Reducing Customer Churn: Do You Need Prediction, Interpretation, or Both?

Customer behaviour prediction—including customer churn prediction—is at the top of our clients’ agenda—and for good reason. Who doesn’t want to be able to predict the future for their customers, employees, and business? 

What Is Predictive Modelling?

In the world of customer experience, predictive modelling means using data to predict the future needs, wants, and behaviours of your customers and employees. 

My name is Ton Luijten, and I’m a Customer Success Director for InMoment, as well as the Data Science Lead for the APAC region. I’ve come across many interesting case studies that show how predictive models can be really powerful when trying to sell products or services to your consumers. However, when it comes to actually improving the experiences of your customers, it becomes more complex. 

In order to take action and make the right improvements to your CX, it’s vital to understand why something will happen. If you do not have those actionable insights, you will know what or who to target, but you don’t know how best to target them. In this post, I’ll take you through why you need both prediction and interpretation to make the best business decisions.

What’s the Difference Between Prediction and Interpretation?

Let’s take a step back and talk about the difference between prediction and interpretation. In data science, there’s a trade off between prediction accuracy and model interpretability. We have very flexible approaches that tend to come with great prediction accuracy, we’ll call these “black box” models. We also have more restrictive approaches that lend itself to better interpretation, which we’ll call “white box” models. While at first glance it might be appealing to always go for black box models (i.e. the flexible approach with the higher prediction accuracy), you might want to opt for white box models, which leave room for greater interpretation.

To Decide Which Prediction Model, Identify Your Goal

The best model for your business will depend on what you’re trying to achieve. If you’re in a situation where you just want to be able to predict who will buy your products or services, then you don’t really have a need for interpretation, because you just need to target that audience with your ads. However, if you need to have a conversation with a customer that’s very likely to churn, it might be useful to understand why they’re going to leave, so you can have a more relevant conversation.

Bringing Employee and Customer Churn Prediction to Life

The most common use case for predictive models in CX and EX tends to be employee or customer churn, which means customers or employees are intending to leave your brand. Of course businesses are motivated to retain their customers and employees, as it takes time and money to replace both customers and talent. 

When we build predictive models for churn, I typically create at least two—one black box model, where I use a flexible approach that tends to achieve good prediction accuracy and a white box model that provides more insights. When we do this, it becomes very easy for clients to understand why it’s important to have interpretation alongside your prediction accuracy.

Recently we went through this exercise with one of our clients and the black box model provided a great fit, however the only output it provided was relative importance of the variables. In this case it showed tenure as the most important driver. Now this might not be a surprise for most of you, as tenure tends to be quite important when it comes to churn. It’s also not very useful and just throws up more questions; the key question would be at what tenure do my clients start to churn

Taking Action Post-Churn Prediction

The most important part of predicting churn is taking action on those insights. Churn prediction won’t give you all the answers to why customers or employees might be leaving, but it will direct you where to focus. You’ll need to identify the best way to avoid the churn—and there are right ways and wrong ways of actioning your churn insights. 

The wrong way of taking action might look like contacting your at-risk customers and explaining why they shouldn’t leave, or perhaps explain how easy it is to use our product or service. It’s also a bad idea to call at-risk customers to confirm they are leaving, then try and talk them out of it. 

These approaches are highly problematic and could cause customers or employees who weren’t actually going to leave to consider doing so. After all, some customers or employees are not looking to leave but are also not very engaged or loyal, so these types of actions could make them rethink the relationship.

The right way to take action on churn insights is to think broader and make a proactive plan. From the “white box” approach, we could actually see that there were high churn groups across the tenure range. At one end there was a group with very low tenure (less than 1 year) who never really used the service and on the other end we have clients who had been with the company for many years and had done many transactions, but they never bothered to use certain services, which made the service harder to use. 

Now this obviously gives us a much better idea of how to take action and reduce churn. For new customers, you might consider introducing incentive programs to start using the service when they sign up, while for customers with a longer tenure, you could intervene and make them aware of the services they could take advantage of to make their lives easier.

So, Do You Need Prediction, Interpretation, or Both?

