Director of Customer Success
For any service or product company that relies on recurring billing, losing customers—even if it doesn't seem like you're losing many customers at first—can be devastating.
Most companies' first instinct is to spend large sums of money to attract new customers.
But focusing on winning customers back and improving retention can be much more useful if you want to increase customer lifetime value and revenue, especially in competitive industries.
That’s where a customer win-back strategy comes into play.
As the Director of Customer Success for Copper, I’ve seen what works best (and what doesn’t work) when you’re trying to win back customers.
In this post, we’ll tackle:
What is a customer win-back strategy?
A customer win-back strategy consists of tactics that businesses use to try and woo customers back through various marketing campaigns and tactics. That’s the basic premise—pretty simple.
There are a few types of “lost customers” who would need to be wooed back. They can be customers who have canceled, or their subscription expired. They could also simply be lapsed or disengaged customers who haven’t logged into your service in a while.
That's why win-back strategies are crucial.
A successful customer win-back strategy can be a huge boost for your business.
First of all, they’ve already expressed an interest in your product or service. It’s way easier convincing them to buy than cold-calling prospects who have never heard of you.
Finally, you already have a ton of information about the customer and how they use your service. You should have a gold mine of information in your CRM on your customers’ behavior and needs—this will help you hone your messaging and improve customer communication. More on that later...
A customer win-back caveat...
In my experience in Customer Success, the best customer win-back strategies are synonymous with customer retention. Why? Because by the time your customer is on the verge of leaving, it’s usually too late or extremely challenging to win them back.
The best win-back strategies are proactive and ongoing.
It begins the moment that a customer purchases your product or service. If your team can notice red flags early on and implement changes immediately (and these signs pop up typically months before a customer leaves), you’ll have a better chance of keeping them in the long run.
Know thy customer 🔍
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How to create your customer win-back strategy:
While the examples you'll see later on are great visuals of creative, well-done emails, they aren’t an effective long-term win-back strategy.
Like we mentioned earlier, the most successful customer win-back strategies aren’t focused on convincing clients to come back after they’ve left. It’s about identifying the moment they start to disengage and implementing a plan to woo them back — well before they defect.
Luckily, you should have a plethora of information in your CRM to help you.
1. Use data to create customer profiles.
Winning customers back hinges on understanding their needs.
Every customer service strategy should be based on what your customer is trying to achieve. At Copper, we call it their “desired outcome,” and your goal (whether you’re onboarding a new client or trying to win back an old one) is to understand what your customer needs and make sure your product or service helps them achieve it.
It goes without saying, but the desired outcome shouldn’t stay isolated in a document on someone’s hard drive—it should be shared across the entire team.
My team has a “success plan” for each customer located conveniently in Copper. It’s a comprehensive guide on the customer that includes their goals, who to contact, and which teams in their company are using Copper.
This is where healthy CRM habits—for your whole team—come into play. Here are a few tips:
- Create a CRM data plan: Create a plan for what type of customer data you want and where. It should include everything including common data points and where to log information.
- Be consistent: Every CRM user should record information diligently and immediately after each customer interaction.
- Customize your CRM: Cookie-cutter CRMs aren’t helpful; the more specific the information you have on each customer, the more personal the conversations you can have with them. For example, you can customize the fields in your CRM to match your company processes and internal lingo so they make more sense. For example, you can create a custom field for company size in Copper:
Pro-tip: A CRM with up-to-date information enables you to identify red flags early and act on them before customers cancel.
2. Identify the problem.
Within your CRM, you should be able to identify customers who are doing well (and not so well) with your product. We have a relatively easy time with this because we log activities and other notes regularly for our customers:
What does a successful customer look like? What about disengaged or unhappy customers?
Customers typically indicate their satisfaction through their behavior.
- Are they logging into your software?
- Returning phone calls and emails?
- Is their usage declining?
You can typically track usage and logins with your program’s analytics. Ask your Product team or developers to pull the information for you.
The industry standard is to use customer health scores of poor, average, and good. For example, at Copper, our health score is a mix of factors including log-in frequency, percentage of licenses being used and, product behaviors.
You can work with your developers or product team to pull this information — for SaaS companies, it’s often already being tracked as part of their analytics.
When we’re setting up calls with people who aren’t logging in anymore to get them back on track, we use the data and their goals as leverage to start the conversation. For instance:
“I know you’re trying to grow your sales, but I noticed you’re not logging into your CRM. I wanted to check in and see how I can help.”
You should also know the ROI or value of your product so that you can leverage it to engage lapsed or waning customers.
For example, say you sell ticketing software, and a customer wants to leave. You can say, “Typically companies like yours using our products sell 1,500 tickets every month. You’re only selling about 500 tickets when you’re not using our software, meaning you’re missing out on $15,000 in sales."
It’s powerful, personalized, and compelling.
4. Talk to your customers. Regularly.
You should be in touch with your customer frequently enough that you know the minute something is awry. Are you scheduling monthly or quarterly check-ins? Following up on any customer service issues or complaints to make sure the issue was resolved?
You can set processes in place in your CRM to ensure consistent customer communication. For example, create recurring tasks to check in weekly, monthly or quarterly with different customers to ensure they’re happy with their product or service.
In Copper, we'd just go to your Tasks, where we can see all the recurring tasks we have and add new tasks too:
Pro-tip: Consistent communication with your team and your customers is the ultimate customer win-back strategy.
Examples of win-back strategies
The majority of customer win-back campaigns use email. Push and SMS or text notifications are also popular, but these can be a little more intrusive and might annoy customers who are already flight risks.
Because of that, email tends to be the more commonly used channel—it’s also easy to personalize and lets you speak directly to your customer without being too annoying.
Let's look a few examples of email customer win-back campaigns.
Grammarly’s win-back strategy
Grammarly created a campaign targeting lapsed customers—a perfect example of being proactive and trying to win back customers well before they leave. Their criteria or target group were people who had downloaded the Grammarly extension but hadn’t used it in a while:
Why this works:
The Grammarly email is personalized and targeted towards their behavior. It provides the “incentive” of The Wrinkle In Time Badge, a fun nod to their playful brand. It also has a clear, bright call to action that leaves no room for confusion on what the next step should be.
Polyvore’s win-back strategy
You could also be like Polyvore and address the problem directly:
Why it works:
This email is a stellar example of addressing a customer pain point. In this case, Polyvore's hypothesis was that customers weren’t engaging because of a shopping budget (or rather, a lack of it). So, instead of advertising a new product, they created a “conversation” that offered an alternative solution, promoting their sale instead.
It’s tailored directly to their audience and addresses the potential reason why they left in a creative, conversational way.
Skillshare’s win-back strategy
This is a more traditional example that could be used for B2B or B2C:
Why it works:
This is a more traditional example that could be used for both B2B and B2C. It highlights the benefits and value of Skillshare Premium to entice users back. It works because the language directly addresses their absence (“Ready to get back to learning…”) and gives them an incentive (a discount) to sign back up.
Start winning customers back before they even think of leaving.
Customer success, customer win-back, retention — whatever you want to call it, the basic premise is the same. There is no trick, campaign, or fancy wording that can “win back” customers if they’re truly unhappy with your service.
Every phase of the customer journey, from first contact to onboarding and ongoing support, should be designed with a long-term view in mind. That's how you'll win them back continuously, before they ever consider leaving.
Focus on making your customers happy.