November 23, 2014

Reaching Out To Departed Customers For Recovery

Every business has customers who have departed.  There are a variety of reasons that prompt departure. How you react to the departure will either validate that they left for a good reason or begin the process of bringing back that customer and that customer revenue.

reaching out

Follow these five steps below to identify and regain customer trust and relationships:

1. Track Customers Who Have Departed

Most companies only track customer retention as a percentage of their business. They often don’t get down to the number and the actual customers who have departed. This effort must be about caring about the customers who left, not just the percentage or how they impact your balance sheet.

So, the first step is to quantify the volume of customers and the volume of business that departed. This can be done monthly or quarterly, depending on the volume of your business model.

2. Segment and Identify Those Who Departed

All customers who have departed, especially if you have a high volume business, are not contributing the same value to your business. Now you need to make some hard decisions. Segment the customer base of departed customers and then determine which customers you will reach out to for recovery.

3. Reach Out to Customers with Respect, Reason and Reconciliation

Once you know who you want to save, reach out to them with a phone call. My suggestion is to have two groups within your company make the calls.

First, executives should call a handful (1-10) of departed customers in every “rescue” cycle. These calls keep them close to the issues that are driving customers out the door.

The second group is a specially prepared group of people who are trained in a recovery conversation with the customer. This is not a sales pitch. The first part of the conversation is apologizing that the customer left. The second part is listening, intently to the customers’ explanation.

The third part is diagnosing and verifying back to the customer why they departed, and cataloging this information for the company.

The fourth part is extending support and immediate assistance in resolving the issue.

Finally, there should be an offer (not a pitch) extended to the customer to bring them back. These skills need to be developed and this can be a very rewarding project for your best call center folks, or for exceptional managers within your company. I would not outsource this step.

4. Categorize Reasons for Departure and Take Action

After the calls, there is a major opportunity for your company to identify the issues that came from all of the calls, and then trend and track these issues. By attaching them to the revenue of the departed customers, these issues can also be prioritized. Within the second session of customer recovery, the most critical issues will emerge and there will be no question what you should focus on.

There may also be opportunities that arise from these calls about the frontline service that can provide immediate and specific feedback to the frontline that served the customer and potentially contributed to the customers’ departure. Creating a closed loop process for this feedback is very potent since very specific information usually comes out of these calls for coaching.

5. Put Returned Customers into “Intensive Care”

Once a customer has agreed to come back into your business, to be rescued, keep an eye on them. Conduct a review every six months of their experiences, tracking customer service calls, purchasing, support and other indicators which will identify the health of the restarted relationship. Then reach out again.

Your close attention will not go unnoticed.

Results You Can Expect from Customer Recovery

The process of customer recovery has been fruitful in every vertical business where I have seen this practiced. In financial services, with high levels of customer departure, we experienced as high as 30% customer recovery. We also achieved an improvement in frontline service as the feedback gleaned from these calls was provided immediately to the managers of account reps serving customers who departed.  In an automotive client, we experienced 10-15% return for service work following calls and rescue efforts to customers who had lapsed.

The key is to ensure that there is a planned process to contact, resolve and reconcile the issues with the customers who have departed. There must also be an intention and commitment to fix the issues which pushed the customers out the door. The focus must be to fix the customers AND to fix the company.

In this way, the customer rescue process brings back in revenue and prevents future revenue from departing from your business.

Companies that do a great job of winning back departed customers will frequently have a stronger relationship with customers as a result.

Reach Out Photo via Shutterstock

10 Comments ▼

Jeanne Bliss


Jeanne Bliss Jeanne Bliss is the founder of CustomerBLISS; a consulting and coaching company helping corporations connect their efforts to yield improved customer growth. Her best-selling books are; Chief Customer Officer: Getting Past Lip Service to Passionate Action and I Love You More than My Dog: Five Decisions for Extreme Customer Loyalty in Good Times and Bad.

10 Reactions

  1. I love the point about tracking departed customers. I believe this is a critical idea. I have found myself doing this some in the past but not as a general rule. However, you have pointed out how important this can be. It is of the greatest important to learn from our failures as from anything and this is just another way to do just that. Thank you for this post.
    -Renee’
    @whersmyoffice

    • I find the tracking part is highly critical too because the list of names has to be clearly pointed out to your employees so that “intensive care” can be given.

      Thank you for sharing the tips, Jeanne.

  2. For a minute I seriously thought this was about deceased customers.

  3. In our business there have been only a few departed customers that we wanted to recover. They ususally left, or were asked to leave, for good reason. There have been a few though that I wish we had followed these steps to recover.

    • Steve
      This is a really good point. The process of knowing who you want to reach out to and having a process to connect in a timely manner with those you should recover is the key!

  4. Renee
    I’m glad you like this idea. As you mention, it is an idea that many have dabbled in but not continuously. Making this a deliberate and ongoing process will have an impact on your bottom line and your culture!!

  5. Wayne
    We usually make this a process that drives an effort to improve and manage the data. You are right – without the right data you can be making calls to incorrect customer numbers. But if you can crack this – it will make an impact! We find it makes the most impact if you can create a small team who does this – as well as assigning your execs the job of calling some themselves!

  6. Katherine
    You know –I can see why you might have thought that! Especially with that visual! Sorry about the confusion.

  7. Thanks for your great list of suggestions. These are all so very important when would with customers in every industry. Also what works well is to make your customer feel that they are your only customer, and your time is their time. Yes, it does take a bit longer to get them to “buy into” or “buy back into” your programs, but once they do keep it up and you will be rewarded with their share of the business (like item 5 – Intensive Care).

    • Mike,
      So glad you jumped in here. We used to say at Lands’ End – treat each customer – one at a time, and that is how we will grow. This really does work.

      And you are right…if I give you another chance…the intensive care is so important to make sure I feel differently when i come back. Give me reason to stay and tell everyone I know about the experience!

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