When it comes to Experience Improvement, we need both prediction and interpretation. We want to be as accurate as possible when we predict churning customers or employees but we also want to understand why they’re leaving—and this is not just a one size fits all. 

Different segments might be leaving for different reasons and have different propensities to leave. Having insights into why customers or employees might be leaving gives you a better idea of what to do about it. Of course, this might lead to a slightly less accurate predictive model, but the trade off is worth it, because what good is an accurate prediction if you cannot take effective action on the back of it?

Want to learn more about how you can reduce employee and customer churn with your experience program efforts? Check out this eBook, “How to Improve Customer Retention & Generate Revenue with Your CX Program”

4 Reads That Will Help You Prove CX ROI

At the end of the day, investing in customer experience (CX) is about more than just the score. Sure, it’s great to see a boost in CX metrics like NPS, CSAT, and CES, but what really drives impact? Creating tangible value for your business—and that means proving that sometimes elusive CX ROI. 

Historically, CX practitioners have struggled to assign a dollar amount to the value of their programs. And if that sounds familiar to you, that’s okay! Throughout our decades of experience helping the world’s top brands craft memorable, business-powering Experience Improvement (XI) programs, We like to call them the four economic pillars of customer experience (or the four pillars of CX ROI for short).

Curious about the pillars and how they support a foundation of bottom-line value? Look no further! We’ve packed this blog with information on each pillar, examples of programs who have found success in that area, and assets you can leverage to mirror that success in your own program. Let’s dive in!

Four Ways to Prove CX ROI (and Assets That Show You How)

  1. Customer Acquisition
  2. Customer Retention
  3. Cross-sell & Upsell
  4. Cost Reduction

#1: Customer Acquisition

A well-built voice of customer (VoC) program enables organizations to anticipate what new customers are seeking in a brand and thus be ahead of the curve. 

For example, a major athletic company sought to capitalize on acquisitions by optimizing its surveys to find new types of customers. By targeting respondents between the ages of 18 and 35 with specific questions, the company was able to understand this demographic and expand to new cities and demographics.The practitioners who ran this initiative were able to prove CX ROI by tracking the new customer acquisition, increases in unique customers, and market share growth that it generated.

In “Four Customer Experience Tools That Fuel Your Customer Acquisition Strategy,” we highlight four CX solutions you can add to your tool box that will help you bring new customers through your doors. They include Key Driver Analysis, Competitive Benchmarking, Microsurveys, and Multimedia Feedback. You can read the full piece here!

#2: Customer Retention

Organizations should never underestimate the power of service recovery—70 percent of customers who have a situation resolved in their favor will return to a brand, while a 10 percent increase in customer retention can grow a company’s value by 30 percent. Truly customer-centric companies can easily reach and maintain these percentages.

For example, America’s largest cable and home internet provider leverages VoC technology in their regional customer care centers (and are able to prove millions in CX ROI). They discovered that 3% of all respondents requested callbacks, meaning the brand had 1,000 customer recovery opportunities a month (or a whopping 12,000 per year). By combining this insight with customer lifetime value, the company was able to identify $23 million in recoverable revenue—directly resulting from customer retention! 

Our eBook, “How to Improve Customer Retention & Generate Revenue with Your CX Program” is an all inclusive guide to everything you need to know to make your program a customer-keeping machine. Read it here!

#3: Cross-sell and Upsell

Given that it costs 25 times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one, brands stand to gain a lot from finding new cross-selling and upselling opportunities.

Organizations can leverage CX listening tools to identify what about a brand spurs trust and loyalty from its customers and take action to make those offerings even stronger. After all, nearly 50 percent of customers are willing to spend anywhere from 11 to 50 percent more with a brand they feel they can trust.

An example of this is a large cafe group that was able to capture feedback from its existing customer base, analyze their sentiments, and make fundamental menu changes accordingly. As a result, the cafe group saw a noticeable revenue bump that it was able to link directly to their program insights and subsequent menu changes.

Curious how your CX program can help you identify opportunities for cross-sell and upsell? Check out our white paper, “Understand and Predict Your Customers’ Needs with Customer Journey Analytics,” you’ll learn more about understanding your customer journey, identifying what matters most to your customers, predicting customer concerns and behaviors, and how that information helps you to drive business growth. Get your copy here!

