It happens to the best of us. A client may leave you for any number of reasons. It could be their cousin just began offering the same services you do. It could be your client isn't completely satisfied with your services. Or perhaps a competitor offered them an amazing deal to move their business. Whatever the reason, you may lose a client from time to time, and it's almost never easy.
But how can you make the best of a less-than-ideal situation? Are there steps you can take that make the process of losing a client less painful? Here are my tried-and-tested strategies for handling a departing customer.
1. Say thank you when you lose a client. (And mean it.)
Make sure your customer knows how much you appreciate having been able to serve them. Even though they're moving on, they supported you, and they deserve your appreciation.
In addition to being the right thing to do, it's also the classy way to end the relationship. If you're unpleasant when you lose a client, you may never have another shot at regaining their business—and it probably won't help your professional reputation.
2. Keep your door open to their future business.
Let your client know that they're always welcome to bring their business back to you, no questions asked. Since nobody can predict the future, you may want to make sure your customers know you'll happily take them back.
Being gracious and grateful lets your client leave without feeling guilty, which means they may be more likely to return to the fold if they're dissatisfied in the future.
3. Ask for permission to check in with them.
I recommend making a note to check in at both the 30-day and 90-day mark after you lose a client. Why do I reach out to the client instead of hoping my phone will ring? I've found that sometimes customers are embarrassed; even if they really want to come back, they may hesitate.
If there's an immediate problem with their new service provider, then I might get them back at the 30-day mark. But sometimes it takes a while for them to settle in (or not) and 90 days typically gets them past the transitional phase.
4. Spend your time finding new customers to replace the client you lost.
One of my favorite strategies is to figure out how much time my team and I spent serving a lost customer and dedicate that time to bringing in three new clients. Turning what could be perceived as a negative into something positive helps keep our focus on the future and all the great work we'll accomplish.
In some cases, I've managed to land new business that is even more profitable than what I've lost. Focusing on growing and not just replacing your lost client can help reinvigorate your company. Bonus: You won't be wasting energy on lamenting your loss.
5. Debrief your team and retool your approach.
Sometimes we lose a client because we didn't serve them as well as we should have. I think it's helpful to figure out where we failed and ensure it doesn't happen again.
Consider sitting down with your team and taking a good, hard look at what you can improve so you can retain and better serve your existing clients. Then you can develop a clear plan to address your company's shortcomings. By rethinking your approach, you may be able to come out stronger, better and more profitable.
6. Be grateful for the opportunity to have worked with that client.
This last step doesn't have anything to do with regaining the business you've lost. It has more to do with your mindset than about your bottom line.
Our customers put their faith, their trust and their dollars in us, and that's an awesome thing. Being grateful for the opportunity you've had—even if it's ending—can be healthier than resenting a customer who's leaving. Consider focusing on the positives, and looking forward to having more of them in the future.
Business relationships don't always last forever. They grow and evolve, just as our personal relationships do. I think the best you can do is to be the best version of your authentic self and strive to deliver excellent service to the customers you have. Your commitment to excellence may help you serve your existing customers well and bring you new ones in the future.
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