Customer Service: How To Win Back Lost Customers

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It’s great to have raving fans, and it’s great to concentrate on attracting new customers to offset lost customers, but do you know how you lost those customers in the first place?

You probably stopped doing the very things that got you raving fans, created an exceptional experience, and attracted new customers when you first started.

A buddy of mine was raving about one of his favorite restaurants a few years ago. The waiter placed fresh baked Italian bread on every table when you first sat.

Besides the food, the bread drew people to the Brooklyn eatery for years.

One day, one of the sons left. Soon after, so too did the bread.

My friend asked why. “The bread-making took too much time.” Soon after that, the customers stopped coming in.

The restaurant added a lunch menu. And discounts. Nothing worked, and they recently closed, saying it was the economy.

Then this past Sunday...

I went to see a Broadway musical. It was 94 degrees and humid. The doors didn’t open until 10 minutes before the start.

This was a big change from days when doors opened a half hour prior, and you had time to get a drink, go to the bathroom, and peruse the souvenirs. Sunday, 1400 customers - who paid anywhere from $100 to $400 to see a hot show - were trying to get out of the heat and into the air-conditioned theater, but they were forced to wait in a long line in the hot sun.

I asked one of the ushers, “Were we waiting in the sun because they were too cheap to have you come a half hour early to get the house ready?” She looked like I had just learned a dirty secret. “You are exactly right,” she said.

Restaurants are losing repeat business from cutting out signature parts of their experience. Theaters are losing additional drink and souvenir business from well-heeled customers looking to have a theater experience, not just see a show.

Wondering how to win back customers? That's the wrong question...this is the right question:

What have you stopped doing for your customers?

Was it too expensive?

Were you trying to make up lost revenue?

Did it take too much time?

Ask yourself:

What did we provide, offer, or do for customers that we’ve stopped?

Why did we stop, and should we bring it back?

And I’m not talking about offering iPads or kiosks or free shipping. I’m talking about the actual customer service experience inside your four walls.

Unless you’re looking at that, you may be pushing customers out your doors and into the arms of an online retailer or other competitors.

I’d suggest training your employees is one of the biggest things you’ve cut down on. That’s why I created SalesRX to help retailers provide an exceptional experience. 

I asked my Facebook fans what some of their favorite businesses had stopped doing that they used to do for their customers.

Here’s what they said:

They lowered the quality of items. “A supplier I used specialized in excellent quality sterling silver and stopped carrying it; they said they felt it was too expensive. They now offer lower quality goods, and I no longer order from them.” - Donna Wasilewski

They made me feel unimportant. “They sent me a card on my birthday and staff always welcomed me by name - now it isn't important to learn their regulars’ names.” - Brenda Stansfield.

“[They called] my phone, emailed or texted me for a sale.” - Jill Klucher

A personalized note came with an order once, signed by the employee who packed it with a clear "Thank you!" A few years later, I received a scribbled signature from the same store that wasn't even legible. I thought, "Why even bother if you aren't going to make an effort anymore?" – Tamara Champion

The owner stopped greeting me. “There's a restaurant I’d go to, and the owner would always come to the table and talk about the menu. Now he barely says hello.” - Veronica Schwab

They made checkout harder for me. “I hate it when you get ready to check out, and they have only 2 of 20 registers open.” - Judy Baker Schall

“My grocery store cut out their bagger positions, and I was ticked that I had to ask for someone to load my $300 in groceries myself. I switched stores at that point. Service is key.” - Lori Carlisle

Theresa Watts said, “Great question! As I reflect on my favorite places and think about the things I stopped doing in my own business... like offering spa water on the weekends. I'm sure it matters. It is difficult to determine what small thing really matters!”

That’s so true. While speaking in San Francisco last weekend, a Facebook fan told me she followed me “back when you used to welcome everyone who joined your fan page. I guess you’re too busy.”

Ouch! Even the Retail Doctor stopped doing something that his followers thought was special. Mea culpa to the several thousand who have joined me since. I thank you now.

In Sum

Are you guilty of pushing customers out the door? What are you going to bring back that sets you apart? How will you let lost customers know you brought it back?

It can seem logical to cut costs wherever possible, but in the three instances above, they cut past the fat and into the very bones of their success. Customer experience suffered.