3 practical strategies to win back lost customers

Winning back lost customers is as important as getting new customers for your business. In fact, several researches have proven it time and again that it’s 5X cheaper to retain existing customers than to acquire new ones. In light of that data, retaining customers on the brink of attrition is more critical for your business’ growth, revenue, and longevity.

But it’s difficult to recover lapsing customers if you don’t know what’s making them leave your business in the first place. On a surface level, the attrition graph might suggest that new customers discover your product, play around with it for a while, sign for a trial (if you offer trials), convert into paying customers, and—one fine day—they churn.


Find out why they are going away

There’s almost always a proof to a pattern. If customers are canceling their membership, backing out of a deal, or dropping off of your subscription plan, there is probably a deeper-level problem that’s making them turn their backs on you.

As a business, you should find answers to the following questions to identify that elephant in the room:

  • Is it the pricing model that’s creating a problem?
  • Is it because the customers are not getting value out of the products?
  • Did customers find a better, more affordable alternative?
  • Is it because they had a bad experience, such as repeated downtime or lack of support?
  • Is it something else?

You can expand the list to incorporate more questions, but the next step is to pose these questions directly to your customers who are considering to move away. Use Google Form, SurveyMonkey, or Typeform to create simple surveys so that you can identify a definitive pattern.

But be warned, it’s often a mistake to take the responses of such surveys at face value. For example, the surveyed customers might say that they were irritated by the number of bugs they had to report in your product. In reality, the problem could be the time your tech support took to fix those bugs. Every product is riddled with issues, but what makes it less problematic is how soon they respond to those issues.

A great way to understand your customers’ psyche is to carry out a root cause analysis (RCA), where you ask a series of progressive ‘why’ questions to identify what actually is causing a problem. RCA doesn’t stop at the first instance of encountering a problem, it goes deeper in to a reported issue to find the ultimate problem.

Surveying customers and running an RCA is a great way to understand lost customers’ grievances, but what if they don’t respond to your survey requests? In such cases, you can apply the Design Thinking principle to understand customer problems. It suggests you empathize with customers, define their needs and experiences, challenge the assumptions around the solution you provide, implement new solutions, and test them.

Validating your hypothesis is important so that you can identify the major deal breakers on customers’ part and create relevant campaigns to reduce the number of defecting customers in the future.


How to win back lost customers

Once you identify the major causes why clients are breaking up with your business, you can come up with relevant campaigns to win them back. Here are a few useful strategies to recover lost customers:

1. Use retargeting ads

Marketers mostly rely on retargeting ads to convert new website visitors into customers because they can help convert upto 98% of new website visitors. Retargeting ads are effective because the strategy requires you to plant web cookies on a visitor’s browser (with their consent) and following them everywhere they go. It creates a recall that progresses from consideration to action.

But there’s no reason why you can’t apply remarketing to win back lapsed customers. With this strategy, you can exploit several channels to get back their attention. For example, you can show them your banner ads on any websites they visit. Facebook is the best real estate for retargeting ads because the platform makes the ads look like they are just another post in the users’ feed.

Grammarly does retargeting really well; when I recently removed Grammarly’s Chrome extension from my browser, I started seeing banner ads on random websites I visited for the next couple of weeks. Here’s an email that Grammarly sends along side those ads to divorced users like me:

Grammarly Freshchat integration

Retargeting ads can do wonders to recover lost customers, given that you do it well. You have to package it well, make sure the ads aren’t sickeningly omnipresent, and give a compelling incentive for customers to come back to your brand. There is a fine line between carrying out a well-done retargeting campaign and bombarding them with a deluge of ads. They will distant themselves further apart from your brand if you flood them with ads all the time.


2. Send email feelers

Email can be a much more direct, personalized, and powerful approach to win back lost customers. You can create a one-time email campaign or treat it like a drip campaign for customers who have churned away from your brand. You can also test this strategy with text messages, or use it in sync with your email re-engagement campaign.

While the messaging principle applies to all strategies—offer an appealing incentive, create a sense of urgency, or remind them of what they are missing—your email strategy should double down on this front. Your copy shouldn’t be a plain vanilla ad plastered as a marketing email. It has to create a sense of wow, carry an emotion that makes customers feel special, and make them rethink their departure from your brand.

Think of this as a romantic person sending a greeting card to his ex soon after the latter decided to break-up. If there is a genuine and mutual value in reconciliation, the person sending the card will apologize, say that s/he misses him/her, or ask for a second chance. Use a strong hook to entice them to stay back or ask them to give you a last chance to work things out.

Do it in style—make it read like a greeting card you are sending to win back the trust of a loved one who has left you for negotiable reasons. Use humor in your email and take it as an opportunity to send a sappy break-up card. Here’s an example:

Freshchat news in Buzzfeed


3. Leverage live chat

Ideally, you can maximize the power of live chat even before customers defect your brand. For example, if they go on pages with exit intent or perform certain actions such as click on “unsubscribe” or “cancel membership” button, you can trigger relevant chat messages right then and there to convince them against their decision to move away.

Or, you can regularly run CSAT survey or monitor your brand’s NPS to understand the common customer sentiment and prevent them from churning.

live chat pro tip freshchat

E-commerce businesses, such as PoundIt.com, use Freshchat to stop its customers from dropping off before it’s too late. They use Freshchat to launch event- or page-based campaigns where you can trigger relevant messages based on user’s intention. For example, if a customer abandons a shopping cart, you can automate a chat pop-up to prompt a conversation to understand what went wrong. Or, you can offer customers a coupon code for them to proceed through the checkout process and come back for more purchases in the future.

Use Freshchat to reduce Cart Abandonment

You can use Freshchat Campaigns to apply in similar circumstances to prevent customers from unsubscribing to your services or cancelling their plans.Freshchat's blue streak

The other use case of live chat in the context of re-engaging lost customers is to make use of it in combination with emails or retargeting ads. For example, if you have made a compelling case for making lost customers come back to your website via banner ads or personalized emails, give them a hero’s welcome on their return. Personalize your live chat messages to woo them back and offer irresistible instant gratification. A successful marketing campaign is not just about what you are selling, but how you are selling it.

Freshchat trigger messages

Who wouldn’t be flattered to receive such a royal welcome and most likely stay back if they decide to go for a second chance?


Restore relationships that you can relish

Losing customers is in many ways losing their trust. Therefore, it’s important for your business to take preventive measures to let this from happening. Create a brand stickiness to retain your customers and improve brand loyalty to avoid customers from calling it quits.

But if you still see customers regressing from your brand, it’s time for your business to introspect their reasons for departure and find ways to restore their faith in your brand. Use the strategies mentioned above or innovate new strategies that work for you to regain their trust in your business. Monitor and optimize your re-engagement campaigns for better impact on lost customers.

(Blog illustration designed by Sudheesh Chandran)