you would probably need to do is ensure that they are not vengeful and communicate with them just to let them know that your company valued them. This will leave them happier and may even refer your offerings.

– It is important to find out the exact cause or causes that made a customer leave. If your company can make amends, do so and try to win them back. If despite your best efforts they decide that they do not wish to re-associate, then at least you would have some answers that could help you check if there are any current customers on the brink of leaving due to the same reasons. Act on the reasons before it is too late to save them from going away.

– Show empathy and take onus of the lapse that made them leave. Ask them what your company could have done differently to have made them stay. Analyze if you have the bandwidth and the solution to get them back and then offer it to them. They may come back and even if they don’t they may just provide you with a referral or let others know of the offer that might be beneficial to them.

If they come back, great! If not, ask for their express permission to be connected with them and send them promotional and industry information periodically. Your customers deserve to be treated well – with respect, courtesy and with kid gloves. If your company has fallen short of the promise of great service, make it a mission to restore the required service levels and keep customers happy. They are after all the reason you are in business.

Don’t take customers for granted – not even lost customers.

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