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Everything Old is New Again, Including Clients

Client acquisition and retention efforts often ignore an important group: the ones that got away. Here’s how to win former customers back.

You might know the customer service truism (backed by plenty of real-world research) that a bad experience made good actually builds stronger customer relationships, while a bad experience that goes unnoticed tends to lose a customer for life.

Don’t let your customers go quietly into the night—see each lost customer as an opportunity to improve, and use these three steps to bring them back into the fold more firmly than ever.

1. Contact Former Customers and Find Out Why They Left

When you notice a customer hasn’t made a purchase in a while, or when they cancel a subscription or ongoing order, have you tried talking to them? It’s an obvious place to start, but something many companies fail to do. This is your first line of defense against unattended customer churn, though, and your best opportunity to make things right.

Make a polite request for an exit interview at the time they’re leaving, if possible, or reach out as soon as possible if they’re already gone. Don’t use your first discussion as an attempt to get them to stay. Instead, do everything you can to learn what led to their dissatisfaction or choice to move on. Odds are that they aren’t your only customer that has experienced this issue. This is your opportunity to make some real changes and retain current and future customers that may have left for that reason had you not made an adjustment.

Finally, once you’ve made some improvements, you can come back to that former customer you had the initial conversation with and present some tangible evidence that you’ve improved. Give them a discounted or no-risk opportunity to try you again, and make sure you deliver on your promises.

2. Create a Plan for Following Through (and Stick With It)

If you’re like 90% of people out there (and there’s a 9 in 10 chance you are), a task you haven’t written down is a task that isn’t going to get completed. Come up with a concrete plan of action for each former customer you want to win back, set deadlines for each task on the plan, and make sure you follow through.

Set up an automated email drip campaign for ex-customers enticing them to come back. Create a social media initiative that targets those former customers in order to stay top of mind and show them all the great things you’re doing. Give your sales team call lists so they can check in with the people they originally built a relationship with so that they can see how things have been going for those folks that are no longer doing business with you.

There’s only one course of action that guarantees a lost customer won’t find their way back to you: doing nothing. Your first attempts to reacquire old customers might not pan out, but if you keep adjusting the plan and keep making efforts to carry it out, you’ll meet with success at a level that may surprise you.

3. Know the Difference Between Business and Personal

Sometimes it is your product, service, or way of doing business that causes a customer to call it quits. Sometimes it is just two personalities that don’t mesh. If it’s the latter, don’t let pride get in the way—if shifting some personnel around and getting someone else to handle a specific customer’s account will keep them in the fold, that’s an easy and worthwhile change to make. But some customers really might not be the best fit for your organization. And that’s OK. Know when to let those people walk instead of burdening your business and team.

Otherwise, do your best to salvage customer relationships while learning and making adjustments along the way. Your efforts can have an enormously positive impact on your bottom line.

More posts you might want to check out:

Are Your Customers Having a Good Experience? Here’s How to Tell

Train Your Customers for Long-Term Success and Retention

Customer Retention VS Acquiring New Ones