You would probably be hard pressed to find a business out there that hasn’t had a customer leave for some reason or another. The reality is that it happens, and at times we may be powerless to stop it. As tough economic times have hit companies across virtually all industries it’s likely that we’ve seen this more as of late then ever before. As sad and frustrating as it is to see a good customer leave it’s important not to get too tied up in the loss. You should review the situation, but then be prepared to move forward. When faced with the loss of a customer here are 5 things you should do to ensure your business remains strong.
- Find out why? – Talk to the customer as soon as possible after you receive notice that their contract with you is being terminated. Don’t assume you know the real reason they are leaving. It’s possible that their reason for leaving may not have anything to do with the service they received, but should you find out it is related to something that was within your control – service, price (to an extent), etc… make sure you don’t get emotional or defensive during this conversation (minimize any potential negative word of mouth issues). This initial call is also not the time to try to fix the problem they have, consider it a fact finding mission only. At the end of the conversation thank them again for their business.
- Review impact on financial situation – If you are given notice that a contract is being terminated you immediately need to review the impact that this loss will have on your company’s financial situation and budgets. Don’t wait until after the customer leaves to discover the effect of the loss. If the impact is not a minor one it may be necessary to start planning for the loss. It doesn’t have to be all negative though. This change may allow you to do some long overdue restructuring within the organization.
- Review sales pipeline – Just as you review the financials when a customer leaves, it’s important that you look to your sales team and review the pipeline of possible incoming revenue. Work with your sales team to re-examine their annual goals and see if plans can be made for them to quickly replace this revenue. Depending on the probability of incoming revenue you may not need to rush forward with drastic cuts.
- Be proactive with other customers – Use the feedback you received during your phone call to the ex-customer to proactively head off issues with other customers. Depending on the issue(s) brought up you may need to develop a multi-layer plan to make sure your remaining customers are satisfied. For example, if the issue was communication then it’s probably a great time to have some managers make phone calls just to check-in and see how things are going with their customers. A casual conversation may uncover other customers with the same problem. Keep in mind that no matter how big the customer was that left there are other customers that demand your time and attention.
- Follow-up, but then move on – If you feel the issues mentioned during the call to your customer are fixable and that it isn’t too late to win them back then follow-up with a letter/e-mail thanking them yet again, and letting them know you understood their issues. Include what steps you have taken to ensure they are happy should they continue working with you going forward. However, if it’s past the point of no return then ensure your plans going forward are solid and your employees are informed regarding the transition. If you have a good handle on what caused the customer to leave, and have made sure the next customer that leaves won’t be going for the same reason it’s time to close the book on this chapter and move on.
We can probably all agree that great customers are hard to come by, and it’s sad to see customers you’ve worked with for years leave. You will always remember these customers though, and it’s important to remain in touch. When the time is right make sure you follow-up with them to see how their business has progressed or changed since they left. From there continue regular follow-up, and hopefully there will be a day when you do in fact win back their business.