Lost Customer: If Found, Please Return to Business Owner

Lots of small businesses don’t know how many customers they’ve lost, much less try to get them back. Determining why your customers left in the first place can help you regain them.

Have you ever been a regular customer at a local business and decide to stop doing business with them? Did anyone ever ask you why you left?

For the average company, up to 40 percent of customers will depart this year and not return. And while every business will likely lose some customers, losing too many could be detrimental to the future of your company. It is important to understand how valuable lost customers actually are to your company, why they have left, and the steps to take to win them back. Jill Griffin, author of the best selling business book, Customer Loyalty: How to Earn It, How To Keep It, and co-author of, Customer Winback: How to Recapture Lost Customers and Keep Them Loyal, offers advice and strategies on how to recapture lost customers.

Griffin suggests that the first problem is that some companies consider “lost” customers as “dead” customers. These customers that have strayed away from your business, who some would consider “dead,” are actually a large part of any company’s consumer base. According to a study by Marketing Metrics, a consulting firm based in Paramus, New Jersey, a company has a better chance of winning back a lost customer than they do of gaining a new customer. Studies show a 60-70 percent chance of successfully selling to a current customer, 20-40 percent chance of winning back an ex-customer, and only a 5-20 percent chance of turning prospects into customers. Statistically, you have a better chance of winning back an old customer than acquiring a new one.

When looking to win back a lost customer, Griffin advises, it is important to look at the second lifetime value (SLTV), or the value of the relationship once the customer is regained. The greater the SLTV, the higher chances your company will profit more than those customers with a lower SLTV. Also, knowing the reason for defection is significant as well. Griffin describes five reasons why customers leave companies:

Intentionally Pushed Away Customers. Customers who did not produce a profit for your company and were not pursued for their business.

Unintentionally Pushed Away Customers. Customers who left due to a disappointing experience with your business.

Pulled Away Customers. Customers who were drawn to your competitor.

Bought Away Customers. Customers interested in lower prices.

Moved Away Customers. Customers whose needs have changed.

It is in the best interest of your company to pursue the Unintentionally Pushed Away Customers and Pulled Away Customers. You have the best chance of regaining their business through better customer service and changes based on feedback.

Once your business has decided which lost customers to pursue, it is imperative that you act sooner than later. Contacting those lost customers within two months of the last contact with your business lets the customer know that you appreciate their business, have not forgotten them, and they are more than welcome back into your consumer base. Note that while your lost customer is not doing business with your company, they are actively looking at the competition to see what else is out there. Reach out to the lost customer in a way to get them back into your consumer base and to avoid your competition.

Once you have your eye on the lost customer and are ready to take action, Griffin provides seven steps towards winning the customer back:

1. Ask the customer this question: “What can we do to win back your business?”
2. Listen closely to what customers tell you.
3. Meet the customer’s requirements and when you’ve corrected the problems that led to the defection, communicate the changes you have made. Ask again for the customer’s business.
4. Be patient with the customer. Be open. Remember, some wounds heal slowly.
5. Stay in touch with the lost customer.
6. Make it easy for customers to come back to you. Avoid the “I told you so” stance.
7. When the customer does return, earn his or her business every day.
Acquiring lost customers is a good way to prove your company takes value in every aspect of your business. Retrieving those who have strayed away from your company shows dedication and commitment to doing everything you can for your customers. Who knows, one day a person that was once lost could turn out to be one of your top customers. —Cheryl Sowa

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