At one time or another, we’ve all felt that we would rather not do business again with a particular company or company representative.
Truth is, many businesses experience customer attrition that seriously affects their profits and ability to grow. Much of this can be prevented or even corrected after the fact.
How? By taking the time to do a little “post mortem” research and by developing a plan to go after those lost customers. Try following these suggestions.
Develop a “most wanted” list
Before you can find out what caused customers to leave and how to win them back, you have to figure out who they are.
Big customers are easy to keep track of, but countless smaller customers can slip away unnoticed if there’s no system in place to track them.
Some companies have computer printouts that highlight drastic drops in business from individual customers, while others use notecards or databases. A health club in Western Australia gets a weekly printout of non-attendees, who are then followed up with a phone call.
Find out why they left
Ideally, a personal visit or call from you is the best way to get this information. If you don’t have time to do this yourself, thoroughly train an employee to make the calls.
The contact person must know the customer’s history with the company, including which products or services they purchased, the reason they bought from you initially, how much money they spent with you, and so on.
Here are two common responses to your “why” question:
“Your product/service wasn’t what we expected.” If a customer wasn’t pleased with a product, service or employee behaviour, press for details. How did the product fall short? Did the service not accomplish what the customer expected? Was the customer treated rudely or with indifference by an employee? Did your staff lack training or information on what was purchased?
“We found another company we like better.” Nobody likes to hear this one, but get the customer to be as specific as possible about why they chose another company. Was it lower prices, wider selection, better service, location, free delivery? Then develop a legitimate response to each objection. Remember, lowering your prices is rarely the best way to beat the competition unless you find your prices are way above what others are charging. Focus instead on your ability to outperform the other company.
Don’t be afraid to ask for another chance
Apologise for any inconvenience or misunderstanding. If the lost customer had a legitimate reason for leaving, do what you can to correct the situation.
However, if the customer offers vague or unreasonable excuses for why he or she left, think hard before diving back into what may be a difficult relationship. You might be better off without that customer.
Come Up With A Peace Offering
When trying to win back an account or simply the good graces of a client, offer to do something extra for them, such as free delivery for six months or 15 percent off their first order.
Practice Routine Maintenance
Winning back a customer or an account is only half the battle. You have to continue servicing that customer with excellence.
Contact him or her every few weeks to head off any concerns that might be brewing. Keep your records up to date, and let your customers know you appreciate them and their business.
A personal note, a small memento, even a quick phone call can do wonders for building a successful relationship.