#4: Cost Reduction 

Organizations can use CX feedback and employee feedback to both save money within operations and to simplify their provided experience. Are there ineffective processes that are costing more than they’re worth? Eliminating such costs can save companies time, resources, and revenue. (After all, training one employee can cost an average of almost $1,100!)

A top-tier mattress retailer used CX tools to install an exit survey for departing employees, giving them a greater understanding of employee sentiment. After implementing the necessary changes to reduce turnover and new hire training costs, the company was able to establish a clear link between its CX strategy and the ROI it helped to generate.
This infographic, “3 Ways Your CX Program Can Save You Money” lays out three areas where you can cut costs, lower cost to serve, and still deliver the same great experiences. You can access it here!

How to Design an Effective Customer Recovery Strategy

Brands work hard to keep their customers happy and to create positive experiences, but the reality is that no organization can prevent every negative experience that might come a customer’s way. Whether it’s due to unforeseen circumstances or plain old human error, negative experiences are always a specter that brands need to watch out for.

Perhaps more importantly, organizations need to be prepared to recover at-risk customers when those experiences, for whatever reason, do occur. At the end of the day, a brand’s obligation to these customers goes beyond the bottom line—it’s part of creating a grander, positive, human experience that will not only salvage the relationship but also keep that customer coming back for more. Let’s dive in.

Before Problems Become Problems

The first step to an effective recovery strategy is to be as vigilant for negative experiences as possible. Proactive multichannel listening is key here—brands need to constantly meet customers where they talk about their brand interactions, then analyze their sentiments to make sure they’re not missing anything. Post-transactions surveys can be helpful here, but brands also need to pay attention to social media, phone calls, and every other medium their customers use to express how they feel about their experiences.

This strategy is effective for more than just one-time problems, too. The right experience platform can digest entire spectra of customer feedback, which helps brands spot recurring issues that they may not have even known about. Thus, companies can use this strategy to both save at-risk customers and fix deep-rooted problems that might be plaguing their wider goals and aspirations.

Closing The Loop

Paying close attention to customer conversations is important, but what happens when problems slip through that crack and put their relationship with your brand at risk? When that occurs, organizations must be prepared to close the loop with customers. In this context, closing the loop refers to assigning an employee to the customer, having that employee intently listen to the customer’s story, and rectifying the problem well enough to salvage that relationship.

While closing the loop seems pretty straightforward at the outset, there’s much more to this process than ‘just’ effective customer service. Closing the loop doesn’t end when a satisfied customer hangs up the phone—meaningfully rectifying that problem means reviewing how it occurred with the wider organization, creating a solution, and implementing it so that future customers don’t suffer the same issue. Looking at it this way means that the organization is actually closing two loops: the one with the customer (inner loop) and creating a more customer experience (CX)-driven culture (outer loop). Both are vital to customer recovery.

Making Things Right

There’s a common element to both of these strategies and to customer recovery in general, and it’s empowering your employees to do the right thing. Challenging employees to step up, involving them in the recovery process, and democratizing data to help them see the big picture are all great ways to ensure that your recovery strategy is working. There’s no better person to salvage an at-risk relationship than an impassioned employee, and no better way to instill passion in your teams than giving them the tools (and encouragement) they need to rise to the occasion.

By challenging employees to be proactive, paying attention to customers’ constant conversations, and by closing the loop when problems do arise, brands can ensure they’re doing everything they can to rescue at-risk customers. This approach allows them to create fundamentally improved experiences that both strengthen the bottom line and turn recovery situations into meaningful human interactions.

Want to learn more about how you can boost your customer retention through recovery methods and more? Read our full eBook on the subject, “How to Improve Customer Retention & Generate Revenue with Your CX Program” today!

How to Eliminate Friction in Your Customer Journey

“Friction” is probably a term you’ve heard whenever your teammates talk about reducing customer churn. Within that context, friction refers to points in the brand experience that can have a long-term impact on customers’ relationship with a business. Friction may even cause some customers to quit a brand altogether.

Because of this, it’s essential that brands have an experience program in place that can detect friction, help experience professionals understand the problem(s) creating that friction, and correct them. The result is both a meaningfully improved experience and saved customer relationships. So, without further ado, let’s go over how your organization can ensure it’s eliminating friction across your customer journey.

