How to Get your Lost customers to come backEvery customer has an economic value. Customers provide repeat business and cash flow. They are your best prospects for additional product and services and they can provide you with positive references and referrals, which lowers the cost of acquiring new customers.

So the loss of a customer is serious.

Here are some techniques to get customers back.

1. Find out why they left

It is important to understand what caused a customer to leave you. Sometimes you may know. Sometimes, customers don’t tell you. There is a statistic in the pre-social media world that said that as much as 62% will defect without advising the company why.  So the first technique is to try to engage with former customers to find out why they left. This may take several forms

a. Customer satisfaction survey after a transaction.

Ask the customer about their satisfaction with a recent transaction, whether it is a recent purchase, or a support call, or a billing problem or even the way you market your product.  Find out what caused the customer to be dissatisfied and how the problem impacts them. Use opened ended questions in the survey to allow the customer to express in their own words what went wrong. It may be something you never imagined. You may want to offer them a small gift just for filling in the survey.

b. Management calls on former customers

Set up a process where the sales manager, support manager or service manager must make a personal call on the customer who has not come back The call may be in person, on the phone or using other communication techniques such as Skype, Facetime, or Hangout where a visual contact is possible. Ask the customer about their experience with your organization, what they would recommend you change, what they recommend that you keep doing (the good things you do) and what they would like to see offered that you don’t offer today.

Good listening techniques are required to do this well. It is particularly important not to be defensive. Try to empathize with a customer. Often, just asking and taking a humble and genuine approach, will be enough to bring a customer back for another try.  Let them know you want their business again and would welcome them at any future date.

c. Run a Focus Group of Lost Customers

Sometimes customers will open up with their real problems in a group setting and a market research professional. During a focus group, you and your management team sit behind a one way glass mirror and watch and listen to the ‘lost customers’ share their experiences. With a good leader, and like minded customers, the truth about what is really bothering them comes out, loud and clear.

d. Listen to comments on Social Media

Very often customers are sharing with each other about your brand, company or service. Social Media is perfect for this research. Listen to what your customers say about you, both positive (things to keep doing) and negative (things you should try to stop dong)

e. Look for common customer issues to resolve

Are your customers telling you about the same problem, over and over again? Is there something you do about it? Can you improve the quality of your product, its features, its services? Can you do something with the front line personnel to make them more effective?

2. Look for Opportunities to Engage

a. Announce new products, services, personnel.

Use every opportunity to contact your former customers. Announce new products, new services or that you have new management. Under new management is a strong reason for customers, who were formerly dissatisfied to try again, if they liked your products and services. Or introduce a new member of the staff and tell a story about them and how they bring new life to your organization.

b. Offer an incentive to come back.

If your prices were too high, offer a discount. Often a limited time gift of some kind is an excellent incentive to come back.

c. Try to show you have addressed their reason for leaving.

Send out a ‘We’ve been listening’ note to your lost customers. Tell them what you uncovered in your research. Advise them what you have done about it and what improvements they should notice.

d. Show appreciation when they return.

If a lost customer returns, be sure to let them know that you are pleased they are giving you the opportunity satisfy them this time.

Case Study:

One of the companies I used to do business with sends me a card every year, with a nice rose and the saying “Somehow things didn’t work out between us”.   Inside the card they offer a discount on my next order.  It’s a nice touch but I have never returned. It is a lawn service company. They send this card too late every year. I already signed up with another provider. And they never understood that the reason I left is because I didn’t like their terms and conditions (in particular, automatic renewal). So while the thought and the card are well done, the execution and result is poor.


What techniques have your found that worked for your organization? Leave your examples of good or bad techniques you have either used or encountered.


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Adele Berenstein

Adele Berenstein is an Experienced Customer Satisfaction Executive, recently retired from a Large Global IT Organization after a long productive management career including Sales, Marketing, Services, teaching and education center management and most recently, 19 years in customer satisfaction management. She turned around divisions with customer satisfaction problems, implemented measurable improvements and management systems, and implemented programs to prevent problems from ever affecting customers.

2 Responses to “How to Get your Lost Customers to Come Back”

  1. Terry Brandfass Says:

    Excellent article. However, you need to educate business owners on the value of adding a loyalty program. Harley Corp recently told all of their dealerships that they should add a program for service, parts, clothing etc. It is also a great way to get lost customers back i.e. you send them a card. I have created a unique program. Even though we are in prelaunch, we are starting to get a lot of attention, so I thought I would bring us to your attention. A good loyalty program will also help the merchant track customer satisfaction. Ours has a rate system and will be adding CRM and customer survey features as the last of the features prior to launch. Appreciate the ability to share with you. I have been following you for quite some time. Thanks…Terry

    Merchant Landing Page:
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  2. Two approaches to Win Back Defected Customers | Customer Satisfaction and Reputation Management Says:

    […] an earlier blog post titled How to Get your Lost Customers to Come Back, we covered 2 basic […]

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