When we lose a customer, it’s easy to give up.
But to give up would be a crying shame. You can’t afford to give up on lost customers because you stand a better chance of getting back lost customers than converting prospects into new customers.
It might be unnerving to reach out to a lost customer. After all, they rejected you. What I’ve learned is that it’s not as hard as one might think - there are two parts to winning back customers after you made a mistake.
First, you need to honestly and genuinely address the instance of the particular lost customer. This is emergency response CRM at the micro-level.
Second, your emergency CRM response team needs to analyze the business processes that led to the lost customer. This is the macro-level emergency response.
So, what’s the secret to winning back a customer? First, you need to deal with that customer, but you also need to examine the system that allowed you to lose that customer in the first place.
Here are five steps to winning a customer back:
1. Know who left and keep a record
Most companies track the number of customers they lose - but that’s the extent of their efforts. Instead of tracking numbers and total revenue, you need to be able to identify the customers that are leaving so they can be segmented and retargeted. If they loved you once, it’s possible they could again - right?
The first thing you need to do is separate your lost customers into two categories. First, identify disadopters, those who have decided to give up on your product category all together. Second, group the customers who jumped to a competitor.
2. Segment the people who left and know which people were high value customers
We all know segmentation is important - that’s a no brainer. The question that always needs to be answered is not if you should segment, but how.
In this case, you need to segment every customer that you lose so that you can properly maintain your communication with them. Keeping lost customers separate from the rest of your customers and prospects is important because you still want to stay in touch. You still want them to come back on board, but they have different needs and a different experience with your brand than other prospects.
Segment your lost customers and make sure your communications with them reflect their unique experience with your brand.
3. Offer a respectful, responsible apology
Your CRM strategy should include a customer success team that's responsible for reaching out to those who left, finding out why they left, apologizing for any inconvenience and trying to win back their attention.
Some misled customer support teams may see this as an opportunity to upsell, to get their business back and sell them more - BIG mistake.
J.C. Penny was recently forced to admit a major error. The company made changes to the clothing lines it would stock and eliminated some traditional stalwarts.
This caused a customer backlash.
CFO Ken Hannah admitted to the error, saying, "You're going to see some assortment that was edited out that the customer has been screaming loud and clear that's been missing." He added, "So the basic denim, khakis, St. John's Bay for women -- [that was a] huge, huge miss when we edited that out and didn't offer an alternative for that customer. They voted with their money and took it somewhere else, and that's something we need to address."
It happens. But how you apologetically recover from these devastating sales blows will not only get you back on track, it will create a whole new chapter in your operations manual on what not to do. So, if you are ready to offer an apology, here is how to do it:
- Apologize. Wow, that wasn’t so hard.
- Listen to the customer elaborate on their experience
- Take notes and keep records
- Offer immediate support to address the customer’s pain
- Gently extend an offer to bring the customer back.
4. Note the reasons the person left
Take the responses your CRM team collected in step three and start tracking them in a database. This database will help you identify trends that you should be worried about.
It’s important that you track the reasons why each customer left and then group customers according to that reason - this will help you craft extremely relevant messages to help win each customer back.
Companies have successfully recovered from a mass customer exodus before. In 2011, Netlfix announced a 60 percent price increase and saw 805,000 paid subscribers leave in one quarter. The loss brought the number of subscribers down to 23.79 million instead of 25 million as the company previously predicted.
The company didn’t think the price increase would cause so many customers to jump ship and was an attempt to offset the rising costs associated with streaming content. Netflix realized the error of its ways and revisited the drawing board.
It took a couple years to get back on track, but after listening to its customers, Netflix started offering new plans and pricing to accommodate different customer segments. Today, the company reports it has over 29.17 million paid subscribers. Clearly, they listened to their customers.
5. Create a customer ICU
If you are able to win back an annoyed customer, you will have to handle them with more care than normal. Keep returning customers segmented from the rest of your customer base and check back with them more so than others. This increased attention will be well received and will also help you identify potential problems and address them proactively.
Keep in mind that personal attention from a CEO or higher-up will go a long way towards helping a customer feel that their issue has been heard and that a resolution or procedural change is in progress.
Smart companies understand that customers are their lifeblood. Without them - they wouldn't be in business in the first place.
As a result, your customers deserve your very best. When your best falls short, let humility and accountability guide you through the customer re-acquisition process.
How have you dealt with lost customers?