Losing a customer to a competitor is always tough, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the story. In the same way that you can take steps to show your customers you truly care about their business, you can take proactive steps to win back your former customers. Here are five ways to do it:
1. Get the Story First
It’s easy to lose customers if you don’t listen to what they’re telling you. The first thing to do with a customer that has left is to find out why. You can ask your staff, including the service associates who helped them, but the best way to get the backstory is often to just ask the customer directly.
There are several ways to go about doing this. You can set up a department or employee that’s dedicated to calling former customers to find out why they switched. You can also email or mail surveys requesting customer feedback. But however you reach out, listen carefully to what is said. Try to get the full picture, and don’t let your ego get in the way of hearing the things you need to.
2. Decide If You Really Want Them Back
Not every customer is the right fit for every business. Once you fully understand the customers’ situation, determine if you want to take additional steps to win him or her back to your business. If the customer was difficult to deal with or didn’t pay according to agreed-upon terms, you may be better off just letting them go.
You may also find that your services simply aren’t the right fit for them at this time. If this is the case – and the customer in question wasn’t difficult to work with – be sure to keep in touch with them. Place them on your outreach marketing list so that you can either reach out if your services evolve in such a way that will meet their needs or so that you’ll be top-of-mind if the customer’s needs change.
3. Determine the Nature of the Problem
If you do decide you want to win a customer back, analyze the issues brought up around why they left your company. Is it a systemic issue, where a process in your business needs to change? If so, take steps to correct the process. Then, get back in touch with the customer and let them know about the changes you made, in addition to thanking them for their input.
On the other hand, sometimes the issues that cause the termination are specific and only affect one particular customer. If your discovery uncovers something that your company did wrong, take full responsibility. Apologize, and ask how you can make the situation right. Ideally, you’ll be able to reach a solution that works for both you and the customer.
4. Ask for Their Business Again
Once you’ve done your best to resolve the nature of the problem, ask the departed customer if they would be willing to return. Clearly outline for them how you’ve responded to their concerns, and request that they purchase from you again. You may even want to offer a discount for their trouble in an amount that’s commensurate with their suffering.
Admitting that you were wrong and asking for the sale (again), can be intimidating. But don’t let these negative feelings stop you. According to a study by Marketing Metrics, you have a 20-40% chance of winning back a former customer, compared to a 5-20% chance of gaining a new customer. Those odds are worth the effort, especially if your company already spends extensive resources attracting new customers.
5. Know When to Part Amicably
Unfortunately, sometimes the customer simply isn’t interested in switching back to your company — at least for now. However, the fact that you’ve contacted them, listened to their issues, and tried to resolve their concerns will make a big difference in how they view your business. Let them go professionally and kindly, and remind them that you’re available if they change their mind in the future.
Depending on how the conversation goes, you may also have an opportunity to ask for referrals if they know anyone who might need your services. If you’ve shown yourself to be a professional, thoughtful company, your former customer will likely be willing to provide a few contacts for you to follow up with. In fact, they may be so impressed with your service that they tell everyone how great you are — even if they don’t come back to your product or service!
Winning a customer back can be tough, but it’s not as tough as getting new business. It’s worth the effort, especially since a former customer can give you plenty of helpful information about your processes and how they can be improved. The effort to reach out and correct the problem may not win you the customer right away, but it may make your former customer a valuable source of referrals. That’s win either way!
How do you go about winning back former customers? Share your suggestions in the comments below!