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You’ve just run your first Heartbeat and amongst all the super-valuable feedback, you see four customers at risk, sitting in the dashboard, looking at you in red.

“Now what?” you think to yourself, heart beating 1,000 beats/minute….

“What am I supposed to do now? How do I stop this at-risk customer from cancelling?”

Well, young Client Heartbeat customer, you’ve come to the right place. In this resource I’m going to be taking you through one of my best guides yet.

This guide takes you through my five-step Customer Retention Program that helps you turn an unhappy “at-risk” customer into a raving advocate.

Customer retention programs are designed to identify the problems that are causing customer unhappiness, offer solutions to solve them quickly, and then propose ongoing initiatives to win back trust and rebuild the relationship.

The benefit of implementing a well-structured and strategic customer retention program is that you can take any sticky situation (e.g., a customer is flaming at you and threatening to cancel), and turn it into a valuable situation where your customer regains trust, loves you again and actually starts referring new business to you.

Imagine that… your “at-risk” customers sending you referrals while you’re sitting back sipping your pina coladas in the Maldives.

To bring you back to reality, let’s take a look at some cold, hard research and statistics. A study by the White House Office of Consumer Affair tells us that statistically, an unhappy customer tells between nine and 15 people about their poor experience. The same study found that customers who get their issue resolved tell about four to six people about the positive experience.

That’s up to a 21-point change just by making sure that you resolve customer problems and complaints.

It’s not rocket science.

Right… I think that’s enough statistics to convince you that a customer retention program is super important. Here is what I’ll be going through in this resource.

Client Heartbeat Five-Step Customer Retention Program outline:

  • Step 1: Identify unhappy and at-risk customers using the Client Heartbeat dashboard.
  • Step 2: Organize a team meeting with account managers and employees who have direct contact with the customers.
  • Step 3: Follow up with specific customers with a phone call and sit-down meeting.
  • Step 4: Propose a “customer win-back” plan
  • Step 5: Implement these customer retention strategies to win back trust and rebuild relationships.

Step 1: Identify unhappy and at-risk customers using the Client Heartbeat dashboard.

This is the easiest step in my customer retention program. Jump inside your Client Heartbeat Dashboard, then browse down to your customers at risk. Print out these guys, and also print out their individual pages. Note some problems and key trends.

TIP: If you haven’t run your first Client Heartbeat survey yet, Sign Up for Client Heartbeat and run it today.

NOTE: I call your Client Heartbeat Survey your “Heartbeat” – so keep an eye out.

Step 2: Organize a team meeting with account managers and employees who have direct contact with the customers.

Once you’ve identified your at-risk customers, the next step in my customer retention program involves bringing together your team of account managers and employees so you can brainstorm ideas around why they have given you a poor rating.

This step needs to be completed for each customer at an individual level. I recently sat in on a business meeting at R&G Technologies (an IT Company) and got to see how they handle at-risk customers. What they do is address all at-risk customers during their monthly company meetings.

When all employees are in one room, Mimi Tan, Operations Manager, checks off each at-risk customer and opens up the room for discussions so the respective account manager and technicians can join in.

By golly, some interesting feedback comes out. More times than not, just by doing this quick, collaborative open discussion, you can quickly identify a couple of key events in the last period that have caused the sub-par ratings.

Without giving away the exact details, in the particular example I sat in on, it turned out that there was a mix-up in communication between the company and R&G. This led to a delay for the customer, and that impacted their business.

Step 3: Follow up with specific customers with a phone call and sit-down meeting.

So, now you have identified some possible problems, step three of my customer retention program instructs you to follow up with each specific customer with a phone call so you can try to arrange a sit-down meeting.

Sit-down meeting! I hear you yelling.

Yes, it’s important to show you care about your customers , so I recommend trying to meet them face to face.

When on the phone call, I suggest you thank them for their feedback, and tell them you take feedback seriously. Tell them that the feedback scores they gave you was below what you were looking for and ask some questions to try to dig a little deeper into why they gave you those particular scores.

Ask them, Why did you give us a rating of 6/10 for Accuracy?

From doing your little brainstorm earlier, you probably know exactly why, but it’s always better to hear it from the horse’s mouth. Your customer is always the best form of feedback, so make sure you listen to what they have to say.

After you’ve been all ears and listened to what impacted their scores, now it’s time to identify the problem areas. Use the feedback your customer just gave you, map it with the feedback from your staff and present a quick question that goes something like this:

“So, Joe, I understand that one of our technicians installed the wrong program (feedback from staff)… I can see how that has affected your opinion on our ability to get the job done right the first time (feedback from customer). Is that the only problem you’ve had with <insert your company>?”

With this short question, you are clarifying that you have the problem identified, and just checking if you’ve missed anything else.

Now that you have identified the problem, it’s time to come up with a solution to reassure your customer that this won’t happen again.

