Are you tough enough to take it?

39180083 Most businesses have a heavy focus on acquiring new clients. Especially as we consider that we might be rolling into a recession. Everyone is sensitive to the importance of keeping new prospects flowing. 

But we should remember that the way to get new prospects is to be smarter about how we treat current customers and even how we treated those customers we’ve lost.  Getting smarter is a much better strategy than blindly lowering our prices to combat tougher times.

Losing a customer is inevitable.  It happens to every business. But losing them for good is not inevitable.  You can get a good percentage of them back.

One of the most powerful pieces of research you can do is a lost customer survey.  This isn’t for the meek.  It’s a little like being hit with a toxic gas.  It can knock the wind out of you!

You need to be ready to hear some painful truths.  They left for a reason.  And the reason is rarely price.  So something in your product, service or interactions pushed them into your competitor’s arms.

This is not something you can do effectively by yourself.  Here’s a human truth that works both for and against us.  People are basically nice.  They don’t want to offend you or hurt your feelings.   But you will be amazed at how candid (and sometimes brutally honest) they will be with an objective third-party.  So, get professional help.

Once you hear the truth, there will be elements within your business that you will clearly want to change. Change them or put plans in place to change them.  Then, craft a letter to your lost customers thanking them for their participation and sharing the results with them.  Yes, air your dirty laundry.   Then tell them about your plans to change the problems.  Finally, ask them to come back.  Give them an incentive to do so.

You won’t get them all.  But you’ll get many of them back.  Best of all, you have made changes that will keep more of your current clients right where they belong – with you.

One of the services we provide MMG clients is a customer satisfaction assessment.  Every one of our clients who embarks on the research ends up changing the way they do business for the better.  Hard to argue with results like that.

13 comments on “Are you tough enough to take it?

  1. Excellent post, Drew. We’ve been doing our version of a lost customer survey for our brand new product to find out where we can improve the service.

    The feedback is invaluable and we study it to figure out what’s working, and what needs improvement. Obviously we can’t make everyone happy, but we’ve had quite a few “ah ha!” moments.

  2. Christy Gooding says:

    Such a good reminder, Drew. Occasionally you can win a customer back simply because you took the time to find out why they left.

  3. Rob says:

    Anything that focuses some attention on existing customers is going to help. So few businesses have a really good strategy for tapping into their most profitable customers – the one’s they already have!

    This is a great idea to add to that – use customer’s you’ve temporarily lost to refine your operations and refine your marketing for gaining new clients.

    Great article!.

  4. AgentM says:

    Excellent Idea! I think the true lesson here is that clients aren’t disposable. Most companies put practices in play to milk their clients dry, as if their own products or services can’t retain a long-term relationship. Particularly in the creative services. This site hits the nail right on the head-

  5. Chelle,

    How do your customers/users respond to being asked for their opinion? Do you think it impacts their view of your company or product?


  6. Christy,

    Very true. People hate being unimportant. So acknowledging them and the fact that you noticed they left may be all it takes to earn a second chance.


  7. Rob,

    And in the ideal situation, you would improve your operations and earn back a customer or two.


  8. M (or do I call you agent?),

    Clients are not disposable. Amen! And when we treat them like they matter, they stick around.

    But the 2nd best thing, is asking for a little forgiveness when you’ve made a mistake. Lots of lessons to be learned there.


  9. “How do your customers/users respond to being asked for their opinion? Do you think it impacts their view of your company or product?”

    It has run the gambit from annoyed to appreciative. This is a new service so even the “I’m in X industry and it’s just not helpful for my business” is giving us useful insight.

    As for the impact, gosh, I want to say that it will only improve our standing, but we haven’t noted anything yet.

    Palo Alto Software has a history of doing our best to make a customer experience a good one. We’ve always reached out to users to explore and implement software improvements.

  10. Alanna,

    I wonder if that’s something the software dictates? We have a weekly marketing tip newsletter and the software we use allows something to unsubscribe automatically.

    But….I am wondering now if we could add a page asking for that feedback.

    Great idea — thanks!


  11. ‘Chelle,

    It will be interesting to see what you learn from the conversations. Do you give your users a way to proactively reach out to you as beyond your survey?


  12. Drew,

    Yes, we plaster our contact information over everything. Website/blog/newsletters/etc.

    Phone, email and online chat is answered by in-house customer service team. Everyone from the operator to the CEO help out with the incoming questions/comments from our customers.

  13. ‘Chelle,

    Sounds like you guys are doing it right! Congratulations. As you know, few do.


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