The 7 Tell-tale Signs of Churn

By Ashley Hall

Dun, dun, dun. Time to talk about the dreaded topic: Churn. As a Customer Success professional there is not a day that goes by without a discussion about either retention or churn. Whatever you decide to call it, it’s important to track it and categorize it so you can quickly learn from it. In this post I’ll cover how to uncover the signs of churn.  Next time I’ll talk about how to tackle those issues and prevent it.

When you’re hired as a success professional the one question often missing from the interview process is, “How are your detective skills?” You’ll need to quickly learn from suspicious and repeated customer behavior which things commonly lead to that dreaded cancellation call.  It’s important to keep an evolving list of your own in order to track and ultimately mitigate churn. Here are 7 areas you should consider as you start your own telltale list.

1.  Negative feedback - Using a tool like Wootric gives your customer a direct line to provide feedback - good, bad, or ugly. Although you cannot solely rely on a tool like this, it’s a great way to collect user sentiment and NPS. Companies that repeatedly provide low scores and negative feedback could be at risk for churning.

2.  System use - If you work for a technology company there are probably features in your platform that can show you how clients are using it.  If not, solutions like Totango can help you figure out what customers are doing in there.  Whether it is logins, timestamps, clicks, usage reports or standard activities, think about the actions (or lack thereof) that might indicate a customer is unhappy with your product. 

3.  One-off feature requests - Feature requests can be an amazing feedback tool that can have an incredible impact on your product or service. On the other hand they can make for some tough decisions when it comes to which requests you can and cannot accommodate. A customer with a large number of requests that do not align with the vision of your brand should raise some red flags.

4.  Company changes - New leadership, an acquisition or even changes in staff are things that a success team should be wary of. You’ve worked hard to develop a relationship with your champion at a company, but what happens when if they leave the company or get promoted? New leadership can come onto the scene and start evaluating all vendors, which leads to a re-selling cycle or churn.

5.  Requests for future pricing - Although this can be a completely innocuous request it could also indicate to your team that the customer is shopping around for other options. Additionally, if budgets are being reviewed saving money could become more important than the relationship your client has with your company.  Once you’ve provided your response regarding future pricing, be sure to follow up with some questions to help you decide whether or not this is a true churn-related red flag.

6.  Contract requests - If you get a request for a copy of the contract there is a problem. At a minimum, you probably aren’t working with the right contact person. If the customer is new, they might have misunderstood what they were purchasing and need to be re-sold.  Worst-case scenario, you have customer who is trying to find out how long they have to stick with you before they move on.

7. Contact goes dark - Your company has a great relationship with the contact – they share about the product, they engage with the success team, you know their kids names.  Suddenly, nothing.  Weeks go by, you’ve reached out several times, and still nothing but (at least according to LinkedIn) they are still working for the company.  Is it a long vacation or churn risk?

After reading about these 7 signs of churn you can probably recall some interactions with your clients where there were red flags. Get started on a list of your own, and be sure to include any distinct elements of your product or service that are a tell-tale sign of churn for your brand. Building an evolving list for you and your team will give you the basis for a unified and systematic approach to alleviating churn. Next post I will cover how to build a churn prevention strategy based on your list.

Need help identifying and strategizing around your tell-tale signs of churn? The Success League is ready when you are! 

Ashley Hall - Ashley loves to lead account management teams; from training newbies to building processes out of chaos to working directly with customers. With an eye on the future she is a powerhouse in building scaleable frameworks that support and drive growth.  Ashley is currently working for Sparkcentral and holds a BA in Sociology from the University of Colorado, Boulder.  She lives in San Francisco, CA.