Tips & Tactics

Winning Back Lost Customers

Lost customers are ripe for win-back. Yet, few companies leverage the opportunity, reports Jill Griffin, co-author of Customer Winback. The author’s newest customer-loss study fielded with research firm CustomerSat (, reports fresh evidence why a customer win-back strategy should be part of every firm’s arsenal of loyalty tools.

“A whopping 62 percent of buyers surveyed who recently dismissed a key supplier reported choosing another supplier that offered basically the same product or service,” says Griffin. “This finding shouts out that the lost account’s needs have not changed and still can be filled by the dismissed supplier. This spells win-back opportunity!” she reports.

Importantly, buyers also report their dismissed suppliers do not even attempt to win them back. Only 25 percent reported the dismissed supplier offered an apology and only 14 percent of buyers said dismissed suppliers adopted a keep-in-touch strategy with them. “These two actions — making an apology and staying in touch — are essential steps to recovering lost business,” offers Griffin. “Yet, data clearly shows that once an account is lost, most fired firms do not pursue the win-back opportunity.”

But the reason(s) for customer loss must always be factored into the win-back strategy. “Our research found that ‘non-competitive pricing’ was referenced as the key factor contributing to customer loss for 44 percent of buyers and 46 percent of sellers. Losing a customer on price often signals that the dismissed supplier’s value proposition has grown stale and needs a boost. To win back the customer without caving on price, value issues must be carefully addressed,” advises the author.

These findings were gleaned from an in-depth Jill Griffin/Customer Sat survey of more than 500 sales, marketing and corporate buying executives. Executives surveyed represented a cross-section of industries.

Steps to Win Back a Lost Customer

What actions should a firm take when a high-value account is lost? Griffin offers these steps for successfully recovering a lost customer and rebuilding trust:

  • Forgive yourself and your teammates. “Stuff happens” as the saying goes, and getting past the pain of losing the account is job one.
  • Apologize to the lost customer. If you lost on price, a “We’re sorry we failed to deliver on value” statement can help set the stage for a win-back.
  • Ask, “What can we do to win back your business?” Listen carefully to all grievances.

Fully address the customer’s requirements. In addition, investigate what the customer will pay a premium for. Communicate the changes you have made. Ask again for the customer’s business.

  • Be patient with the customer. Be open. Remember, some wounds heal slowly.
  • Stay in touch with the lost customer.
  • Make it easy for customers to come back to you. Avoid any “I-told-you-so” stance.
  • When the customer does return, earn the business (and justify their trust) every day.

Griffin adds, “When you are dismissed, it’s very important to walk away gracefully. Burnt bridges are hard to re-cross. Good sportsmanship statements like, “I completely understand your decision. We should have performed better,” help take your customer off the hook. Such statements can also help to position you for re-entry.”

The Austin, Texas-based Griffin may be reached at (512) 469-1757. CustomerSat, Inc. is a provider of enterprise solutions for measuring, analyzing, and managing enterprise-wide action responding to real-time customer feedback.

Canadian Border Travel Update

Are you planning a trip to Canada this year? Are your friends, neighbors or business colleagues thinking about traveling to Canada?

This is a reminder that Canadians and Americans can continue to cross the Canada-U.S. border by land and sea without a passport for the remainder of 2007.

According to the website, The United States announced that, as of January 23, 2007, all travelers entering, transiting or exiting the United States by air require a valid passport or NEXUS card, which can be used at a NEXUS kiosk at designated airports.

However, the United States has not yet identified when it will implement its Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, under which only certain documents will be deemed acceptable for entry to the country through land and sea border points. Canadians will be required to obtain a passport, or other identified document, for travel to the United States as of the implementation date, once it has been announced.

You can help reduce the confusion by letting others know that for the remainder of 2007, Canadians and Americans do not need a passport to travel back and forth between Canada and the United States by land, sea or fresh water.

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