An apology plus a small change may be all that’s needed to regain lost customers.
Do you remember the children’s song “Make New Friends, but Keep the Old”? Unfortunately many businesses do not, and instead are singularly focused on finding as many new customers as possible. It might seem like the most effective strategy, but recovering customers who have switched to another vendor is actually a lot easier than acquiring someone new. Here are three simple steps you should take to win back business.
Figure Out Why You Lost Them
When you lose a customer, it’s easy to come up with excuses. “Their needs must have changed,” is an old standby. Another standby is, maybe “they wanted a lower price.” In fact, research indicates that over 70 percent of customers who switch vendors do so because of poor customer service, with poor quality of products or services coming in at a distant second. By and large, companies tend to lose customers because of things entirely within their control — and within their means to correct.
Finding out why your customer has strayed, is the first step to getting them back, and the best way to do that, is to ask them. Consider contacting them through phone or snail mail rather than email. These forms of communication are much more personal, so your audience is more likely to respond to them positively. The more information you can gather about your customer’s motivations, the better your chances of getting them back. Try asking your customer service representatives for anecdotal info; perhaps your customer was expecting a particular product feature and was frustrated when they didn’t receive it.
Make a Change
Once you’ve identified the reason your customer left, the next step is to correct it. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a major change; you probably don’t need to overhaul your entire business model for the sake of one customer. The change might just mean clearer communication, like altering the writing on your website to be more specific about the products you offer. Your goal here is to do the best you can to meet your lost customer’s requirements. What’s more, you’ll be helping to prevent more customers from leaving you for the same reasons.
Have you ever heard of a “nonpology?” It’s when you apologize in a way that doesn’t acknowledge any actual wrongdoing on your part, like saying “I’m sorry if you were offended” or “mistakes were made.” People can usually see right through a “nonpology,” and using one isn’t likely to get people back on your side in any situation. Likewise, when you’re apologizing to former customers, it’s important to acknowledge responsibility. Saying “I’m sorry you’re unhappy” isn’t enough. Let them know that you have addressed the issue that caused them to leave. Even if your company technically didn’t do anything wrong, make it clear that you can understand why they would be upset and that you’ve taken steps to make their next purchase more satisfactory. You may even want to go above and beyond by offering them a discount or special offer.
There’s no shame in contacting your ex-customers; it’s not like calling an ex-lover and begging them to take you back. It’s more like saying “I’m sorry” to a good friend you’ve slighted. There’s no guarantee that you’ll repair the relationship, but you’ll have acted in good faith. With any luck, you’ll end up with more customers in the long run.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
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