How to Win Back Lost Customers

Convincing shoppers to give your store another shot can boost profits for the long term.
Losing valued customers? Reach out and personally offer them a short-term price discount. (Photo: Monkey Business Image/Shutterstock)

No matter how much effort you spend to keep your customers happy, your business is bound to lose a few of your regulars along the way. The good news is you can lure them back, and consumer psychologist Bruce Sanders says trying is worth the effort.

“Owners of small- to medium-size businesses are doing a lot of juggling. But if you can carve out time to get back lost customers, you can improve your revenue flow,” said Sanders, author of “Retailer’s Edge: Boost Profits Using Shopper Psychology.”

Here’s how to reconnect with customers who’ve gone astray and convince them to give your business another shot.

Get them back in the door

If you haven’t seen the faces of some of your customers in a while, reach out and personally welcome them back into the store.

Shoppers who once frequented your store and now shop elsewhere may feel ashamed that they haven’t given you business in some time. It could take persistence to get them to open up, but “if you come on too strong, you’ll scare them away,” said Sanders. He suggested reaching out to the lost customer with a personalized email, handwritten note or phone call.

Awarding bonus points in your store’s loyalty program or other special offers can also boost your chances of getting lost customers back in the door. Sanders: “The most effective recipe for winning back lost customers is to blend a short-term price discount with a bonus burst of enhanced service.”

Related: How to Save a Sale Before It Walks Out the Door

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“You might have lost the customer because they want to introduce variety into their shopping or they suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out).” -Bruce Sanders (Photo: Bruce Sanders)

Figure out why they stopped coming

As you work on getting lost customers to return to your store, try to learn why they stopped coming to begin with. You’ll find that some of these shoppers went elsewhere because an experience with your products or services failed to meet their expectations.

However, Sanders estimates 65 to 85 percent of lost customers are actually satisfied with their prior retailer, and leave for other reasons. “You might have lost the customer because they want to introduce variety into their shopping or they suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out),” he said.

Uncovering the reason you lost the shopper in the first place will help you create a strategy for winning them back.

Use FOMO to your advantage

A fear of missing out on other shopping opportunities will sometimes lead consumers to shop elsewhere in hopes of adding more variety to their shopping experience. But you can use FOMO to your advantage, as well, said Sanders.

“Let them know that it’s OK to check out other places, but don’t forget to come back to us because you’ll miss out on things here. Talk about the changes you have planned for the future, like the introduction of a new line or the debut of a store within your store,” he suggested.

Getting customers excited about something months away will pay off for your business, said Sanders. “You’re planting that seed in the mind of the individual who is motivated by fear of missing out that they better come in and check you out.”

Add variety to spice things up

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Keep things fresh and offer a diverse array of products to show returning customers. (Photo: Uber Images/Shutterstock)

The desire for all things fresh and new is insatiable for some customers, so they may stop shopping at your store simply because they want a more varied retail experience, said Sanders. Regularly mixing things up at your store will give them the variety they crave.

“See to it that every couple of weeks, there’s something different in your store,” he said. “It’s particularly important to make the modifications in display windows and areas walk-in shoppers will see as they stroll by. In ads, show images of the areas you’ve changed.”

It’s not enough to just introduce variety — you have to get the customer to notice it, as well, said Sanders. Use checkout counter conversations to engage with customers about the variety at your store. Try to summon up memories of prior experiences they’ve had with your business.

“Pick up an item they’re purchasing and say, ‘I remember the last time you got something like this. What was your experience with it?’ It becomes an entry point into talking about times they were there before. If you can hook the purchase to something in their brain, they’re more likely to remember their varied experiences in your store,” he said.

Ask how to make things right

A poor experience can also be a factor in whether or not a shopper returns to your store. To win them back, ask how you can make things right, said Sanders.

Related: A Consumer Psychologist’s Tips for Handling an Angry Customer

“Don’t make a guarantee, but get the dialogue started. You’ll find that customers often make a modest request when you offer to remedy their dissatisfaction,” he said.

Hearing them out and agreeing to remedy their dissatisfaction can be enough to win some unhappy customers back. In fact, Sanders has found that customers’ loyalty increases when a retailer has solved a problem for them. “Smart retailers look for opportunities to address a problem for their customers,” he said. “The dominant motives of most dissatisfied customers are to restore a sense of fairness and vent negative emotions.”

“The dominant motives of most dissatisfied customers are to restore a sense of fairness and vent negative emotions.” -Bruce Sanders

You might need to go above and beyond to win back other aggrieved shoppers. Sometimes it may even be worth investing in enhanced services, such as personalized installation, expedited delivery, free upgrades to products or services and other perks. “It might be an additional cost, but you’re doing the customer a favor,” he said.

“Give priority to former customers whose breakup with you had been gracious. These are people who had expressed high satisfaction with you or even recommended you to others at some point during the business relationship last time. Upon return, they’re the ones most often becoming profitable purchasers.”

Related: 5 Ways to Give Your Super Shoppers the Royal Treatment

Remember, getting customers back is a long-term effort that requires persistence, said Sanders. “Even though your objective is to win them back, you might need to settle in the short term for only winning them over.”

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