Since you’ve done some prep work prior to the meeting, you will have some ideas around a “customer win-back” strategy – this is covered in the next step.

Before I go to step four, let’s just recap the importance of following up with at-risk customers. This is an important step in your customer retention program and needs to be executed really well to ensure the next steps work.

Remember that you are doing all of this because it shows your customer that you care. You care about their business and you want to win it back. You want to keep them as a customer and you are doing everything in your means to make sure these problems stop occurring.

Customers love this extra personal attention – it goes a long way toward rebuilding customer satisfaction and leads to strong customer loyalty if completed well.

Step 4: Propose a “customer win-back” plan.

This step in my customer retention program is the pointy end of the stick, or the chocolate bit of an ice cream.

It’s the most important step . So make sure you’re taking notes.

You’ve identified at-risk customers, nailed down the problems that were impacting the poor feedback scores, and reassured your customers that the problems won’t happen again. Now it’s time to propose a “customer win-back” plan.

This is something I recommend all companies use as a way of asking for one more chance to regain the trust of their customer and strengthen the relationship.

Because let’s face it, you’ve let your customer down. Whether it was an inaccurate installation, a poor service that didn’t meet expectations or an implementation that didn’t follow guidelines, your customer is going to have a hard time trusting you again.

So, what I recommend is putting together some strict plans and guarantees for your contract moving forward. Let’s take an example of an IT Company.

The initial problem that caused the customer to be at risk was a result of poor service response times. The customer expectations agreed upon stated that the IT Company would fix the problems within four hours. For one reason or another, they had taken over 10 hours to get the problem fixed. This just wasn’t good enough and breached their service level agreements.

I recommend in this example, the company’s “customer win-back” plan must include strict SLAs and maybe even tie it to an incentive-based system. R&G Technologies have a refund policy based around their SLAs, so when they don’t meet them, the customer gets reimbursed.

Furthermore, tell them that if you breach them one more time, you’ll personally cancel the contract – that’s how confident you are that you will not let them down again. Your win-back plan might also include three to four other points as well. Other great things to include are additional services at no charge, free training on some new products, or two hours of free consulting. It can be something that is not going to blow your budget, but is a nice gesture to show that you care.

The key here is to show that you really care, show that you understand how important a high quality of service is to you, and that moving forward, you’re personally going to do everything in your means to make sure the level of service exceeds their expectations.

Most the time, your customer is happy to give you one more chance.

So if they do, it’s time to deliver. No more excuses… this is your final chance.

Step 5: Implement these customer retention strategies to win back trust and rebuild relationships.

The final step in my customer retention program involves implementing ongoing initiatives that are geared toward earning back trust, building customer loyalty and encouraging the customer to become a raving advocate who refers new business.

Must read: 9 customer retention strategies

I’m only going to include my favorite five customer retention strategies here, but please read this post for more.

Set customer expectations:

I touched on this earlier, and I want to elaborate further. Make sure customer expectations are set early and often. Customers always remember negative experiences, so don’t try and be a hero and set expectations too high. There is nothing that kills customer retention more than underdelivering on your promises.

Be the expert:

Businesses rely on you to deliver a specific product or service. I recommend doing more than just the bare minimum. When a customer asks you a related question within your area of expertise, answer it – offer advice for free. Let me explain this with an example. You’re an IT Company, and a customer asks you what mobile plan they should get. You don’t sell mobile plans, but as an IT Company, you’ve got a good grasp on what the customer needs. As the “expert on all things IT” you should relish this opportunity to help your customer. By doing this, they become dependent on your services way beyond the product you are selling. This leads to strong customer loyalty and is a proven customer retention strategy.

Implement anticipatory service:

Anticipatory service is a proactive approach to customer service. Instead of waiting for problems to occur, a company that implements anticipatory service can eliminate problems before they happen.

Let’s take a look at two examples of anticipatory service:

  • A major airline proactively texts customers to advise them of flight delays.
  • A corporate billing department alerts customers when an invoice is nearly due.

Go above and beyond:

This strategy involves going out of your way to help your customer.

If you read an article that might be of interest to a specific customer, share it with them! Send them a quick email, tell them that you were thinking of them and thought they might find value in it.

Additionally, you could invite them to a free training session. Put on a lunch, invite all your customers in and give them a full demo of your new products, provide training where necessary and just add a bit of value.

Turning customers into advocates

The little things go a long way toward building a healthy customer relationship. If you can execute on this recommended five-step customer retention program guide, you will not only save an at-risk customer from cancelling, but you put yourself in a tremendous position to turn these customers into advocates.

Customer advocates form the cornerstone of any business. They are talking billboards who spread positive word of mouth and send you qualified, hot referrals.

So remember, execution is key. A well-executed customer retention program can turn your unhappy customers into loyal, raving advocates.

Implement yours today.

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