What’s the usual advice for reactivating past customers?
Send ’em a special offer with a discount, right?
Yet this strategy produces underwhelming results for most health and wellness businesses.
Why? Well, here’s why health and wellness businesses lose customers:
- About 70% leave because they never felt connected to your business
- About 15% leave because your products and services missed the mark
- About 10% leave because they got a better price or better terms and conditions elsewhere
(The remaining 5% died or moved away.)
Now you see the problem with a special offer: it only attracts the 10% who weren’t happy with your prices. And these aren’t even the customers you should invest in reactivating. They’ll leave again, as soon as they find a better offer.
Instead, invest in winning back the customers who really WANT your business to succeed for them.
Winback is an everyday task – not an occasional initiative when your revenues are falling short.
Below, we explain the two principles of successful customer reactivation programs and give you a list of targeted reactivation tactics:
Principle #1: Customer feedback is an everyday priority
Getting structured, formal customer feedback should be a scheduled daily priority for your management team.
Why? You’ll develop a customized profile for your business of why your customers leave. Then, you can create purposeful customer retention and winback action plans based on that profile.
Email surveys are cheap and efficient, but they’re not always as effective as a live conversation. So pick up the phone and actually talk one-on-one with a sample of customers, too.
And don’t overlook simple tools like suggestion boxes and comment cards.
Combine all the data from different sources. Analyze it to find patterns. You’ll use these patterns to choose appropriate winback tactics.
(A common mistake: surveying only former customers, instead of getting ongoing feedback from current customers.
This is like ignoring your high fever, chills, cough and shortness of breath until you’re finally hospitalized with pneumonia. Retention is cheaper and easier than reactivation, so do your business a favor and get feedback from your existing clients and members early and often.)
Principle #2: Winback is not one-size-fits-all
Customer reactivation is not a one-size-fits-all project. Customers leave for different reasons, so you have to identify the problem you’re solving.
Choose reactivation techniques that target those specific reasons. We’ve got a list below of sample reactivation techniques for each of the most common reasons customers leave health clubs, wellness centers, yoga studios and conventional, complementary and alternative healthcare practices.
Tip: If you use email feedback surveys, you can easily send a highly targeted reactivation communication specifically to those people who said in the survey that they weren’t happy with your group fitness programs, or felt your staff wasn’t very friendly.
Principle #3 Recency matters
Your reactivation tactics should vary based on how recently your target customers actually patronized your business.
You want to know right away why a regular customer isn’t stopping by anymore. Are they mad? Are their feelings hurt? Lost their job? Has their schedule changed? You can potentially address some of these reasons immediately, especially if they start to reveal a pattern that applies to numerous customers.
On the other hand, Life Time Fitness emailed a winback discount offers to people who hadn’t been members for over two years. When that much time has passed, a “what’s new here” postcard with an invitation to a free and useful seminar (not a sales pitch) is probably a better place to start.
Why? First, because two years later, many of those emails probably weren’t even valid anymore. Second, because you need to really excite people about coming back. A discount email isn’t nearly as eye-catching as a great postcard talking up all the new workout possibilities!
Targeted winback strategies
What are your former customers telling you about why they left, either directly or via reviews?
These are our recommendations for tackling the most common relationship-breakers:
1) Didn’t feel a sense of connection with your business
Your goal here is to create a sense of community and a feeling that each customer is recognized as an individual, not just a punch card or barcode.
To encourage a sense of connection:
- Send an email newsletter, not just hard-sell email marketing promotions
- Include customer questions, answered by other customers
- Tell customer stories—not just “good news” fluff, but real-life human interest stories about how people overcame challenges or seize opportunities
- Share customer and client pictures on your website
- Share “customer of the month” stories
- Personally invite customers to free online or in-person events that they’ll find valuable, based on what you know about their interests (notice that this is different or in addition to a bulk invite to all members!)
