It’s been said that it’s better to be proactive than reactive — in not just business but many facets of life. It’s certainly true for those looking to keep up with trends and predict how to be successful in the future. It’s also the case for media companies hoping to mitigate churn.
Eva Ascarza is a Jakurski Family Associate Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. She kicked off the INMA Media Subscription Summit on Thursday, explaining what she calls proactive churn management.
“I don’t want to wait until customers or subscribers disappear,” Ascarza said. “I’m going to anticipate and try to prevent it.”
It’s important to look at your set of subscribers and figure out who in the customer base is at a higher or lower risk of churning, Ascarza said. Media companies will want to be strategic, efficient, and smart about who to target or not.
“I’m going to target the people on the top,” Ascarza said. “Why? Because I don’t want to waste resources on the people who are going to churn in the first place.”
Media companies are making great progress collecting data on our customers with machine learning and artificial intelligence, she said, however many companies are unhappy with their retention rates.
“The idea is we have a lot of methodology, we have a lot of data, and we have the ability to personalise much much better than before,” Ascarza said.
There is one reason companies aren’t happy with retention rates, she said: They are targeting the wrong customers. A company can be much more successful with retention by taking the same group of customers and practising what she called “prescriptive churn management.”
“The idea here is not trying to figure out which customers are likely to churn or not,” Ascarza said. “If the goal is who should I target, the right question to ask is not who is about churn, but who is going to be more receptive or less receptive to my intervention.”
Ascarza ran experiments with companies in different industries to see if they could affect retention rates based on the types of customers they were targeting with communications, discounts, and other incentives. She shared the results with INMA members.
The bottom line: The fundamental problem is retention teams all say they would want to know who is receptive to their company in place of who is likely to churn, but they don’t actually do that in practice.
“We don’t do it because we keep asking computers to do many things,” Ascarza said. “Sometimes I think we just don't stop and ask the right question.”
If machines are going to continue to give answers, people need to be sure they’re asking better questions, she said: “Instead of prediction, what we need is prescription. It’s not useful for the doctor to know which patient is more likely to die. What is useful for the doctor is to know how the patient is going to respond to the treatment.”
The Summit wraps up on Thursday, February 15. You can register here.