3 Tips for Re-Engaging Lost and At-Risk Customers


Share on LinkedIn

Findings from recent Voice of Customer (VoC) research we conducted for Fortune and Growth brands indicate a disturbing trend: increasing customer churn.

Given the high cost of acquiring customers, improved retention strategies are essential. A common theme across our research findings is the speed and volatility of changes in the needs and preferences of customers and… how slowly marketers take notice and make changes!

A significant takeaway from the research is that companies must fundamentally recalibrate and update marketing and CX strategies at least every 12 months. Failure to do so results in the company being out of sync with their rapidly changing BtoB and BtoC customers.

The glue that binds customers to companies is the relevance and value of that relationship. If the company is no longer in sync with their customer’s changing needs, the reasons for remaining a loyal and repeat customer fade away.

In findings from 16,000+ hours of in-depth VoC interviews, consumers tell us again and again that it is true engagement that forges strong ties with a company. Here are 3 actions to help you succeed:

1. If you haven’t checked in with customers for a while, you are at risk!

Take the time to learn or re-learn about your current customers asking about their individual needs. Too often, long-term customers are forgotten and become “assumptions.” Companies just assume that since they have purchased in the past, they will just continue to do so. But, this is a dangerous assumption. If customers feel that they are overlooked, they will move on to another company to seek out a better experience.

Action Items:

  1. Be proactive about engaging customers to provide updated data about their individual needs so you can improve their customer experiences. And then, use that information to provide much smarter personalization and recommendations.
  2. All marketers should take this VoC feedback to heart, “Don’t focus on how you get me to renew the contract a year from now. Focus on how you treat me right after the sale. Welcome me and make sure I understand everything about the program and what you offer. I will renew based on how you treat me throughout the year!”

2. If you don’t understand what’s new and different about your long-term customers, you better learn!

The needs of every customer change and evolve. BtoB customers move on in their jobs and careers, and BtoC consumers move on in their lives. These changes present opportunities for you as marketers to provide solutions which help them with their changing requirements in their job or life stage.

Action Items:

  1. If customers have stopped buying, check in with them. Find out what’s happening. Is there a problem or change you are not aware of, or is there a disconnect because both your company—and the customer—think there’s no longer a relatable connection? Find out and re-connect with new reasons to re-establish a value proposition.
  2. Just because someone is a long-term customer don’t assume that they know your entire product line. Proactively reach out and offer additional products or services — based on an understanding what they, as individuals, want or need.

3. When is the last time you said, “thank you”?

By delivering a warm and sincere “thank you” to your customers, you enhance the relationship. A simple thank you note gives both the company and the customer a reason to reach out and seek out a deeper relationship or a renewed relationship.

Action Items:

  1. Again, as we speak to consumers they tell us that they want to be treated well after they buy. Here’s an example of important research feedback, “I want to be treated well post-sale. Don’t be ‘buy and die’. Be a visible and caring brand…”
  2. If you do not reach out and acknowledge customers and thank them for their business, they will reach out for that “thank you recognition” someplace else. Here is another comment we received, “Companies don’t get it. If they’ve taken care us from the initial sale and been there throughout the relationship, then they have earned the (contract) renewal.”


If marketers assume that customers will always be there while they focus their attention on prospecting for new customers, they will be in for a rude awakening. Therefore, it makes sense to put much more effort into re-engaging with customers and learning about their ever-changing needs. It’s the right thing to do and it’s significantly more profitable than constantly replacing lost customers.

Ernan Roman
Ernan Roman (@ernanroman) is president of ERDM Corp. and author of Voice of the Customer Marketing. He was inducted into the DMA Marketing Hall of Fame due to the results his VoC research-based CX strategies achieve for clients such as IBM, Microsoft, QVC, Gilt and HP. ERDM conducts deep qualitative research to help companies understand how customers articulate their feelings and expectations for high value CX and personalization. Named one of the Top 40 Digital Luminaries and one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Marketing.


  1. Hi Ernan: a couple of thoughts:

    1) Every customer is at-risk. There is no need to add the label. This is one of the fundamental mistakes I see executives make when they ask “which of our customers are ‘at risk’ for churn? Answer: all of them, so plan accordingly.

    2) Customer needs change, as you point out, but an additional mistake I commonly see is vendors hellbent on retention, even beyond the time their profitability tanks. An often-viable solution is for the vendor to cut bait and move on. When executives are fixated on reducing their churn, they often lose sight that some customers can’t be profitably served, and are better off buying from a different supplier.

  2. Andrew,
    Your point #1 is very true! All marketers should operate on the basis that every customer is at risk.
    Point #2; I agree with as long as profitability doesn’t become the single metric for encouraging churn and burn!
    Some customers are not profitable because their needs have not been well served, ie, they were not sold the right product/solution to begin with, or, the product/solution they have now, no longer fits their needs, but no one noticed and helped them get the right new product.
    Thanks for your comments!


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here