Jim answers questions from fellow Drillers
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