How to Win Back a Lost Customer
Estimates vary, but most studies suggest that the average small business loses up to 40 percent of its customers a year. Many entrepreneurs assume that these patrons are gone for good, that there’s nothing they can do to lure people back. This is a huge mistake, customer-service experts say, because the cost of recouping lost customers is always less than attracting new ones.
Here’s how to win back a customer that's gone astray:
- Examine your losses. Customers rarely stray without a reason. The first step in reclaiming them is to determine who they are and why they left. Identify which lost customers it would behoove you to recoup — and send each one either a personalized letter (see below) or an email with a link to an online survey. Don’t beat around the bush. Try: “We miss you and would love to have you back as a customer. What did we do wrong? What can we do to win you back?” The more detailed information you request, the clearer your strategy for fixing the situation will be. If various customers cite the same reason for leaving, you can act to prevent future losses, too.
- Take responsibility. If customers left due to some action on your part, offer a sincere apology. Take responsibility for the mistake and tell people exactly what you’re doing to correct the error. Be specific both in your apology and your action plan to ensure the situation doesn’t happen again.
- Make a special offer. It may not be practical to offer deals to all of your lost customers, but send the most important ones a discount certificate or a special gift along with your personal letter. In an age of impersonal mass marketing, it’s impossible to overestimate the positive impact that your individual attention and appreciation of their business can make.
- Keep in touch. Some the lost customers you contact may ignore or reject your offer. In any case, make the effort to keep in touch. Put these customers on a special emailing list and reach out to them on an occasional basis with a new offer or update on your new products or services. It’s an easy, cost-effective way to try to mend and maintain relationships with valued customers.
Lee Polevoi is an award-winning business writer specializing in the challenges and opportunities facing small business. He is former Senior Writer at Vistage International, a global membership organization of CEOs.