Lost-Customer Research -- 50 Ways to Love Your Leaver
She said it grieves me so to see you in such pain. “I wish there was something I could do to make you smile again.” I said I appreciate that and would you please explain about the fifty ways to love your leaver?
Well, anyway, that’s how Rowlf the Dog misheard it on The Muppet Show!
Losing a customer is painful, but failing to learn anything from that loss is even worse. It’s vital to get solid market research as to why you are losing customers, to help you understand the areas you need to improve and to recognize changes in the competitive landscape.
As John Hogan and Katherine Lemon discussed in their paper, “What is the True Value of a Lost Customer?”, most firms ignore the social effects of losing customers. You are not only losing a potential advocate and possibly creating a permanent detractor, but you are removing a “model” customer – a customer that others might imitate by purchasing from you.
Here are a few of the key questions you need to answer in your lost customer research:
- Is there anything you can do to win the customer back, now or in the future?
- Are they switching to a competitor? Which one and why?
- If they are not replacing your product or service, why not?
- Is there anything you can do for them as they depart so that they will not say bad things about your brand?
Unfortunately, conducting market research with lost customers isn’t easy. Since a lost customer has already made his or her decision and moved on, they are much less likely than prospective or existing customers to respond to a request for a survey.
What to do?
- Slip out the back, Jack – Sending out web surveys can be the coward’s way out. You will capture responses from only a small percentage of lost customers, depending on the relationship. If you haven’t tried it, it’s worth an attempt, but don’t be surprised if you get too few responses for it to be useful.
- Make a new plan, Stan – For B2B customers, check your CRM system for each lost customer to analyze the notes and comments made about them by account managers, salespeople and service representatives. Consider doing a survey of sales and marketing staff about their impressions of why customers leave.
- You don't need to be coy, Roy – Just pick up the phone and call the lost customer. In a world of Caller ID and voice mail, don’t be surprised if they don’t take your call and they don’t respond to your voice mail. If you are able to get them on the line, keep the conversation short and to the point – follow an informal discussion guide with open-ended questions. Avoid formal survey wording and stuffy questions and keep it natural. You want to hear from them, in their own words.
- Hop on the bus, Gus – Can you piggyback on other initiatives? Perhaps you can expand the unsubscription survey linked to from marketing emails to recognize whether or not a respondent is a lost customer – if they are, then ask them one or two followup questions about their decision to leave.
- Just drop off the key, Lee – If primary research among lost customers isn’t working, look to the last customer satisfaction survey completed by those customers. If you link past survey responses to a new field indicating whether or not the respondent is a customer today, you can re-analyze the answers to identify key drivers that lead to customer churn.
I realize I only gave five items for you to consider. I don’t really have 50 ways to love your leaver, but then Paul Simon didn’t tell us 50 ways to leave your lover either. I can tell you that you should approach this analysis with an open mind: lost customer research can be messy, and often needs to be informed by an amalgam of different methods.