Customers Cost Too Much to Let Them Disappear

By MARK RIFFEY for the Flathead Beacon Newspaper

Every business loses customers at some point. What separates the successful from the rest is how they act after that.

Do you pursue your lost customers?

Many big companies still don’t (or don’t realize they’ve lost them), but they are better at this than they used to be. In fact, most small businesses spend little if any time trying to figure out who left, much less effort on getting ex-customers back.

For example, today I received an email from I don’t buy too much there. In fact, I can’t recall the last time I bought something from them. As a result, they decided to email and make sure that I was still around and if so, try to get me re-engaged with them via a coupon.

Here’s the email:

We’ve noticed that you have not shopped at 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 account to redeem this offer. 10% OFF Coupon (Some Restrictions apply. See site for details. Expires xx/xx/xx)

They have used the information in their database (which you should have) to identify customers who haven’t had a transaction with them in x months. To try and attract them back to their business, they send them a discount coupon. Cost: Close to nothing, assuming you have some sort of contact information for them. Even if you mail a card or letter, the cost is STILL near zero and the ROI is excellent. is actually paying attention. People like doing business with people and businesses who pay attention without being annoying. More on that later.

Surprised young manWhat are you doing?

Now let’s look at your business. Do you use your database to chase after people who haven’t bought something, or at least visited your business, in x months? In fact, do you even know they’ve 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: You run a dry cleaner. How many days or weeks have to pass without seeing Jane Executive before you start wondering why, pursuing them, etc? I’m guessing three or four weeks at the most.

Own a restaurant? 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 do you fail to notice until you can’t make your mortgage payment?

Own a car dealership? Some of your customers buy a car every two years. Think about it. You can at least describe them – even if you haven’t kept their name/address in a database, send them a newsletter every month, etc. Well, if Mary buys a car every two years and it’s two years and four months… it’s fairly likely that you’ve lost Mary as a customer. You should have sent her a personalized letter at one year and 10 months asking her if you could start looking for what’s on her mind, car-wise.

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

Common mistakes to avoid

One thing that has probably annoyed you, perhaps enough to prevent you from using your transactional data to regain lost customers, is someone who emails you all the time or fills your mailbox with worthless messages or nothing more than ads.

The difference between you and them is that you (and your message) need to be a welcome arrival in their inbox or mailbox, not someone who sends info of no value and never contacts them unless you’re trying to sell something.

Don’t be that company.

Don’t be the one bludgeoning them with nothing but zero value sales messages. Be the one whose messages they look forward to, rather than the one whose messages they delete without reading.

Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a strategic, operations or marketing problem? See Mark’s sitecontact him on Twitter, or email him at


2014-08-20_0819Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a strategic, operations or marketing problem? See Mark’s sitecontact him on Twitter, or email him  Check out the Flathead Beacon archive of all of Mark’s blogs.