Win back defected customersIn an earlier blog post titled How to Get your Lost Customers to Come Back, we covered 2 basic steps:

1.  Find out why they left

2. Look for Opportunities to Engage

There are some special situations to watch for. This blog post will deal with the situation where an individual or committee made a recommendation or decision  to leave, and will lose ‘face’ with their peers and management, if they decide to do business with your organization again. It is very important to understand when your might be in a situation like that.

What strategies can you use to overcome this problem?


Direct Approach


1. Determine the cause of the dissatisfaction

It is still very important to find out why the customer left you. If the individual involved won’t talk to you directly, try to send your manager or a senior executive from your organization to find out. In serious cases, a survey won’t do the job. One on one discussion is needed. Offer to take the customer for lunch or dinner. Make the meeting non threatening.

One approach is to acknowledge that the customer has made a decision and you respect it. You would like to learn what you did wrong so you won’t make that mistake again. Make it personal. Tell them you want to better next time (or with other customers). In a non threatening environment, sometimes, the detractor may open up to you.

2. Listen, Rephrase, but Don’t Argue

What ever you do, do not argue with the customer. Listen to their complaint. Rephrase the issues in your own words and ask for their agreement that you understood the problem. Ask how the problem impacted them. Make sure you understand what this problem did to them.

Example: A software developer did not understand why a bug fix was such a big problem to someone who used their software. When a business partner, who packaged up the software with their own and sold it to their customers explained that every time there was a bug fix, it cost the business partner a million dollars to pass it along and fix up his customers, the software developer had a new perspective on the impact of poor quality on his customers.

3. Apologize

Even if you had good reasons for the issue or problems the customer complained about, apologize for failing to live up to their expectations. Thank them for helping you understand their issues.

4. Leave the Door open for future engagement

Ask if there is anything you can do, in the short term to make up for the problem? Request the opportunity to demonstrate that you have improved. Maybe you have a new product coming in the future. Maybe you will make changes to your services or support in the future. Ask to be  allowed show them that you have taken action to improve.

5. Make it easy for them to come back

I once parted ways with my dentist. I had my reasons and when he called me to find out, I told him why I left. He apologized and told me knows that he cannot get me back now. But he said something very interesting. He said, if you ever decide that you want to come back, I would be very happy to do business with you again. Guess what? I had a bad experience with my new dentist and I did go back. Why? Because he made it easy for me to save face and come back.

Don’t be afraid to give you customer the feeling that, despite everything, you would like to business with him in the future and would be happy to do so, if he ever changes his mind.


Indirect Approaches


1. Escalate

This is a somewhat dangerous move and can back fire. But, in some circumstances, it is possible to go over the decision maker’s head, and approach a more senior manager within the organization to attempt to get the decision reversed. Generally, this is done by a more senior manager in your organization addressing the issue with someone senior in your customer’s organization.

This may discredit your contact and possibly get them fired or removed from decision making.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But it may get you more information about why the customer is leaving you that the individual concerned was not willing to provide to you.

2. Surround

Sometimes, you can use the help of peers associated with your customer to find out why the customer left or even persuade the customer to give you another chance. The peer might even be someone in the industry, or a personal friend who will plead your case to your customer.

3. Publicize your Improvements

If the problem is truly something you have done wrong, then it is wise to focus on fixing the cause of the dissatisfaction. Then publicize that customers should have noticed a difference. Include those customers you may have lost. Publicize testimonials from happy customers.

4. Stay in touch

Try to keep on good relations with customers who have defected. You never know if another supplier may disappoint them.


Do you have any interesting techniques to get your lost customers back? Feel free to leave a comment below.


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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.

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