Business in decline? Start calling your customers back

Reaching out to wayward customers will reinvigorate your sales and allow you to do a lot of market research

Grant was on the ground yelling as I came around the corner at high speed on my mountain bike at dusk. He had flown off his bike instead of hitting a moose standing on the trail. I skidded to avoid him.

I could still see two moose, a cow and her year-old calf, on the trail about 75 yards up and could hear the third crashing in the bush.

After determining that Grant was okay, except for a few bruises and being a little shook up from the close encounter, I decided to try my moose call. As I called, the cow moose turned and looked at us. And then, amazingly, she started slowly walking toward us. Astonished at my moose-calling ability, I called again. The cow came to within 20 yards and stopped to eat some branches. I called her again, and this time she came with her calf and stopped just 10 feet from where Grant was on the ground.

A couple months ago, one of my clients ran into trouble with her business. She came to me complaining about slow sales. She felt discouraged after previously having several months of sales growth. Now she hadn’t heard from some of her customers and was afraid that some of the business changes she recently made had scared them off. Or had the competition won over her customers?

We discussed possible reasons for the sales slump and came up with a number of solutions to help rebound the sales (if you would like my list of how you can wow your customers back, email me). The best option for this client was to call her customers. She made a comprehensive list of all the customers she hadn’t heard from for a while and started contacting them. She invited them back with a great offer.

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How often do you hear of businesses that were thriving but end up closing forever? In the past year alone, Sears, Toys “R” Us and Wholesale Sports have announced that they’re closing. Others are having significant trouble. And small businesses nationwide are struggling with the threat of competition.

But in many of the cases where a business is forced to shut down, if the owners or management had come up with a strategy to call their customers back early enough, they could have avoided the heartbreak and loss that accompanies business failure.

If businesses have a system of consistently reaching out to past customers to find out where they’ve gone, why they left and how they could be enticed to return, the avalanche towards business doom can be stopped.

By reaching out to wayward customers, we can not only reinvigorate our sales, we can do a lot of market research. We can learn about the ways in which our competition is surpassing us that will help us understand the thought processes of our customers. And we can put into place a plan that rebuilds relationships and value.

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So how much is a business worth?

Most businesses don’t do this because it takes effort. It’s easier to complain about our losses than to do something significant.

As the moose came dangerously close to us, I told Grant to get up and keep his bike between himself and the moose. Afraid now that Grant might be charged and end up in worse shape than just bruises from his fall, I yelled to scare the moose off. As they rushed off into the bush, Grant and I got on our bikes and headed home.

My client’s calls worked to get her customers back and her stress levels dropped. I’m happy to report that she was able to draw them back to her establishment before they had wandered too far off her path.

What about you? When was the last time you reached out to those customers you haven’t heard from for a while? What’s stopping you from calling them back?

Dave Fuller, MBA, is an award-winning business coach and a partner in the firm Pivotleader Inc. For interview requests, click here.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the authors’ alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

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