‘Lost’ customers a valuable resource
Subscribe to Business News.
You lost a customer. You’ve probably lost lots of customers. You don’t want to think about them. It’s painful.
In fact, you’re reading this and have already had a few instant thoughts about this one or that one.
Makes you mad, doesn’t it?
They’re dead and buried in that great customer graveyard – a graveyard full of unfulfilled promises, screwed-up deliveries, missed deadlines, wrong billing and poor service.
Here are some more thoughts – lost revenues, lost profits and commissions. That last one hurts.
Well I have great news. Keep thinking about them.
They’re gone but not forgotten, dead but not buried. I challenge you to reconnect with them as soon as possible; they have money waiting for you.
A newly hired sales regional manager for a Fortune 100 company noticed two file drawers marked ‘Code 99.’ When she inquired as to the meaning, a rep told her they were the customers who: “Hate our guts. They have sued us, left our machines on the curb, bad mouthed us, and said they never wanted to see us again.”
The new manager emptied the drawers, and divided the files among the sales team with the directive to visit each customer, meet with the decision maker and find out what happened. That’s all. No sales pitch.
The results were staggering. More sales–per–lead than any program they had run in the past five years. Many of the old (angry) people were not there any more, making the initial conversation much less painful, and the bad memories dim or lost. From there they discovered that there were opportunities. Sales opportunities. And the customers appreciated the straightforward courage.
All customers are not lost due to your mistakes. Often someone came in and stole them, either by lower price, or just by a better salesperson.
I am not recommending that you go in with price concessions; that’s a bad precedent for a new beginning. Bring something to the table besides low price and you’ll walk away with profit.
Want a customer–zombie approach process that will wake up the dead? Here’s the plan.
• Start now
It takes courage, it takes planning, it’s a grim dose of reality, but let me assure you, it works. Get out the files and make a list of every one of them.
• Take a fun approach
Have a lost and found (customer) day. Have a lost and still fond of (customer) day. Have a lost customer appreciation day. Have a ‘we screwed-up’ day.
Send a dartboard with your company logo in the centre and a few darts and ask them to ‘get it out of their system’ and to please let you back in their office on the condition that they keep the darts in the drawer while you’re there. Fun.
• Adopt a professional approach
If fun’s not your thing, send a letter with a peace offering. Send a card.
Whether you use a fun or professional approach, you must also do the following.
1) Arrange a meeting to find out why. Find out what happened as a result of your screw up, lack of attention, or lost order. Ask for another chance with conditions that you both set and agree to (sometimes in writing).
2) Document the ‘whys’ and you will be amazed to find that every reason is fixable. In fact, some have already been fixed. If corrected properly, these are the most valuable resources you have for making your business better.
3) Offer ultra rewards to salespeople, ransoms and bounties. Pay double commission or some kind of bonus for a resurrected customer. You will win sales, profits, and a new understanding of how to improve your business from a customer’s perspective – the only one that matters.
4) Goodwill lost, and recovered. If you win the customer back, you will have recreated a story, eliminated the bad one, and replaced it with newfound testimony. Huge value.
You know the old saying ‘every obstacle presents an opportunity’. Well, some salespeople may see this idea as uncomfortable or too much of an obstacle. But I promise, if you can get beyond the reluctance or scepticism, you will win. You get to steal back the business and learn the lessons. You get answers and sales. You get a win while the competition gets a loss. You regain lost pride while they get a shot in the wallet. You get a commission while they get nothing. What could be better?
Jeffrey Gitomer is an American author, professional speaker and business trainer, who writes and lectures internationally on sales, customer loyalty and personal development.