Customers are the livelihood of a business. While you can't expect to keep every customer you ever had (in fact, researchers say many companies will lose up to 40 percent of their customers per year), that doesn't mean you should just stand by idly as they walk away. A letter to bring back old customers can be an effective and inexpensive way to do just that.

When to Write a Letter

There are generally two scenarios in which you may lose a customer and hope to get her back, and how you write your letter will vary based on the scenario. The first is when a customer has left to use a competitor's product or service because they offer better rates, better customer service or some other benefit over your business. The second is when your company has done something to upset the customer, causing her to stop patronizing your business.

If you are hoping to sway a customer to try your company again after she left you for another business, your "losing a client" letter should emphasize services you may offer that your competitor does not or offer a special promotion or incentive to get the customer to try your product or service again. On the other hand, when you have done something to drive your customer away, you need to address that fault and apologize in a "sorry to lose your business" letter, although also offering a promotion to bring back the customer can help your case.

Before writing your letter, you should do some research as to why your customer left. You could survey the individual if you're focused on one particular client, or you could survey a subset of ex-customers to find out why they stopped doing business with you and look for a pattern. If you find that most customers have left for one particular reason, it is OK to send a form letter addressing this problem as long as you are aware that what you write will not apply to everyone and may even drive a small subset of customers away for good if they feel you have not addressed their needs.

What to Include

Tell the client you miss his business and then address the reason he left. If customers have been leaving to try a competitor's service because they offer lower prices, remind them that while your prices are not the lowest in the industry, you believe they are fair and that you offer unrivaled levels of customer service. If there was a mistake or problem on your end that upset customers, acknowledge the mistake, assure you will do better and let them know what you will do to prevent the problem from happening again in the future.

While not mandatory, you're more likely to get customers to return to your company by offering an incentive such as a discount on products or free enrollment in a premium service. Alternatively, sometimes a letter simply saying that you're sorry to see your customer go can be an effective reminder that you care, and it may be enough to get him to return, especially if you offer better customer service than your competitors, and the letter reminds him of your dedication to your clients.

Be sure to finish the letter on an upbeat note, further reminding the client why he might miss your service. Also let him know that even if he chooses not to return, you will be happy to hear any comments he might have as to how you could improve since this may help you retain other customers later on.

Losing a Client Letter Example

Dear Mr. Stanley,

I am sorry to hear that you recently closed your accounts with Franklin National Bank. I understand that you notified the branch manager that a new teller at the Main Street branch continued trying to push you into opening a new savings account after you clearly stated you were not interested. While we train our staff to inform customers about new services that may benefit them, we obviously need to better instruct them on accepting the word "no." We have since talked to the teller and have changed our training materials, so this kind of pushy sales tactic will hopefully be a thing of the past.

While I am not sure with what institution you have since started banking, I am genuinely sad to see you go. Here at Franklin National, our slogan is "customers are family," and we truly feel that way, which is why we pride ourselves on offering the best possible customer service. While we let you down by not limiting the number of times a teller can discuss a product, we hope you may consider returning to our bank in the future so we can help you meet your financial goals. If you decide to return in the next 60 days, I will personally see to it that you are added to our Super Checking Program, which offers a 3 percent APR and is normally only open to those who have a minimum balance of $15,000.

If you have any questions about the Super Checking Program or would like to discuss how we could better assist you, I would be happy to talk to you at any time. You can reach me on my cell phone at (555) 555-9999 or by emailing me at [email protected].

Tips on Writing Your Letter

If you're looking to give your letter a personalized touch, it can help to open it with something unique to that particular client. An example could be wishing her a happy birthday or anniversary, inquiring about a problem she encountered while she was still doing business with you (such as a broken leg) or asking if she plans to take part in an activity in which you know she is usually interested (like a charity run).

As a gesture of goodwill, you may try to offer your customer a benefit that does not require her to come back to your company, particularly if she left as a result of your mistake. For example, you could offer her a gift card to Starbucks, or if you are a company that deals with other businesses, you may refer them clients. Be sure to mention that there are no strings attached and that you just want to make things right. This will not always bring back the customer, but it will usually at least leave her feeling good about you, which might even result in her referring you to someone else.

Do not wait too long to write your letter. If you truly feel your company is better than the competition, you may want to give your client time to see that your service is superior, but still don't wait too long. Research shows that customers are more likely to come back to a company after a short lapse than a long one, which makes sense because if you wait too long, they may forget what they liked about your service or product in the first place.