Lost Customer Research: 6 Project Planning Tips

July 24, 2012

Last week, I wrote a blog post on five facts your company should consider when determining whether or not a lost customer research project is a worthwhile investment of your resources. This week, I will share six lost customer research project planning tips.

  • Before launching a lost customer research initiative, you should come up with a list of key objectives for the research. This will help you guide the direction of the research. One factor you must remember is that you will probably only get one chance to talk to these lost customers, so it is important to collect any “must know” information while you have their attention. It is worth investing some time analyzing what you already know about your lost customers before planning out the research project, so that you can make the most of this research effort.
  • You should make sure that all project stakeholders are on the same page with the objectives of the project, time commitments, and approach. This will ensure that there is clarity around the purpose and a clear business case that everyone agrees upon for the project and related expenses.
  • Interviews are generally the best medium to collect detailed lost customer information. The main instance where this will not be true is when you are trying to learn information about a broad audience and the depth of information needed is low. Interviews allow you to drill down into the responses that interest you the most, and they tend to have higher response rates and provide higher quality data than the other mainstream option, a more online detailed survey. However, they are much more resource intensive to complete, as I described in an earlier post in this series. So you will have to do a cost benefit analysis to see which approach makes the most sense for the research objectives you have identified. My next blog post will provide an overview of the various research design factors that you can play with to improve response rates and the quality of the data collected to find the perfect balance to satisfy your research goals.
  • You should have a good sense as to who each of your company’s competitors are and why customers have decided to cancel their contracts prior to asking them to participate in your research. This will help you facilitate a succinct and structured interview or survey. Cancellation reasons should be collected from theses customers at the point of cancellation if possible. Often sufficient information can be captured by the sales or support team who last dealt with a customer. However, this information can sometimes be biased to prevent disclosure of key mistakes that employees made with an account. Consequently, the best thing to do is request lost customers to fill-out a short survey at the time of cancellation. This can easily be automated via SalesForce or can be manually done at the end of each month or quarter via a free online survey tool like instant.ly. The cost of collecting this type of data is minimal and lost customer tracker studies are an easy way for management teams to identify important trends as they are developing. These trends should also serve as one of the inputs for identifying the major objectives that your management team is looking to investigate with the research initiative.
  • Not all lost customers are worth interviewing or even collecting in-depth online survey responses from. The information you collect from each respondent takes time to compile and also to review, so even if the marginal cost of adding additional respondents to the survey pool is small, there is still an added cost on the back-end. You need to collect the appropriate information to effectively identify the lost customers who are worth doing in-depth lost customer research with, so you can effectively identify the ones who are worth the investment. The lost customer tracker study information should be used in conjunction with the transactional customer data and company’s go-to-market strategy to identify those customers who make the most sense to talk to. In general, you should only be doing in-depth research with lost customers who are in your target markets or in markets that you are interested in learning more about.
  • You have nothing to lose by asking customers to speak with your company about their decision to cancel your company’s services.  The worst response you can get is a “no”. However, you have to have a well planned out list of questions before you ask to speak to them. You generally will only get one chance to speak with a lost customer.

Next week, I will share seven research design factors your company should consider in planning out a lost customer research initiative.

Marketing Manager, Pricing Strategy

<strong>Brandon Hickie</strong> is Marketing Manager, Pricing Strategy at <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/">LinkedIn</a>. He previously worked at OpenView as Marketing Insights Manager. Prior to OpenView Brandon was an Associate in the competition practice at Charles River Associates where he focused on merger strategy, merger regulatory review, and antitrust litigation.