Here are practical, specific ideas and examples to help you win-back lost business.
Most businesses that recognize they may have lost business do the following:
- Send a customer satisfaction survey
- Send an email with a subject line like “We Miss You”
- Send a price-off deal with a call-to-action to Buy Now
There are better approaches for both you and your customers/clients.
Lost business step #1: Understand WHY the customer/client behavior has changed – why haven’t they purchased or come in?
Sending a customer/client a customer satisfaction “lost business” survey or customer satisfaction survey is like giving someone a boring chore to do for you as a favour. Most people won’t do it.
Why should they because there is no benefit to them to do this.
Depending on how many customers/clients you have and how valuable the customer/client is to your business, you may want to:
1. Pick up the phone and make a personal call
What’s key is the sincerity and the motive of your call: to check in to see how they are doing, NOT to try to sell them something. People like to buy from people who care about them as a person. That’s true if you’re selling to consumers or business buyers.
If you get their voice mail, leave a nice message saying you were just calling to see how they are doing and then follow-up by sending them a personal email saying you are checking in and want to know how they are and if there’s anything you can do for them.
2. Send the customer/client/patient a personal email
Your email should be addressed to the person using their name and it should come from and be signed by someone by you as the business owner or if you’re a bigger business, someone by a real person at the company with their title and contact information.
The subject line for your lost business email is really important because the person may not see or open it if it sounds like a survey or a sales message.
Don’t say this in your email subject line:
- Help me make (our business or product) better
- We want you back
- We miss you!
I’ve actually gotten emails from companies using these email subject lines for lost business campaigns.
They don’t work because it’s not genuine (you miss your girlfriend/boyfriend, spouse, kids, dog, friends, not a customer) or the business is asking the customer/client to do something for them (come back, help me) and there’s no benefit to the customer.
Instead, use a subject line for potentially lost business customers/clients that is more personal:
- Annie checking in: How are you?
- What’s new with you Annie?
- How can I help you Annie?
- What’s happening with you Annie?
- Hi Annie
Then in your email, make it very easy for the customer/client/patient to reply to your email to let you know what’s new or changed in their life so you’ll know if the person has:
- changed jobs
- lost their job
- gotten sick
- changed their email address or phone number
- gotten married
- gotten divorced
- had a baby
- gotten a promotion
- been forced to buy from someone else
- won the lottery
- something else
For some businesses, it may be the customer/client has moved on to a different stage and your product/services are no longer relevant.
For example, a mom with young kids who loved gymnastics now has kids who love soccer so she isn’t interested in your services or a partner at a law firm who you’ve considered a good client is in semi-retirement.
Or, your hair salon client Karen is going through chemo treatment and doesn’t have any hair to cut. You never know what is happening in the lives of your customers/clients/patients.
To win-back lost business, start by seeking to understand what may have changed for them, not making a sales pitch or offering a screaming deal to get them back.
Here’s a brilliant lost business WOW-them back idea
An office supply company in a city has a “rose budget” for lost business customers.
When a customer hasn’t purchased in a while, they send their delivery person out to customer’s office with one single rose (or a dozen roses if it’s a big account) along with a handwritten note saying: What’s happened? We’ve missed you.
Now that is an appropriate use of “We’ve missed you” when it comes with roses and a personal note!
The delivery person from the company usually makes someone’s day when they show up with the rose and they immediately get the information they need:
Oh, she’s left the company or she’s out on maternity leave or corporate is now forcing us to buy from someone else…or whatever the reason for the lost business along with the information the company needs to know to win-back lost business from the customer. Brilliant idea!
Lost business step #2: make it very easy for a customer/client/patient to tell you if they’ve had a bad customer/client or product/service experience.
That isn’t asking someone to complete a long, boring, no-benefit-to-me customer satisfaction survey.
It’s instead encouraging a customer/client/patient to reply back to an email to a real human being who will read their message and it won’t get sent into the “black hole” where most people assume customer satisfaction survey information and email replies go.
Know this: it’s hard for most people to complain directly to a business owner.
Most people prefer to “just let it go” and move on. Some customers/clients won’t complain to you directly and instead they’ll post negative reviews on sites like Yelp. Both the silent lost business customers/clients and the online vocal ranters are bad for your business.
Lost business step #3: be real and relevant in your response
If you get a response back from a customer/client that they’ve lost their job, tell them you are very sorry and try to figure out how you might help them.
If they’ve gotten a promotion, congratulate them and ask who is now handling their former responsibilities (and could they perhaps make an introduction to that person).
If they share about a bad experience with your company or product/service, consider those lost business customer/client insights are like GOLD!
They give you a chance to learn what needs to be changed/fixed so you don’t lose more business. And it also gives you a chance to win back what would have been lost business from that customer/client.
Lost business step #4: update the customer/client status in your customer database
If the customer/client is truly lost business, then mark the customer record that way in your marketing database so you don’t spend any money or time on marketing to them.
If the customer/client has shared they are unsatisfied, note that in their customer record so that you can check up on them to make sure things are better.
Set up a reminder for yourself to check on unsatisfied customers/clients every month. Your goal should be to move the status of those customers/clients to “loyal”, not lost.
If the customer/client has gotten promoted and someone else in their company is the key person your company should be interacting with, note that in their customer record.
You may still want to maintain a relationship with the customer/client who has been promoted and you’ll want their name to make a “warm connect” when you contact the person who has taken over their responsibilities.
That lost business customer/client is now someone who has given you a referral.
In the best case scenario, you’ll be doing 1:1 marketing that is personalized to each client/customer.
If you sell to thousands of customers/clients, then you’ll need to appear that your marketing is personalized (and more relevant to them) by using tools like CRM (customer relationship marketing) tools and strategies.
You can set up segments of similar customers/clients in your marketing database and make a list pull of the people in a particular segment to market to them with messages and offers that will be more relevant that send-everyone-the-same-thing-at-the-same-time marketing.
What’s your advice on how to win-back lost business?
Please share. We’re better together sharing what we collectively know works (and doesn’t work) to win-back lost business.