Losing customers? What ARE you thinking?

Do you pursue your lost customers? Most big, dumb corporations dont. In fact, most SMALL dumb businesses dont either. Every business loses customers at some point. What separates the successful from the lamers is how they act after that.

For example, today I received an email from buy.com. I dont buy too much at buy.com. In fact, I cant recall the last time I bought something there. But still, they decided to email me. Smart move.
Here’s the email:

We’ve noticed that you have not shopped at Buy.com in awhile and we miss you! So, to thank you for being one of our past customers, we’ve created a special coupon just for you. We look forward to seeing you again soon! You must use your myemail@domain.com account to redeem this offer. 10% OFF Coupon (Some Restrictions apply. See site for details. Expires xx/xx/xx) http://enews.buy.com/cgi-bin5/DM/y/yadayada

They have used the information in their database (which I cant imagine you dont have) to look at people who havent had a transaction in x months. To get them back, they send them a discount coupon. Cost: Near zero. Even if you mail a card or letter, the cost is STILL near zero and the ROI is excellent. Buy.com should be commended for actually paying attention. Im impressed. I like doing business with people and businesses who pay attention.
Now lets look at your business. Do you use your database to chase after people who havent bought something, or at least visited your business, in x months? In fact, do you even know theyve stopped coming? Before you go too far, you should be looking at your business and figuring out how long it’ll take before a customer is “lost”.

For example: Youre a dry cleaner. How many days or weeks has to pass without seeing Jane Executive before you should assume they are lost and start wondering why, pursuing them, etc? Im guessing 3-4 weeks at the very most.

Oh but that doesnt apply to you, you own a restaurant. Right. So, how many weeks have to pass before you notice a breakfast regular no longer shows up every morning? Did he die? Did he start going elsewhere? What about the friends he eats with? Are they still here? Did you change the menu? Did your service tick him off? How many regulars do you have to lose before you notice? Or does that happen when you cant make your mortgage payment?

Or, you own a car dealer, so that cant apply to you. Sure. Some of your customers buy a car every 2 years. If you actually thought about it, you can at least describe them – even if you havent had the foresight to put their name/address in a database, send them a newsletter every month, etc. Well, if Mary buys a car every 2 years and its 2 years and 4 months… you just lost a customer. You should have sent her a personalized letter at 1 year and 10 months asking her if you could start looking for whats on her mind, car-wise.

Figure this out and youre ahead of the game. Every one of those “lost” customers that you rescue is one less customer for your competition. What a shame.