Customer retention, happiness and loyalty make strong business (and steady income) no matter your industry, but what happens when customers change their mind and make an exit? Customer loss often happens with a whimper, not a bang, and for many reasons–customers may decide to forgo your services because they don’t feel “wowed” by you. They may simply find a competitor that’s cheaper or closer, or perhaps they had a bad experience and bolted. Maybe they just haven’t needed your services in a while, your card got lost, or their SPAM filter weeded you out of their inbox. Whatever the reason for leaving, one thing is for sure—customer loss has a profound effect on your reputation, and ultimately your bottom line. You may not even notice until you’ve sustained significant damage. Don’t give up! There are ways to win back customers, and hang onto them in the future! #1. Find the reason they left It sounds simple, right? Find the reason your customers left, address it, and fix it. However, most of us don’t have a fat market research budget, and getting down to the nitty gritty and psychology of customer loss can be a challenge. Your best bet? If you know a formerly loyal customer or client has gone AWOL, pick up the phone and call. Reserve this tactic for your large customers, particularly those you shared a personal connection with. Put their favorite sales rep, a manager or even the CEO on the line, and ask the question—Why? It may lead to surprising discoveries, a problem that you can easily remedy or smooth over, or even just remind the customer how much they loved you. #2. Snail mail Direct mail may seem like a hassle, a dated solution…and frankly, a pain. In these days of lightning speed correspondence, e-mail marketing is the norm. Taking the time to reach out to a customer with a card, postcard or even something more personal can set you apart from the competition and can give you an edge in a number of scenarios. A letter to some key former customers, or a postcard to a group of lapsed clients can make a connection in a personal way that cluttering their inbox just won’t. Planning and executing direct mail campaigns can be time consuming, but it will get you past an overactive SPAM filter, or earn the attention of a customer who’s been clicking delete on your emails without reading them. Present your message on something eye-catching—an official, professional looking letter; a flashy fun and edgy postcard; or a colorful envelope that they can’t quite ignore. In the worst case scenario, you get five seconds to get your message across before it hits the trash – more than can be said for unopened email. #3. Do your research If customers are leaving en masse (as opposed to a few single, key-clients), it may be time to roll up your sleeves and do some research. It’s simply not feasible to call or send personal letters to 5000 lapsed customers, but sending out a short survey may give you the answers you are looking for. Doing customer research has a two-pronged effect on your loyalty efforts: 1. It tells you what you need to improve and 2. It reminds customers that you exist (and you have noticed their absence). Often the latter is all it takes to win them back, especially if they left or lapsed because they lost interest. In some cases, your customers might not even think of themselves as lapsed! Reach out with a quick poll, and a little incentive, and you may find them walking right back through your door. #4. Keep tabs on them In a survey done by the Griffin Group on Marketing Retention, 71% of marketing and sales executives said they had no process for identifying customers who had defected. When customers vanish without a trace or thought, money disappears from your business. Just a 5% increase in customer retention can increase a company’s profitability by 75%, but you must have a system in place to manage your customers and give you a full picture of your connection. Having a CRM product that keeps customer’s information at your fingertips, tracks contacts, sales and other vital stats gives you the full view of your customer relationship…and the ability to right the ship before it starts to go down. #5. Prioritize With limited time and budget to consider, it becomes necessary to prioritize your customers. A repeat contact that has given you business for years is a much greater loss than a client who’s simply dipping her toe in the water with a single sale. If you can only go after a few lapsed customers, pick from the top. If the unthinkable happens and you lose your biggest customer, don’t panic. Assess, plan and do some damage control. Hopefully you have a diverse enough customer base to solidify your working relationships and build on your reputation. Continue to court existing clients and ensure they are happy, and then set to work at how you can win back your loss (or make up the difference). Forging a strong, candid relationship with your clients can help you reroute and rebuild, should it become necessary. #6. Dangle a carrot Don’t underestimate the appeal of a shiny discount. It can feel a bit painful at first glance to say, eat shipping costs on a mistake, or knock of 5% when it cuts out commission…but the benefit can return in spades. Customers remember everything you did to right a wrong or fix a mistake, and the effort is the thing that will wow them. Consider stellar customer service a long-term investment in your relationship. Offering other perks, like multiple shipping or payment options, can be another way to drive sales and bring back your customers. Going the extra mile breeds allegiance and repeat business. A few small changes can help you be certain that your customers are coming back and staying put! 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