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Actionable Customer Retention Measurement

Jim answers questions from fellow Drillers
(More questions with answers here, Work Overview here, Index of concepts here)

Topic Overview

Hi again folks, Jim Novo here.

Simple question below, not so simple answer. There’s a lot of conflicting ideas floating around on the subject of how to measure customer retention properly, and to be honest, it really does depend on the type of business we’re talking about. Further, in order to properly measure customer retention – in a way you can take action to improve retention / increase profits – you have to define it first, and that can be as much of a challenge as the actual measurement. Ready for a trip down into the depths of this area? Hang on, it’s quite a ride, you Driller you …

Q:  How do most companies measure customer retention?  Is there a formula?

A:  The short answer is not many companies outside of specific industries are very adept at customer retention – yet.  For traditional (not-online-born) companies, it is most commonly used in telecommunications, financial services (including insurance), direct marketing (catalogs / web sites, etc.), subscriptions / publishing, and the travel industry.

The reason for this concentration: these industries have traditionally collected detailed data on customer interactions as part of the offline business model.  Now that many other industries are collecting data on customer interactions online, the lessons learned in these “lead” industries are proving quite valuable for industries new to direct customer interaction.

A “standard” way to measure it, if you are looking to align your metrics with Wall Street and your financial statements for example, is “12 month active”.  Any customer you have had contact with in the past 12 months is still a customer, any customer with no contact in the past 12 months is a defected customer.

This is a retail / mail order oriented view, and if you sell products, then “contact” means “purchase”.  If you are in the services business, it could be any contact – phone call, e-mail, sales call, download.  Divide the number of 12 month active customers by the total number of customers and you have your retention rate.

There is no reason you can’t use “24 month active” or “36 month active” or “5 year active”.  The point is to define what retention is for your particular business and stick with it.  Get agreement on what makes sense for a measuring stick and try to improve.  Often your own data will tell you what the best “no activity cutoff” is for your business.

Retention is really a “continuum”, and retention rate is always “relative” to your perspective. If you use a very “tight” definition like “12 month active”, you will lower your retention rate. As you expand the time period, your retention rate rises. The problem with most companies is they expand this cutoff time period to infinity, meaning every customer is still a customer unless they notify you they are not. Is this a useful measurment? Doubt it…

Continue reading Actionable Customer Retention Measurement

Set Up Retention Program Measurement for Wireless

Jim answers questions from fellow Drillers
(More questions with answers here, Work Overview here, Index of concepts here)

Topic Overview

Hi again folks, Jim Novo here.

So, how to you actually set up the measurment for a retention program? Since you will ultimately want to conclusively prove that what you are doing is working, the 1st thing you have to is measure what the current retention rate is, hopefully by segment so you have a basis for creating successful program features. But how do you do that? Read on, fellow Driller!

Q: I got the job of servicing the top users on our network. I must confess I dazzled the interviewers with statistics from your Recency, Frequency, and Monetary model!!!

A:  Congratulations!  Well done.

Q:  I know I should be paying you for this but I would like to communicate with you once in a while to tell you what’s going on…  If you are not happy with this I really understand.

A:  I’m fine with it, as long as it doesn’t become a full time job!

Q:  Here’s my plan:

1. I would like to start by segmenting high users by usage, (usage bands)

2. Next I would like to profile demographics for each usage band

Continue reading Set Up Retention Program Measurement for Wireless

New RFM: Segment Wireless Customers by Behavior or Demos?

Jim answers questions from fellow Drillers
(More questions with answers here, Work Overview here, Index of concepts here)

Topic Overview

Hi again folks, Jim Novo here.

If you’ve never actually segmented customers by behavior, it can be a bit tricky exercise.

Just remember this: if improved customer retention is the goal, you want to segment with ideas and data that will lead to metrics specialized in driving successful retention programs. For example, demographics are descriptive of the customer; segmenting by demographics will group customers by description. This segmentation does not really indicate anything about their behavior, so will rarely give you the tools or leverage needed to change behavior. If you want to change behavior, segment using behavior.

Make sense? Then on to the Drillin’ …

Q: I have taken up a new assignment in this new financial year in my company, a Cellular / Mobile connections provider. I would like some direction from you; also I have suggested your book to my management.

A: Well, thanks for the plug on the book and I’ll give the “direction” a try!

Q: Objective: To create loyal customers who become brand evangelists

Areas covered:

  1. To drive customer loyalty to ensure 80% of the customers recommend brand to others.
  2. Customer Behaviour Profiling: Create an action oriented customer profile, use profiles to create marketing & service programs to retain & increase value of customers.
  3. Predictive Marketing / Promotions: To predict the likelihood of future events based on customer models & to predict the profitability of a promotion to encourage customers to do what we want them to do & achieve the highest ROI (Return on investment). Predict when a customer is about to defect / leave us.
  4. LifeTime Value: To find what a customer is worth in the future and based on this to find how much you could spend on retaining them & still make a profit.

Please reply on how to start this activity?

A: Yikes! That’s a pretty long list of “areas to be covered”, you are going to be very busy! Some of it sounds pretty familiar too, like I’ve read it on my web site you might want to get that book after all!

The creation of retention programs always starts with customer segmentation, you have to understand the behavior you have before you can create programs to modify behavior.

That probably means starting with #4, LTV. You want to look at LTV by segment.

Get records of defected customers, put them in a spreadsheet or database, and determine:

  • Average length of time as subscriber
  • Average spending over that time
  • % of this spend that is considered “profit”, which you can use as a proxy for LTV.

In the beginning, you can use a company “profit” average for LTV until you get more sophisticated. In communications, the number often used is EBITDA Margin; ask your finance people what you should use to determine % of spending that is LTV.

Once finding the average, it is time to segment by different dimensions and determine the same 3 variables above for all the different customer segments. For example:

Spending quintiles – highest 20%, high 20%, middle 20%, low 20%, lowest 20% of
defected customers; what is average length of subscription, spend, LTV?

Product / service bundling – identify different levels of service / tiers / add on services of defected customers; what is average length of subscription, spend, LTV?

Source of customer – which ads / offers / selling methods originally attracted the defected customer; what is average length of subscription, spend, LTV?

Geography – using transmitter locations or other natural boundaries dividing the defected customers; what is average length of subscription, spend, LTV?

Hardware – group defectors by type of phone or terminal or other hardware; what is average length of subscription, spend, LTV?

Contract details – if contracts vary widely as to their basic nature and terms, group defectors by contract type; what is average length of subscription, spend, LTV?

After running these studies you should have enough data to logically and critically construct your other 3 initiatives in profitable ways.


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