How to Survey Lost Customers | Ask These 6 Questions

Lost Customer Survey | Ask These 6 Questions for Best Results

Unless your business has an impeccable record of customer retention, you have likely dealt with the loss of a customer at some point.

In many ways, it can feel like a break-up. You are left wondering what went wrong and how you can get them back.

Why not take the time to survey former customers to understand why they’ve taken their business elsewhere?

In this blog post, our market research company defines a lost custom survey and shares 6 questions to include for the best results.

Ready to conduct a lost customer survey? Drive Research offers end-to-end project management for various market research studies. Contact our team by emailing info@driveresearch.com or complete an online form.


What is a Lost Customer Survey?

A lost customer survey is a type of market research that collects feedback from former customers or clients to understand their reason for leaving, recommendations for improvement, and if they've left for a competitor.

Don’t underestimate the willingness of old clients to provide valuable feedback and constructive criticism.  

What if you could sit down with your ex and get down to the bottom of why they decided to part ways?

As awkward as it may be, you can understand what needs to be improved for your next relationship. 

This scenario will probably remain in your dreams for romantic relationships, but it can actually be done with former customers for your business with market research.

There are various types of market research methodologies brands can use to survey lost customers. 

Types of market research include:

A lost customer survey is the most strategic way to understand why a prior customer is now giving their business to a competitor. In short, it takes the guesswork out of poor customer retention rates. 

Here are 6 key questions to include in a lost customer survey, some of which are outlined by an article on Channel Futures.

A lost customer survey is a type of market research that collects feedback from former customers or clients to understand their reason for leaving, recommendations for improvement, and if they've left for a competitor.


#1: Why did you choose our company to begin with?

With this question, you will get valuable information about what drew customers to your company in the first place. You can use this to optimize business development strategies and identify your competitive advantages.

You will also need to establish a baseline to understand what was originally promised to the customer.

Somewhere along the line, customer expectations were not met and they felt the need to look elsewhere.

Understanding where customer expectations were not met will help your organization prevent a similar outcome for current customers. Take this time to reevaluate business practices of the past and if it is necessary to bring them back today. 


#2: What did you like the most about working with our brand/product/service?

Although this audience ultimately chose to end their business with your organization, there is likely one or two things they really enjoyed about their experience.

This insight can tell your team what you are doing well. Perhaps 78% of respondents loved your customer service team. Or 1 in 2 respondents enjoyed your fast shipping times.

Whatever the overwhelming response may be, this feedback can tell your marketing team what factors they should place an emphasis on in future campaigns, blogs, or website content. 

Take this opportunity to ask your harshest critics what is best about your organization and run with it! Market research offers a great return on investment for the many ways you can repurpose the data.


#3: What caused you to leave our company?

The answer to this question will reveal a disconnect between what the customer was looking for and what they actually received. What brought them to the tipping point?

It may be hard to hear, but posing this open-ended question will yield key information.

Swallowing your pride here will pay off, as this is one of the best ways to get honest criticism for your business. You can’t correct it if you aren’t aware of it!

Former customers may also have a lot to say. They may relish the opportunity to air their grievances about their experience with your business.

Every word of it is useful because it will assist you in preventing similar situations down the road.

A third-party market research company can also breakdown this feedback with different cross-tabulations.

Do answers vary or stay the same among customers who left last year vs. customers who left three years ago?

Are answers similar among Millennial customers vs. customers of the baby boomer generation?

Cross-tabulations of the data will clearly show this.

Former customers may also have a lot to say. They may relish the opportunity to air their grievances about their experience with your business. Every word of it is useful because it will assist you in preventing similar situations down the road.


#4: Which of our competitors did you go to?

Lost customers may not always be willing to share which company they switched to, but it’s absolutely worth asking.

Your organization will have a better chance of learning what competitor previous customers are currently doing business with if the survey is blinded.

This question will reveal who is truly a threat to stealing your customers in the market. You can also calculate where stolen market share is going by using data from the completed surveys.

Unless there are very few players in the market, you don’t want to make an assumption about who makes up your competitive set.

Other companies that past clients consider to meet their needs may not even be on your radar yet. 


#5: Why did you choose our competitor?

Aim to understand how exactly the competitor bested you. Probe for comparisons in different areas such as price, customer service, product or service quality, timeliness, communication, and other relevant factors.

Knowing how clients view your competition as superior will tell you where to improve or how to better position your brand. The customer’s perspective is key here compared to how your business views competitors.

For a more detailed analysis of competitors in your space, consider conducting a competitive assessment

Knowing how clients view your competition as superior will tell you where to improve or how to better position your brand. The customer’s perspective is key here compared to how your business views competitors.


#6: Is there anything we can do to earn back your business?

This question should be posed as a hypothetical, not with the intention to actually persuade a customer to return.

You can learn how to bridge the gap between the client’s expectations and your company’s service. 

For lost customers not included in the survey, you now have a better idea of the messaging and improvements needed to win back their business.

It may be one simple change that could turn the tide, or there may be numerous opportunity areas to reduce the churn rate of lost customers.

There’s also more to gain by expanding these efforts beyond a one-time project.

Incorporate lost customer surveys into a long-term customer experience (CX) program to get the full picture of the customer journey.

Recommended Reading: 4 Market Research Options to Examine Customer Churn 


Remember: This is research, not a pitch.

Before surveying lost customers, it is important to let this audience know this is for research purposes and not a sales pitch. 

It is incredibly important to preface the survey by stating it is not an attempt to win back the customer’s business. Any sort of sales connotation will likely spook the former customer into cutting the survey short.

To start strong, put an emphasis on your desire to learn how your business can perform better for future clients.

Partnering with a third-party market research firm is the best approach to take when surveying lost customers.

A market research company like Drive Research can help blind the study to make for a less awkward or spiteful interaction between your team and prior customers. 

This assures past customers are completely honest about their experiences with your organization and their current experience with a competitor, without trying to spare the feelings of the sponsor of the study. 

Recommended Reading: 4 Excellent Strategies for Improving Customer Retention


Survey Lost Customers with Drive Research

Drive Research is a market research company located in New York. Our team of experts is familiar with the sensitivity and prowess to make a lost customer survey successful for any organization in the country.

Interested in learning more about our market research services? Reach out through any of the four ways below.

  1. Message us on our website
  2. Email us at info@driveresearch.com
  3. Call us at 888-725-DATA
  4. Text us at 315-303-2040

tim gell - about the author

Tim Gell

As a Research Analyst, Tim is involved in every stage of a market research project for our clients. He first developed an interest in market research while studying at Binghamton University based on its marriage of business, statistics, and psychology. 

Learn more about Tim, here.


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