Understanding The Moments That Matter

Like we said earlier, an important part of reducing friction is knowing about and understanding the moments that matter to customers. Brands can achieve this understanding by mapping out a few of their most important customer journeys. Learning about key touchpoints is one of the best ways to become aware of problems as they arise.

What’s more, brands can use this strategy to immediately begin solving those problems and expediently reduce journey friction. Understanding touchpoints and their drawbacks enables organizations to come up with solutions, implement them, and listen to see how they’re working. Experience practitioners can then point to those changes, and their improvements, when proving their program’s worth.

Talking to Employees

Getting your customers’ take on an experience is clearly important, but many brands, in their rush to do so, overlook chatting with their employees about customer journeys as well. Employees, especially frontline ones, can provide extremely powerful and eye-opening intel about your brand’s experience. How can brands access and leverage that?

The best way for brands to get their employees’ perspective is by letting them constantly submit feedback and ideas in real-time. Rather than relying on, say, an annual survey, organizations should instead utilize experience platforms that give employees a constant voice. This also further allows brands to learn about, and act upon, problems as they emerge in real-time instead of too far down the road for the customer’s liking.

Keeping Tabs on Your Customer Journey

That notion of being constantly aware of journey friction as it happens is at the heart of keeping it suppressed as much as possible. Surveys are important, but this dynamic is another reason why they’re insufficient for reducing journey friction by themselves—a constantly possible problem demands a constantly active solution. Organizations simply cannot achieve that level of awareness otherwise.

Another element of getting a full picture of your experience is leveraging data sources outside of surveys. Brands can do this by combining survey listening with other sources of data, like your employees’ perspectives, and putting it against a backdrop of financial and operational information. This approach creates a 360-degree view of your customers and experience, an understanding that your organization can leverage to reduce friction, boost retention, and create a meaningfully improved experience.

Want to learn more about improving customer retention? We just published an entire eBook on the subject—click here to check it out!

Three Paths to Understanding Why Customers Leave Your Brand

Retaining customers is one of the best ways to ensure that your brand is building a strong bottom line and an ever-improving experience, but keeping customer churn low is easier said than done. Customer churn is, unfortunately, an unavoidable fact of doing business, but that doesn’t mean that brands have to let it happen in vain. Today, we’re going to give you a quick rundown on understanding why customers leave your brand so that you can prevent future churn, retain loyal clientele, and continuously improve their experience.

Enabling Storytelling

One of the best ways to become aware of friction points within your experience is by letting customers point them out in their own words. We’re not just talking written survey answers, here; experience feedback programs that enable multimedia feedback are among the most powerful tools for learning about problematic or broken touchpoints in your customer journey.

Think about how much more human it is to see and hear customers express their concerns instead of just reading about them. Multimedia feedback empowers brands to understand customer concerns on a much more human level than surveys allow, which is also important for motivating employees. In short, empowering customers to express their concerns in their preferred format and sharing that frank feedback with the relevant teams is one of the best ways to motivate genuine improvement.

Seeking Disclosure

Receiving feedback from current customers is important, but what about past customers? What about the competition’s? The best customer experience platforms are sustained by the best market research, and brands that opt for the former can often receive the latter. Databases, customer panels, and other sources of market learnings are now available at the push of a button, and brands that want to understand their experience from all angles should seek this knowledge out as resources allow.

Once you have all of this feedback and intel from customers both inside and outside your brand, a handy next step is to feed all of that structured data directly into a real-time text analytics engine. This tool is incredibly helpful for brands because it can extract customer sentiment and reinforce organizations’ knowledge of customer churn’s root causes. 

Keeping Churn at Bay

Like we said earlier, brands can’t keep customer churn out of the equation, but they can do a great deal to prevent it with tools and methods like these. Reducing churn in this way is also great not just for churn reduction’s sake, but also for creating a more human experience, instilling greater loyalty in customers, and creating a stronger bottom line.

Want to read more on how you can improve customer retention? Our new eBook walks you through exactly how to build a holistic initiative and the math that will prove the value of your efforts! Check it out here.

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