Getting Back Lost Customers

Over the weekend, someone (not in retailing) asked me a very good question.  "If you make me mad and I stop coming into your store, how do you know?  Can you ever get my business back?" 

OK, that’s two questions.  But it’s one thought.  How do you find out about lost customers and get them back?  Some people are blessed with an excellent memory.  They notice when a favorite customer hasn’t been in for a while.  For the rest of us, there needs to be a device that triggers action when we haven’t seen someone in a month, or two months, or whatever the buying-cycle happens to be.

Fortunately there is such a device.  It’s called a point of sale system.  Hopefully you have one and if you do, you have it programmed to deliver a list of dormant customers; those who haven’t bought anything during a period of time that you specify.  It has to be a period that you specify, because different businesses expect to see their customers at different intervals.

For example, if you were in the grocery business, you would probably expect to see your best customers at least once a week.  If they miss two weeks, they might be out of town, maybe on vacation.  At three weeks, it’s time to take some action.

On the other hand, if you’re a tax preparer, you might only see some customers once each year.  Your early warning system might only spit out a report once each year, possibly in the middle of March.  For a car dealer, the cycle could be even longer.

You can automate your list to produce a letter to the AWOL customers, basing the offer on previous purchases.  Or, you can be more personal by creating a list with phone numbers and purchase history.  Then you can call them personally, giving them a reason to come and see you.  In either case, you must ask the question, "Is there something we’ve done to keep you from coming in?"  In many cases, the customer won’t volunteer that information.  You have to ask.  Just the fact that you’re contacting them will bring a lot of customers back.

A retail point of sale system can do a lot of things.  Many times the full potential isn’t being used.  If you aren’t using your system as a way to spot missing customers so you can get them back, you’re leaving money on the table.  Contact your supplier for help.  If you aren’t using a POS, we recommend that you look into getting one.  Used correctly, they’ll pay for themselves many times over.

Here’s a link to an earlier post on POS systems.

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