It’s going to happen at some point—you’re going to lose customers. The reasons can vary widely, from things that are outside your control, like premium increases, to processing errors made by a staff member, or personal gaffes like unintentionally offending someone.
While it’s wise to let time pass for any uncomfortable feelings to dissipate, it’s also a good idea to re-approach those customers down the road to see if you can woo them back. A lost lead is still a lead; they may just need special handling when it comes to working them.
Here is an eight-step process that can help you regain trust and reestablish a business relationship:
1. Acknowledge what happened
The first step in any good apology is to acknowledge the other person’s feelings. While it might be tempting to gloss over the past, recognizing their feelings is an essential part of the process for the person who may feel slighted.
The amount of time you spend on this step should be commensurate with your level of culpability. In other words, a premium increase might only need a brief mention (“I know your premium rose quite a bit last May…”) while an inappropriate remark will require a fuller acknowledgement. (“I know that I offended you with my off-color statement the last time we spoke, and that you were very taken aback at my insensitive comment.”)
2. Take responsibility
Again, the amount of responsibility you assume should be proportionate to your role in whatever occurred. If you made the comment, it’s entirely yours to own. For a rate increase, you can take responsibility for not warning the client or offering alternatives to help keep the increase down. If someone in your office messed up, it won’t be helpful to throw them under the bus. Your former customer wants accountability, not blame.
3. Apologize sincerely
Be sure to say “I’m sorry.” If your actual apology is sandwiched between acknowledgement and explanation, this short phrase is all you need.
4. Discuss what you’ve learned.
Take a sentence to reflect on what you’ve learned and how it made you think differently. This demonstrates growth and cements the idea that you have taken true responsibility for whatever it was that caused the breach between you and your customer.
5. Discuss changes made to fix the problem
Lay out the specific steps you have taken to correct whatever went wrong. (“We now have a second person check the most current policy exclusions so we can ensure that we’re always giving out the correct information.” Or “I have done some serious soul-searching and have sought out and read several articles to further my understanding of the issues related to…”)
This is an especially important step in the process because it reassures your lost lead that they will have a different experience going forward. (Note that this is only possible after you have made the effort to learn from your mistakes. If you’re not there yet, you should hold off on reaching out.)
6. Make a formal ask
This is where you begin to shift the conversation by making a direct ask. What you should ask for—which might be their business, their consideration or their acceptance of your apology—will depend based on the amount of damage you are trying to repair. Sometimes you’ll have to take baby steps to win them back.
7. Offer an incentive
If you can, include some kind of incentive. This could be something like offering to buy them a cup of coffee and sit down to discuss their situation, or preparing a new set of price quotes, etc. The feeling should be that there is no obligation on their end, just that you have something helpful to offer now, and you hope they will take you up on it.
8. Remind them of what worked well in the past
Close on an upbeat note when you can. Include a mention of some positive aspect of your previous association, whether it’s the number of years you were their agent, or a commonality you have, like your mutual love of the closest NFL team. Whether you’re using email, a letter, or a phone call, you want the last impression to be good.
Reactivating lost leads is a process that can be one good way to build your book. Another is to sign up to receive leads generated and qualified within minutes by Hometown Quotes. Call us at 800-820-2981, and we’ll get you set up to start receiving fresh leads today.