One of the challenges with any business is losing customers.
If you’re in business for any amount of time you’re going to lose customers.
I think it’s especially difficult for startups to keep customers. When you’re starting up you’re figuring things out and that can lead to customers moving on.
It’s not fun. It’s not a proud moment when it happens. But you try to learn from it and figure out how to avoid it in the future.
Even established and growing companies deal with losing customers. If things slip at all you can lose customers. Again, you try to figure out why it happened and you keep looking for ways to improve.
Some customers just won’t be the right fit for your company, but some you will want to get back. And in my experience there is a specific way to go about getting lost customers back.
An Early Lesson In Business Relations
My first job out of college was as a catalog manager for a large footwear cataloger. They mostly sold women’s shoes.
I had no idea what I was doing, but the folks there were and continue to be talented, hard working and great in many ways. They welcomed me and really allowed me to grow and learn about business.
One of the interactions I had was with the vendors that worked with the company. One of the things I vividly remember is meeting with the printers that printed the catalogs.
I had only been there a short period, but after asking a few questions I learned that over time the company would have different printers at different points. They wouldn’t jump from one to another quickly. They would make strategy choices and be loyal while still working in the best interest of the business.
So at one point a printer the company was using fell a little behind in technology and the company had to go with another printer.
That was pretty early in my time there, but I remember that every six months or so the account manager would continue to reach out and meet with us. He would keep us updated on his company and what they were doing.
One of my co-workers said that at some point they would probably go with that printer again at least in some agreement; maybe for part of the printing runs.
That taught me a few important lessons about business relations, losing customers and winning back customers.
Keep Things Cordial
No matter what the situation it’s always important to remain cordial.
It can be tempting to let anger get the best of you. If you’re not careful you can start arguing with the other party about what was done wrong and who made the mistakes or who is making a mistake.
That is all wasted energy.
Keep things cordial. You might have to bite your tongue if you feel you’re right and the other person is wrong, but you have to let it go.
Think about yourself and your brand. Keep things as cordial as possible and leave your brand with integrity in your own eyes.. It’s not worth it to argue at the risk of your reputation.
The more you act with class over time the more respect you will get. If people bad mouth you, that’s fine. It will happen if you’re growing.
But if you maintain class you’ll build a strong base of goodwill and hopefully you’ll get to the point that if someone bad mouths you the person they are speaking with will know that the person is wrong about you.
Focus On What You Control
When the relationship is over the only part that matters from your perspective is to figure out what you can do better next time.
Improve your offer. Improve your account management. Improve the way you find new clients so you can keep clients in the long-term.
There are a number of things you can do, but you can’t control the other person. You have to let that go.
Keep In Touch
This gets back to the salesman that continued contacting the company I worked for. He wasn’t annoying. He simply asked for meetings once in a while to update us on what his company was doing to improve.
Depending on your business, you can keep in touch in different ways. For GBW, it might be to keep on blogging and to keep on doing podcast interviews to discuss what we’re doing to improve and grow.
Word can get around as to what you’re doing and if you improve you can regain your edge and that alone can win you back customers you’ve lost in the past.
And if you left things on good terms your past customers will be more likely to come back.
The moral of this story is to maintain class in your dealings with lost customers and to continually to the best you can to improve. Those two things alone give you the best possible chance to win back lost customers.
In order to do that you have to accept fault for what you control. And you have to try to improve what you can control. By doing those things you’ll be a business that will earn respect in the industry and that can not only bring back lost customers, but earn new customers.