The business pages are filled with examples of companies that have taken big hits to their brands because they’ve made marketing decisions that ran afoul of customer expectations. Take Netflix, and its aborted scheme to divide its streaming and DVD video offerings. Netflix could have avoided its embarrassing reversal if it had experimented on this decision before publically announcing the change.
Businesses often spend a lot of money trying to retain customers. Many direct their retention activities toward all of their customers and hope that enough respond for the effort to pay off. But some customers leave anyway. A more effective approach recognizes that customers are different and their likelihood of departing—a phenomenon known as churn in the business world—varies among individuals and over time.
Some customers churn for reasons a business can control. These customers may be unhappy with the price or product, or they may prefer a competitor. Others churn because they move away or die or go bankrupt—matters a business can’t control. An efficient strategy targets those customers likely to churn for controllable reasons and does not overspend on customers likely to leave for uncontrollable reasons. And when evaluating the success or failure of retention marketing activities, managers should take the incidence of uncontrollable churn into account.