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Losing Clients Hurts: What to Say to a Client Who is Leaving

Client departure caught you off guard? Discover what to say when they tell you they're leaving and effective steps to address concerns and get them to stay.
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We’ve all been there – that gut-wrenching moment when a client tells you they’re leaving. It’s like a breakup, and it can really sting. But here’s the thing: losing clients is a part of business, and how you handle it can make all the difference.
 
Let’s talk about why keeping your existing clients is so important.
 
Did you know that acquiring a new customer can cost 5 to 8 times more than retaining an existing one? Not only that, but research shows that increasing customer retention rates by just 5% can boost your profits by a whopping 25% to 95%.
 
That’s HUGE!
 
So, when a client decides to leave, don’t just let them go without a fight. Now, I’m not saying you should beg or plead (that’s never a good look), but there are some key steps you can take to try and salvage the relationship – or at the very least, learn from the experience and protect your other client relationships.

Table of Contents

Don't Panic: Your First Response Matters

When you first find out a client is leaving, it’s easy to go into full-on panic mode. But trust me, that’s the last thing you want to do. Whether they tell you over the phone, in an email, or you realize they’ve stopped engaging with your product or service, your initial response sets the tone for everything that follows.
 
The first thing you should do is acknowledge the situation in writing. Send them an email expressing your disappointment and asking if you can have a further conversation about their decision. This shows them that you value their business and want to understand their perspective.
 
The important thing is to keep your emotions in check (even if you’re devastated) and approach the situation with empathy and professionalism.
 
Avoid getting defensive or making assumptions about why they’re leaving. Instead, focus on gathering information and understanding their perspective.

Email to Departing Client Template

Hi [Client Name],
 
Thank you for letting me know about your decision to [leave/stop using our product/service]. I'm disappointed to hear this, as I've truly enjoyed working with you and your team.
 
If you're open to it, I'd love the opportunity to have a further discussion about what led to your decision and if there's anything we can do to improve your experience. Would you be available for a quick call [insert proposed date/time]?
 
Regardless of the outcome, I want to thank you for your business and partnership. It's been a pleasure working with you.
 
Best regards,
[Your Name]

Dig Deep: Uncover the Real Reasons They're Leaving

Once you’ve secured a follow-up conversation with your client, it’s time to put on your detective hat and uncover the real reasons behind their decision to leave. This is where active listening and asking the right questions come into play.

Some common reasons clients leave

  • They don’t feel like they’re getting enough value for what they’re paying
  • They’re not getting the level of support or attention they need
  • They’ve had a bad experience with your product or customer service
  • They’ve found a competitor that better meets their needs or budget
  • They’re going through internal changes (budget cuts, new leadership, etc.)
Once you have a clear understanding of why they’re leaving, you can start to formulate a plan to address their concerns and give them a compelling reason to stay.

Some key questions to ask yourself

  • Did your client drift away or was there an event that triggered their departure?
  • Are your client’s expectations realistic? i.e. champagne tastes on a beer budget!
  • Was your client getting the attention they needed?
  • Were you meeting your commitments (e.g. service level agreements, key performance indicators)
  • Was your client at risk? Were the underlying issues you failed to address?
  • Are you competitive? Does your client’s pricing no longer reflect the market?
  • Are you innovating? Are you keeping up with your competitors?
  • Is your USP (Unique Selling Point) not so unique any more?
  • Have you made promises for things to get better that hasn’t delivered results?
  • Did you suspect there were problems but took the “no news is good news” approach? What were they?
  • Have you met or failed expectations?
  • Do you have enough resources? Were you or others overworked and the cracks have been showing?
  • Have the people working with your client been the right fit? Could another team make a difference?
  • Is their configuration the right one?
  • Have things changed in your business where an alternative product or service could generate greater value?
  • What could you have done differently?

Some key questions to ask your client

  • What specifically led to your decision to leave?
  • Were your expectations met with our product/service?
  • How do we compare to other options you considered or have chosen to go with?
  • Is there anything we could have done differently to better serve you?
  • What would need to change for you to consider staying?
As they share their feedback, resist the urge to jump in with solutions or explanations. Really listen to what they’re saying and take notes. This is valuable information to help you not only salvage this relationship but also prevent future churn.

