Picture of Bizapaloozachat with Jonathan Herrick

Losing customers hurts. Figuring out how to get your old customers back hurts even more. Because it takes so much effort, many business owners don’t even see the point of building bridges. That logic may be a bit flawed because old customers can play a direct (or indirect) role on your company’s profits and reputation.

The key is learning when to rebuild a bridge with a lost customer and when to let to leave that bridge uncrossed.

That’s where Jonathan Herrick of Hatchbuck (a small business CRM) comes in. Herrick knows a thing or two about in the power of technology and customer relationships. Herrick used that power to grow Hatchbuck, a company he co-founded, by 2000% percent.

In a recent Bizapalooza Twitter chat, Jonathan Herrick offered some key insights to help business owners determine if it’s profitable to rebuild a bridge with a lost customer.

Why Should You Care About Lost Customers?

Let’s first establish why you need to care about your formers customers.

Let’s take it from a marketing angle. As Jonathan Herrick pointed out in a Tweet, over 65% of your business comes from existing customers, not fancy marketing campaigns. In a world where 92% of customers trust recommendations over advertising, this is something that a business cannot ignore. Advertising and marketing can raise awareness, but it is often word of mouth or online reviews that motivate a customer to purchase.

If we take the cost to acquire a new customer, engaging with old customers may not look so daunting. Jonathan Herrick dropped another statistic in the Bizapalooza chat about that:


It costs 5 times more money to attract a new customer than it is to retain an existing customer.  Using your business’ resources (people, money, marketing, advertising, etc.) can be a huge drain of time and money that has been repeated over and over again for each new customer. Compare that to former customers. A recent Harvard Business Review study found that former customers who came back to a business stayed longer with the business and paid much more during the second time.

To put it simply, it costs less to rebuild a bridge with a customer than to build an entirely new one.

The Bad Bite of Angry Customers

Lost customers aren’t just lost revenue. They can also represent more of a potential liability than you might expect.  Angry customers are most likely to leave a bad review, tell others about their experiences, and voice their opinions on social media and other channels. These activities are more than an angry customer letting out some steam. They represent a potential deal breaker for a prospective customer looking for reviews of your company.

If a customer finds these negative reviews convincing (and most consumers do), an angry customer’s reviews can drive away customers before they even interact with you.



OK, I’m Convinced. How Do I Get My Old Customers Back?.

Based on the information above, rebuilding a connection with your former customers comes with financial and marketing incentives. It costs fewer resources to reconnect with older customers and it decreases the spread of negative word-of-mouth marketing.

So how you get old customers back again? Here are six tips based on Jonathan Herrick’s advice during the Bizapalooza chat.

  1. Know why customers leave. Customers may not always tell you why they leave but the reasons are usually predictable: price, bad customer service, product or service failure, etc. When customers leave your business, do your best to find out why. Ask customers in surveys. Review comments or mentions of your business on social media. Check your business profiles on Yelp, social media, and other review sites. (Google Alerts can help with this.)
  2. Recognize the signs. Customers won’t always “leave” a business the same way. Some may stop using your service cold turkey after a bad customer service experience or product breakdown. Others might decrease use of your product or service slowly because of changes in income or circumstances. Dig deep into the reasons why people leave. In some cases, you just won’t know. In more cases than you’d like to admit, customers will tell you why they are leaving your business. Customers can be very vocal about why they are leaving a company.
  3. Prepare a defense. Identify the top 3-5 reasons your customers leave your company. Has your pricing changed? Have conditions in the economy changed? Is there a new competitor in town? Once you have those reasons, prepare a defense. You might try a special pricing campaign or coupon for former customers. You might consider adding more customer service staff to decrease wait times or open up a new channel to engage with customers.
  4. Figure out what needs to be fixed. A single customer leaving your business can be out of your control. Sometimes a customer just needs to leave. A group of customers who follow the same typical pattern of leaving your business is something you need to address. Look over the top reasons customers leave your business and see if there is anything you can do to fix it. Can you hire more staff to deal with long wait times? Should you change a policy? Do you need to improve and monitor customer the quality of your customer service?  Start exploring these questions to get an idea of where you might need to start making changes if needed.
  5. Know their worth. Not every customer is worth going after. Some customer relationships have crossed the line or a customer doesn’t show any interest in returning to your company. Going after these customers might end up a large waste of time and resources. Instead, focus on previous customers who left for specific reasons. Try to identify the stage in the customer journey that you are losing customers. Are you losing customers right before customers? It might be a pricing or usability issue. Are you losing customers after reaching customer service on the phones? Check the average number of calls and wait times. Are you customers expressing outrage about a policy on their social media sites? Review that policy and make a determination about to do.
  6. Make it better than ever. A key ingredient in rebuilding a bridge with a customer is “the promise”. Once you have lured a customer back, you have to work harder to maintain the relationship. Second (or third)-time customers are much more sensitive than new customers. Focus on demonstrating your gratitude in having a customer back. Invest in that relationship. Tell customers how you’ve changed or what you’ve changed in your business. Demonstrate that on a daily basis and ensure that everyone in your team knows the reasons and methodology for investing in this new relationship as well.

Are Customers Interested In Coming Back?

In most cases, most customers are open to rebuilding a relationship. If you can offer “value above the hurt”. If your business can offer better pricing, better customer service, or a better reputation, customers are more likely to come back and stay. Your business has to put forth more effort in the initial encounter. Your customer holds all of the cards but you can sway a former customer to come back if you offer the right business for former customers to return to. The key is creating the kind of business where a former customer feels proud to rejoin as Ashley Murray shared in a Tweet.