Customer Experience News & Trends

The very best ways to win back former customers

Lost customers represent a huge area of opportunity. Former customers understand your product, and how it operates. Plus, they often left for reasons that are easily corrected. 

Why do customers leave?

If you know why customers leave, it’s much easier to win them back. Here are the top reasons why customers may stop doing business with you:

  • They were wooed away by a competitor promising better prices, better service or some other benefit.
  • Their organization has changed, and new management is not aware of the strengths of your services or products because this information was not passed on to them by their predecessors.
  • You or your company failed to deliver as promised.
  • You or your company let trust or respect erode in the relationship.

Hidden reason

There may also be some hidden reason, such as the customer has a relative in the business that he or she deals with now, has lost buying authority, or is leaving their organization for another position.

A recent of survey of former customers by a Fortune 1000 company showed that about a third said they would return to the company they dropped if approached. So obviously, the salespeople who lost the accounts didn’t ask for their business again.

Three steps to a win-back program

A good win-back program encompasses a three-step effort:

  1. Find out why the customer stopped buying. Search records for clues and then call the customer and ask what went wrong. Try to put together a special offer that addresses why you lost the account in the first place.
  2. Research the customer’s present situation. The customer’s business may have changed. If you understand what happened, you can create a better offer that will take advantage of those changes.
  3. Make the contact. Call the former customer and let him or her know that you want to get their business back.

Chances are you won’t get an immediate appointment. But you will plant the seed. And that will give the former customer an alternative in case he or she runs into some of problems with his or her present supplier.

Some salespeople who lose a customer go through various emotional reactions: blaming someone else, getting angry or running and hiding. Successful salespeople understand the ebb and flow of business and relationships.

Here are a few suggestions to use when you do lose a customer:

  • Find out what your competitor did better than you to get the business.
  • Don’t assume it was price, even if that’s what you’re told.
  • Don’t let it negatively affect your attitude. Keep at it.
  • Don’t wipe former customers off your database. Work some of them into your weekly schedule.
  • Continue to send testimonials and helpful articles to your former customers.
  • Have a specific strategy for dealing with lost business.

Remember that staying power over the long haul is much more beneficial than quick, short-term success.

Building customer loyalty

Building loyalty means focusing on customers’ needs rather than just selling to them in order to help solve their problems. It means moving the salesperson’s focus from the product or service being offered to the needs of the customer.

Try to implement these steps as soon as you close a deal:

  1. Communicate regularly. Staying in touch with customers lets them know you’re thinking about them and not taking them for granted. Send helpful information to them regularly, not just advertising materials. Customers like to know what you’re thinking, not just what you’re selling. Try to show them that you care, and show that you’re glad the customer is doing business with you.
  2. Make realistic promises. It’s tempting to oversell, particularly when there’s tough competition involved. A promise not kept is one of the leading reasons why accounts are lost. It’s better to be realistic than to make commitments you may not be able to keep.
  3. Respond promptly to customer questions or complaints. A prompt response tells the customer you care; a delayed one delivers the wrong message.
  4. Be on the firing line and be prepared to deal with angry customers when things go wrong. Salespeople are often the first to have contact with a dissatisfied customer or to become aware of a situation that might cause dissatisfaction. See complaints as opportunities, since resolving them to the customers’ satisfaction is known to build customer loyalty.
  5. Ensure quality. Getting feedback and following up to ensure that a product or service has been delivered to the customer’s satisfaction can have big payoffs in terms of fostering customer loyalty.
  6. Coordinate work with others in the company in order to meet the customer’s needs. Maintain a positive, productive, customer-focused climate in which customer needs are given top priority.
  7. Provide strategic follow-up to ensure that the account stays positive. Continual, repeat and referral business come from satisfied customers. Stay in touch with the customer after the sale is made and make sure that what is agreed to gets done. Show you’re genuinely concerned with the customer’s welfare. Plan ahead to solve their particular problems in a way valuable to them.

These tools for increasing customer loyalty are helpful individually, but it may take a number of them at the same time to have a significant impact. The important point to remember is that if you don’t take steps to capture the customer’s loyalty, a competitor probably will.

Interview loyal customers

Interviewing loyal customers is invaluable, because they will usually be candid about why you keep their business. They’re usually willing to tell you what they think about you as a sales professional, your company’s products and services, and your competition. They may also provide feedback on any areas where you might improve your salesmanship.

Adapted from: 91 Mistakes Smart Salespeople Make, by Tim Connor, an author of 60+ books and a full-time speaker and trainer for more than 30 years.

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