Mitigate Risk with the Power of the Status Quo

Sometimes the grass looks greener on the other side, but change can be costly. Here’s how to remind your client why staying with you is often the smartest move:
  • Effort vs. Reward: Switching providers takes substantial effort: needs assessment, vendor comparisons, contract negotiations, etc. Ask the client if the potential reward is worth this additional investment in time and resources.
  • Proven vs. promises: Competitors talk about what they could do. You have a track record of success with this client. Change means gambling on the unknown.
  • Avoid the bumps: Any new system takes time to learn. Why risk slowing things down (or even breaking them) when you’ve got a smooth operation running now?
  • Nothing beats experience: You’ve learned and fine-tuned your solution together over time. A competitor can’t offer that same level of customization and knowledge.
  • Opportunity Costs: Implementing a new solution takes time and attention. Remind your client of other projects that might get delayed or deprioritized if they focus on a full-scale migration.
  • Familiarity with Pain Points: You’ve already worked with the client to address the pain points of your solution. Any new solution will have its own quirks they may not discover until it’s too late.
Weave these concepts into your future messaging to bring attention to them Emphasize these risks aren’t theoretical—they represent potential setbacks the client has likely faced before when implementing new solutions.

Example: Emphasizing Partnership Value

We've worked hard to build a strong partnership and optimize our solution for your business. Change would mean starting that process over again, including [list 2-3 major steps e.g. data transfer, staff training]. Let's discuss if the potential gains with a new vendor outweigh the effort involved, and how we can unlock even greater value together within our existing relationship.

Example: Proven vs Promises

I want to emphasize the proven success of our solution. We've seen tangible improvements in [mention 1-2 key metrics]. While competitors may promise additional gains, it's crucial to remember that those are just promises. Our solution offers certainty – it's been finely tuned to deliver results specifically for your needs.

Make Them an Offer They Can't Refuse (Within Reason)

Now that you know why your client is considering leaving, it’s time to put together a compelling offer to get them to stay. But before you start slashing prices or making wild promises, take a step back and consider what you can realistically offer that will address their specific concerns.
Here are a few ideas:
  • If they feel like they’re not getting enough value, could you offer additional training, resources, or features to help them get more out of your product or service?
  • If they’re not getting the support they need, could you assign a dedicated account manager or offer more frequent check-ins?
  • If they’ve had a bad experience, could you offer a sincere apology and a plan to make things right?
  • If they’ve found a competitor with better pricing, could you offer a discount or flexible payment plan?
The key here is to be specific and tailored in your offer. A blanket discount or generic promises to “do better” likely won’t cut it. Show them that you’ve really listened to their concerns and are willing to go the extra mile to keep their business.
 
One word of caution: be careful not to overcompensate or make offers that aren’t sustainable for your business in the long run. Dropping your prices too low or promising the moon can backfire and damage your credibility.
 
When you present your offer, frame it as a collaborative discussion rather than an ultimatum. You might say something like:
 
“Based on our conversation, it sounds like [insert specific concern] has been a real pain point for you. What if we [insert proposed solution]? Do you think that would help address the issues you’ve been experiencing? I’m open to your feedback and want to find a solution that works for both of us.”
 
If they accept your offer, great! Make sure you follow through on your promises and use this as an opportunity to rebuild trust and strengthen the relationship.
 
If they decline, don’t take it personally. Thank them for considering your offer and reiterate your commitment to supporting them through the transition.

How to Crush B2B Customer Retention with Capture Plans [+ Templates]

Capture planning is an essential strategy to retain your clients. Follow this 12-step capture plan process to fight churn and avoid competitive bids.

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Losing Gracefully: How to Handle a Client's Departure

Despite your best efforts, sometimes a client will still choose to leave. When that happens, your goal should be to make the transition as smooth as possible and leave the door open for future opportunities.
 
Here are some tips for handling a client’s departure gracefully:
  • Develop a clear transition plan outlining key milestones, deliverables, and timelines. This will help set expectations and ensure nothing falls through the cracks.
  • Be proactive in communicating with the client throughout the transition process. Provide regular updates and be available to answer questions or address concerns.
  • Deliver on your commitments. If you’ve promised to provide certain deliverables or support during the transition, make sure you follow through.
  • Take the high road. Even if the client is leaving on less-than-positive terms, resist the urge to speak negatively about them or burn bridges. You never know when your paths may cross again in the future.
  • Use it as a learning opportunity. Conduct a post-mortem with your team to identify any lessons learned or areas for improvement.
Remember, just because a client has left doesn’t mean the relationship is over forever. Keep the lines of communication open and look for opportunities to stay top-of-mind, whether that’s through occasional check-ins, sharing relevant content or insights, or inviting them to events.

Preventing Future Churn: Lessons Learned

Losing a client is never fun, but it can be a valuable learning experience. Use this opportunity to take a hard look at your processes, communication, and client experience to identify areas for improvement.
 
Some questions to ask yourself and your team:
  • Are we setting clear expectations with clients from the start?
  • Do we have a consistent process for onboarding new clients and ensuring their success?
  • Are we proactively communicating with clients and addressing any issues or concerns in a timely manner?
  • Do we have a system in place for monitoring client health and identifying at-risk accounts?
  • Are we regularly seeking feedback from clients and using it to improve our products and services?
By taking a proactive approach to client retention and continuously improving your processes, you can minimize future churn and build stronger, more resilient client relationships.
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