- Host events that encourage customer-to-customer connections, not just customer-to-staff connections
- Celebrate achievements—client milestones, maintaining progress, annual customer anniversaries, etc.
- Plan initiatives to encourage current customers to reach out to former customers
- And of course, continually solicit formal and informal feedback from customers – and take action on it!
2) Felt that your staff and/or business didn’t care about them
Three issues bubble up in this category:
First, hiring mistakes:
You’re hiring cheap unskilled labor that, in fact, doesn’t know how to do much and really doesn’t care about your customers. Turnover is high. The fix here is to realize that you’re not saving money by hiring employees who drive away your customers.
Second, failure to train on key service skills:
Many health and wellness professionals have excellent technical skills and poor client and customer service skills.
They know how many calories clients should eat, or where the supraspinatus is located—but they stare, arms folded, into the distance while clients lie on the floor struggling through their final set of crunches.
Or they treat client time as unimportant, running late or constantly rescheduling appointments.
The key here is to identify the client and customer service skills which are most important in your business and either hire for those skills or plan to invest time and money in helping your employees acquire those skills.
Some health clubs have even created a customer charter or bill of rights that emphasizes the importance of client service.
Ask members and clients for input on what they want to see in staff members. If they have ongoing relationships with staff members, it’s also appropriate to invite clients to provide input into staff performance reviews. That’s especially valuable in a corporate wellness setting.
Third, failure to run the business like a business:
Here are some very efficient ways to tick off customers and inspire them to write one-star reviews:
- Insistence on rigidly applying a policy
- A stubborn refusal to cut loyal customers reasonable slack
- Last-minute class cancellations (especially if you also charge a no-show fee or refuse admittance if folks are even a minute or two late!)
- Sudden reduction in business hours announced only by a sloppy sign on the door
- A spontaneous decision to close early because it’s sunny
- Opening late because of a doctor’s appointment or other personal matter
- A manager who chats on the phone or with other employees while customers wait for help
- Ridiculous months-long delays in cancelling memberships or correcting billing errors
3) Felt that your programs and services fell short
The most common issues in this category:
Your health club’s equipment is frequently out of service. Your facility is tired, dirty and/or disorganized. Gum is stuck in the cupholders. The toilets are frequently stopped-up. Your billing is inaccurate or late. Your trainers or instructors aren’t good at adapting to individual client concerns.
Examples of how to respond:
- Acknowledge problems and announce actions to fix problems – for example, hiring a “green” cleaning service or a facility refurbishment
- Invite customers to join a customer panel and provide feedback on desirable staff qualities
- Invite clients of individual staff members to provide input into the performance review process
Your yoga studio only offers advanced yoga classes, you only offer basic yoga classes, you only offer one kind of yoga. You only offer evening classes. Your wellness center has only treadmills and ellipticals. You have only selectorized equipment. You have only barbells. Your group fitness class lineup never changes.
Examples of how to respond:
- Add more variety, for real.
- Send an email or postcard communicating “what’s new here” to your current and former customers
- Use surveys and suggestion boxes to help prioritize new programs and modifications to existing services
- Invite former customers to an open house to sample new programs or equipment
- Make a “roadmap” of what you’re planning to add over the next 6-12 months AND communicate it!
Your wellness center only offers women’s weight loss programs. Your corporate wellness program doesn’t have a solution for remote offices. Your weight loss program has no nutritionists, only personal trainers. Your weight loss program has only nutritionists, no personal trainers. You offer sports performance but no rehab or injury prevention programs.
Examples of how to respond:
- Sharpen your marketing message. If folks are expecting one thing, but getting another, your communication with your prospects is flawed. Half the challenge of customer retention is clear communication about what your business is and isn’t, so you end up with only those customers who actually want what you offer.
- If you do plan to fill these gaps, see our tips in the “Variety” section above.
- If you don’t plan to do these things, ever, look for a strategic relationship with another business or program that you can refer these customers to. Win/win!