Remember Me?

Back Into the Fold

A friend of mine who runs a dry cleaning business started going through one of his file cabinets not too long ago. In it, he found paperwork with more than 2,000 names of people who had used his services over the past nine years but no longer did. His "dead customer" list was gradually growing, and he hadn't even realized it.

He decided to reactivate as many of these customers as possible. He and some of his employees put together a list of these lost customers and began making phone calls. They wanted to learn why these people had stopped using their services. In addition to the "why did you stop" question, they also found out as much as possible about who these people were, what kinds of cleaning needs they had, and where they lived and worked.

They asked these former customers to reconsider doing business with them. They mentioned the fact that they had a reliable pickup and delivery service and a host of other features that were either free or reasonably priced. Plus, they sent them a coupon worth $10 off their next cleaning order that had to be used within 30 days.

To make a long story short, they increased their business by about 22 percent by simply asking former customers to return. Without lowering their prices, they increased their business because they stressed the value they give their customers and demonstrated attention to detail. They were determined, motivated and sincere in their desire to "win 'em back."

It's important to keep current customers happy and contact them regularly. But don't overlook the ones who've slipped away or who've never materialized. Take a little time to cultivate and reactivate, and those UFLs just may return as loyal customers.

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This article was originally published in the July 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Remember Me?.

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