Barry Urquhart

Look For and Find “Lost” Customers

Businesses burn customers. Often unintended. A considerable percentage are not recognised or registered.

In all cases it is expensive and a cost of doing business. Lost customers, their revenues and contributions to profits need to be replaced – and fast. Demands on cash-flows dictate it. Aspirations for growth in overall numbers of customers, transactions, revenue, profits and the like have to overcome the contractions inflicted by customer attrition.

Interestingly, few entities have formulated, documented and implemented strategies and tactics to address, neutralise and redress these realities.

Truly, this is a drag on commerce, efforts and growth initiatives.
Customer attrition is typically not planned. Disturbingly, the presence and consequences are equally not addressed and redressed in a disciplined, planned manner.


COVID-19, the pandemic declaration, lockdowns and social distancing have, collectively, impacted society at large, lifestyles, buying patterns and commerce. It is reflected in many statistics.

As a sweeping generality, many sensitive trading entities have long forecast and budgeted for a “churn-rate” (read client attrition) of around 20% per annum. The actual figures vary between sectors, entities, geographic localities. However, a doubling of traditionally accepted rates has not been uncommon during the pandemic.

Some in business accept such as a reality – an inevitability. Their attendant focus tends to be client/customer “farming”, enticement, canvassing and development.

Seasoned and hardened professionals accept the intensive and extensive investment required to “win” and to establish positive relationships and the maintenance of new customers and clients.

At the turn of the millennium (the year 2000) and at the time of the release of my two books on service excellence, “Serves You Right! and Service Please!”, detailed research established that it was some six times easier, cheaper and faster to retain clients than it was to induce new customers onto the books.

The vagaries of the coronavirus and the innate transactional nature of many online transactions have elevated that ratio to ten times or more.

Estimates on the lifetime value and the duration of mutually rewarding ongoing relationships have changed significantly. In many instances interactions are appropriately measured transaction by transaction.

Forlorn and low expectations of loyalty, referral and repeat business abound.


Notwithstanding the high velocity and volume of client attrition, it is evident from consumer (individual and corporate) feedback, behaviour, perceptions and expressions, that many service providers lack disciplined, structured and supported follow-up and follow-through initiatives.

Many business leaders readily accept the loss of customers as a reality of doing business. Few conduct exit interviews to identify key causal factors and to isolate the scope and opportunities for formatting, documenting and implementing remedial and recovery campaigns.

The presence and power of the known unknown is facilitated and accentuated by a lack of investigation, analysis and counter-business development initiatives.
Ignorance is not a virtue. It is expensive. And, above all, unnecessary and should be avoided. Initiating personal contacts is a sound first step.


A concerted effort to reacquaint with past clients who have been “lost” during the past 12, 24 and 36 months can be fulfilling, rewarding and financially beneficial.

It is usually a rich pool of “new” demand, revenue and profits. Many past acquaintances have been exposed to poor, lesser and unsatisfactory experiences. Their assessment of relevant values and service standards can be in one’s favour.

Encouragingly, that suggests buying cycles are shortened. Responses are quicker and more definitive. Hence cash-flows are accelerated.

As a further interesting aside and insight, there is the rapid obsolescence of client lists and data bases. People do change addresses, mobile numbers, employment, and life circumstances. Within 9 months active client lists and data bases can be reduced by as much as 60%.

Hence, be sensitive and responsive to the attrition of company records and information. Aging occurs to accounts, Big Data and general information.


Like past clients, a significant percentage of market research respondents are flattered to be asked about their opinions, values, beliefs, perceptions and intentions. They are emotional responses, and foster self-belief of personal importance and relevance.

That can be a pure subliminal force, which fosters and encourages conversations. Indeed, word of mouth can, and should be a deliberate strategy.

Regularly talking to, and interacting with existing, prospective and past clients, do that. Marketing is, after all, founded on opportunism, communication and satisfying needs.

Customers need to be valued, respected and listened to.


Strategies, tactics and actions that seek to address and redress high and increasing customer attrition rates need to be planned, monitored, analysed, refined, extended and supported.

Moreover, they should ideally be scheduled, reviewed and measured for efficiency and effectiveness.

Customer attrition is a cost of doing business, with little or no returns. Remedial actions can be resource-intense and relatively expensive. However, the returns are typically substantial and ongoing. It’s called cost/benefit equation.

All strategic plans need to be reviewed, to ensure that these essential elements have been considered, documented, integrated and implemented. It is invariably a rewarding experience. However, those initiatives can’t afford to be random, casual and considered time-fillers during downtime periods.


Client attrition should never be assigned to being an attribution circumstance. That is, being part of the nature of doing business.  “Churn-rates” represent opportunities and scope for retraining, broadening and extending customer bases. Indeed, given the cost/benefit ratios addressed earlier in this text, they can reasonably be deemed to be an attractive primary target audience. History and countless case studies have established that, retrieved “lost” customers can typically and readily be converted to be strong advocates and ambassadors.

On sporting arenas, coaches are inclined to loudly and repeatedly recite “the game is not lost until the final siren is sounded”.

Play on.

Barry Urquhart
Business Strategist
Marketing Focus
M:        041 983 5555