how to win back lost customers

How to Win Back the Hearts of Customers

Breaking up is always hard.

But that’s only when you’re breaking up with just one person (unless, of course, you’re one of those ever-trendy polygamists). With customers, we’re talking about breaking up on a biblical scale: tens, hundreds, or even thousands heartbreaks all at once.

But just like you can sometimes win your sweetheart back, there are strategies to help you win back your lost customers.

It’s time to put on our relationship expert mantle.

Before We Begin

Why You Need Your Lost Customers

For people in the know, this paragraph can be easily skipped and forgotten. But if you’re still reading this, it’s obviously important to you that we answer this: Why attracting back customers even matters?

At the risk of sounding obvious, you don’t have the luxury of leaving your customers behind.

Your old customers are a great source of insight. They know you and your business, they’re familiar with your products and services, and have discernible buying habits.

If there’s a choice between old and new customers, it’s usually more sound to invest in “tried and tested” customers. Depending on which study you trust, it may cost 5 to 12 times more to acquire a new customer than retain an existing one.

This is what customer service prophets usually say.

But Do You Really Need Them?

getting back lost customers

All of these numbers may sound quite inviting, but we’re talking about something more than just numbers.

As you can see from the scrollbar for this page, this is one lengthy article, so the question you need to ask yourself right now is, Is all this effort really worth it?

(And we’re not talking about whether you should stop reading the article or not.)

If we’re to continue with the relationship metaphor — and we’re too lazy to drop it, don’t judge — you need to understand that not all relationships were meant to be salvaged. You had a good run, then life happened, and then you moved on.

Sometimes there’s nothing you can do mend broken things.

Trying to win back lost customers always comes at the risk of disproportionate allocation of resources. In other words, in pursuit of gone customers, you may inadvertently end up neglecting the ones you have right now.

But if you’ve decided that some customer is worth fighting for, take a look below. We’ve prepared some bite-sized bits of advice for you, fresh out the oven.

Understand What Went Wrong

understanding your customers

So far so good, right? Sounds like a no-brainer, looks like no effort… but don’t celebrate just yet.

Understanding why a customer leaves you is too important for you to half-ass it. Only full-assing from now on — this applies to all the other items on our list, too.

The truth is this: even if you don’t manage to win back lost customers, you need to understand what made you lose them in the first place. Then, there’s the question of addressing the problem.

The most successful corporations always give off this vibe of caring about each and every customer and always asking whether everything is okay. It pays to take a cue from them here and there, but you shouldn’t emulate them too much.

“What would Apple/Tesla/Google/whoever do?” is the corporate version of “What would Jesus do?”, only with more blind worshipping and less critical thinking.

You’re not Tesla, you’re not Apple, and you sure as hell not Google. Only you know what makes your business work and your customers tick.

If you’re in the middle of having a breakup conversation, you probably realize it’s the best time to ask your customer why they decided to leave. (We don’t have to remind you to do that, right?)

Not all customers are as eager to voice their opinion, however. Many leave without saying a word, and you only learn about this when it’s too late to have a one-on-one conversation.

Alternatively, the type of your business and services may not allow this one-on-one conversation in the first place — for example, if you provided online-only services and never even met your customers in person.

How about an exit customer survey? Sure, few people like them, even fewer actually complete them, but it doesn’t hurt to try. Sending a letter asking why can be an effective, if blunt, way of understanding what went wrong.

Tools like SurveyMonkey and Typeform are great for this, as you can compose and email your surveys directly to your customers.

They may not answer at first, so some persistence may be required — to reasonable extent, of course. Please don’t act like a psychotic ex.

(Looking at you, Facebook.)

And while you’re busy establishing correspondence, there’s this one thing you need to embrace…

The Power of Apology

An argument can be made that our modern world is too hung up on making each other apologize. Whenever we look at the news, someone somewhere is forced to apologize for something of little consequence.

It sucks, but that’s also part of the game for many businesses out there. If you want people to come back, you need to learn how to own up to your mistakes, even when you think they’re too small.

The power of a well-placed apology is nothing to sniff at.

Turn on your inner psychologist and try to learn what makes your customers tick. Perhaps some of the lost customers will be satisfied after a simple letter of apology. Some may be more difficult to win over, and flowers and chocolates — err, discounts and special offers may be required.

That being said, we can’t stress enough the point we’ve made above: don’t grovel until you weigh all of your options. Sometimes it pays to put your foot down and stand by your principles.

And that is also part of the game for many a business out there.

To Compensate or Not to Compensate?

customer compensation

That is the question, isn’t it?

An unsatisfied customer will share his bad experience with 5 to 12 potential customers. This isn’t something that can be solved by letting it sit, as unsatisfied customers have been documented to harbor negative feelings for years and even decades.

You can’t afford to have the name of your business besmirched, but winning people over is not an easy feat.

A price break, for example, is not always feasible, especially when you’re business hasn’t been established that well yet. On the other hand, if you don’t do anything, you might not a business to speak of.

When we say “compensation”, we don’t necessarily refer to the purely monetary part of this equation. A gift certificate is a go-to solution for many small businesses out there, why not try it for yourself?

Perhaps you can offer a special 2-for-1 promotion (a free bring-your-friend event), which will not only get you in good graces with your lost customer, but may also get you another one. Killing two birds with one stone is every huntsman’s dream.

The bottom line is this: small but thoughtful gestures are what helps fix the rough patches in your relationship. The idea is to show that you care, and that you don’t take customers for moneybags on two legs.

Take Responsibility

Being an adult means assuming responsibility.

You may not agree with those customers who think your services are not up to snuff, but the important thing is that you shouldn’t dismiss them. Own up to it, apologize if needed or explain your point of view, but never be dismissive.

In our age, where nothing is hidden, you should appear professional in every interaction, no matter how much it grinds on your nerves. (We’re all human, it happens.)

Winning back lost customers is a matter

Announce Your Improvement

social media interaction customers

If you’ve learned some valuable lesson from the debacle, be sure to communicate it to other customers.

Again, the idea is two-fold. For people who have been bothered by this specific issue and were on the brink of leaving, you appear understanding and caring. For people who haven’t given this issue much thought, you appear down-to-earth and humble.

It takes some stones to accept that you’ve made mistakes. By making meaningful changes, you show that you truly are listening to customers and that their feedback does affect your service.

Social media is an absolute must when it comes to this. It creates fast, real-time feedback loop where you can implement changes, read comments from your customers, and then act upon their suggestions.

The coming of Internet has truly erased the boundaries between a customer and a business — for better or worse.

Empower Your Team

If you want to make positive changes, you need to give your employees the power to fix problems and make things right. Unhappy customers need not only extra attention but also means of addressing their concerns.

Without them, your staff is powerless to win back any customer.

By the power to fix problems, we generally mean that giving a customer special offer or discount should be within each employee’s control. If your employees can’t solve the issue on the spot, you may not get another chance.

Plus, as people who talk to your customers on a daily basis, they might have interesting insight as to how to approach each one individually. You may be the boss here, but if a king does not listen to his advisors, he’s worth no more than a court jester.

In the end, it is up to you how you want to win back your customers — or whether you want to win them back at all. But again, just like in real-life relationships, there are some things worth fighting for.

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