Picking Your Fights in Retention Management

Jacob Brain


As a retention manager, there are some fights you just can’t win. And there are some that have to be won at any cost. Your task is to keep customers from leaving your product, and many times the changes and decisions that have to be made cross outside of your department, into the scope of the entire company. So how do you know when to fight and how to win? Let’s look at a few examples.

When all signs point to “it”

The golden goose of retention is when you find that all customers’ feedback and the data supports that there needs to be a change in the product design, delivery or support. Data is the great equalizer when it comes to making a case for change in the organization. If there is a large enough pool of feedback that can point to one specific issue that needs to change internally, you have a case. The next step is to demonstrate the return on fixing that issue in terms of revenue growth for the company. No one can argue when the cost to fix something is cheaper than the loss it creates. Its a fight worth fighting.

The “untouchable”

There is always something in the product or service that the higher ups deem as “untouchable”. Sometimes it’s the pricing model, membership tiers, promotional offers, or internal workflow associated with particular departments. The level of frustration in these issues can sometimes be immense, simply because there is a general refusal to see that there might be a better way of doing something for the customer. These items have to be handled with great care as the retention manager, since you might be the only one fighting this fight. The tactic you need to take here is to build allies. You need to discuss and present your case to those around you. You might also want to talk to people who work in that department, and see if there are any other movements or opinions that your ideas could resonate with. Nothing in business should be off the table, but getting it to the table sometimes will take all your energy.

Forces from the outside retention management

There are times when churn will point to an issue that’s not something you can really address. One example is seasonal churn. If you have a business that has seasonal highs, you should expect the same in seasonal lows.  This fight is hard to win. The main reason it’s hard to win, is that one of the contributing factors to the sale is not something you controlled in the first place. You have to ask yourself, can I really do anything about this type of churn in reasonable measure? If you sold subscriptions to Snowblower Monthly, and your subscriptions picked up in November, but took a sharp dive when the weather brought unusual highs, take a deep breath. You could put incentive on those readers to renew, change editorial strategy, etc., but it’s just something out of your control.  Knowing what’s out of your control will help you prepare for that growth and retention with orientation campaigns and other means to build value for the customer.

These are just a few examples of fights you’ll have to take up as a retention manager. The key is to know which ones will bring the most value for your time and energy and company revenue. Fight on!

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