Win Back the Customers You Lost in the Recession


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In the erratic economy of these past years, you probably have customers who have left you. Many had no choice. It was about the economy — not about you.

Many are ready to return IF you just ask them.

But before reaching out, you need a well thought-out plan to win back these lost customers. And that begins by defining the term “win back.” The Direct Marketing Association tells us, “A win back is a dormant customer who begins to purchase again due to a targeted sales and marketing effort.”

Are you ready to win back a lot of lost customers? Here’s a five-step plan get you there:

Step #1: Conduct Your Win-back Opportunity Analysis

  • How many inactive and lost customers do you have?
  • When did they leave?
  • Why did they leave?
  • Where did they go?
  • How much impact do these lost customers have on your revenue?
  • What amount of incremental revenue could you reasonably expect to earn by implementing win-back programs?

Use your customer database and purchase records to identify those customers that have stopped buying from you.

Next, segment your lost customers into groups based on potential ROI. For example:

  • Number and segmentation of lost and dormant customers
  • Segmentation based on highest potential win-back customer candidates
  • Win-back spending levels and corresponding incremental revenue projections

This phase of work is the most vital you will do around customer win-back. That’s because your strategies and tactics should be based on solid analytics from data about your lost customers. Once this phase of work is complete, you will know the impact of lost customers on your business and the payback potential for winning them back.

Step 2: Assess Your Firm’s Win-back Readiness

How equipped is your firm today to implement a win-back strategy?

To begin to answer this question, look at certain key areas in your firm that are important to win-back success:

  • Frontline employee capabilities
  • Customer listening posts
  • Techniques for rapid trust reinstatement
  • Service recovery protocols
  • Customer defection data collection
  • Customer complaint collection
  • At risk customer profiling

It’s important you access your firm’s readiness, adjust performance gaps and prepare your organization for win-back success.

Step 3: Prepare Your Win-back Blueprint

  • What win-back programs will provide your firm the shortest time to revenue?
  • What is the specific action plan and roadmap?

This is the “how” part of the strategy – you’ll need to custom design a comprehensive win-back action plan for your firm that outlines key objectives and the action programs supporting them. This written plan will outline in detail a comprehensive roadmap for your organization. It covers what each group or department will do, when, how and in what sequence, and with what win-back tools – and ties the whole program together to be the most effective for you.

Your ‘shortest time to revenue’ plan should address all critical roadmap issues including:

  • Communication vehicles and creative briefs
  • Re-approach messaging
  • Contact frequency
  • Sales, Marketing and Customer Experience deployment plans and responsibility assignments
  • Revenue forecast timeline
  • Budget requirements
  • Testing strategies
  • Reporting benchmarks

The Win-Back Blueprint is just that: The detailed plans for implementing a win-back programs that generates incremental revenue in the shortest time.

Step Four: Implement Your Win-back Plan

  • You’ve got the plan, now how do you execute it for greatest results in the least time?
  • Who does what and when to optimize results?

In addition to creating and testing multiple win-back offers, implementation activities may include:

  • Identifying emotions that bond reactivated buyers deeply to your firm and choreographing customer experiences around these emotions
  • Mobilizing and managing a win-back team—whether temporary or permanent
  • Designing and executing direct mail campaigns including letters, brochures, postcards, etc.
  • Designing and implementing social media campaigns
  • Designing and implementation of email campaigns
  • Writing scripts for contact center personnel
  • Planning and scripting for in-person sales calls to use with targeted accounts
  • Front line training on serving newly regained customers

Step Five: Evaluate Your Win-back Results

How do you measure, evaluate and refine your win-back program?

Experience is a great teacher and that’s why every one of your win-back action programs should be measured and monitored for success. You’ll want to track results and, in doing so, look for opportunities to alter existing protocols and programs to maximize your ROI.

Your continuous improvement auditing should include:

  • Latest win-back offer redemption rates by segment and test cell
  • Revenue generated from win-back offers and ROI
  • Cost per customer regained
  • Post purchasing habits of reactivated customers

This is the pivotal step to making your win-back programs as optimized and effective as possible . This step provides you with the measurement that your win-back programs are working and creating significant incremental revenue and meaningful ROI.

Know this: A lost customer is not a lost cause! Studies show you have a higher likelihood to successfully sell a lapsed customer than a new prospect. Think of lost customers as hidden treasure and start digging now!

For Jill’s free tutorial, “Customer Win-Back Bloopers: What Not To Do When Reactivating Lost Customers, click here:

Jill Griffin
Griffin Group
Jill Griffin is a "Harvard Working Knowledge" author of three books on customer loyalty. She serves as public board director for Luby's Cafeterias, Fuddruckers and Jimmy Buffets' Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurants. Microsoft, Dell, Marriott Hotels, Ford, Toyota, Wells Fargo, IBM, Subaru are a few of the clients served since she hung out her "Loyalty Maker" shingle in 1988. Jill delivers customized keynotes worldwide. Sign up for her monthly loyalty tip at


  1. Thanks for this great post, Jill! I enjoyed reading it. If you might be interested, I also wrote a piece on churn rate and customer reactivation that might be helpful, which also gives you my perspective on it.
    Let me know if you want to check it out and i’ll post the link here.
    Have a good one!


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