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Stop Talking about "Unavoidable Churn"!

Why getting rid of this term immediately opens the door to improving retention ⤵

I do not allow this toxic term in my work with customer success teams.


Whenever someone uses the term "unavoidable churn," I immediately respond: Define 'unavoidable.'


Them: It's churn that couldn't be avoided.

Me: How do you know that it couldn't be avoided?

Them: The circumstances were beyond our control!

Me: But isn't ALL churn the customer's decision and, therefore, ultimately 'beyond our control'?

Them: Uh...


This is the problem. I'm not suggesting that churn doesn't often happen outside our control.


Quite the contrary, I would argue that describes nearly ALL customer churn!


My problem with the term 'unavoidable churn' is WHY people use it in the first place.


👉 The purpose of using the term 'unavoidable churn' is to deny responsibility for customer failure. 👈


This toxic mentality undermines the entire justification for Customer Success, and I would argue, by extension, the company and the product itself!


Think about it this way:


• The company and the product exist to make customers more successful.

• Customer Success exists to help customers actually achieve success.


If we are not responsible for customer failure, then who is?! [Don't say it's the customer's fault!]


Of course, someone will inevitably say, "What about customers who go out of business?"

This is actually a red herring. The data suggest the impact of company failure on overall customer retention is vanishingly small.


The average company failure rate is just 6.5%, and for several reasons, only a small portion of these failing companies are typically found among paying SaaS customers.


But hardly any companies actually track the impact of this on their overall churn, so I have yet to see evidence that this justifies talking about 'unavoidable' churn.


Even if such evidence existed, I would still reject it for one simple reason:


💡 If we exist to make our customers more successful, then we can't claim that we have exactly 0% influence over our customers' business failures. It doesn't matter to me if our degree of influence is tiny.


That tiny wedge of influence is literally why we exist!


👉 The 'unavoidable churn' mentality is toxic to building a truly customer-centric culture in which we take responsibility for our customers' success. 👈

Instead of looking deeply for every bit of leverage we can achieve over customer results, it excuses us to blame the customer and move on.


► What's the alternative mentality?


RESPONSIBILITY.


The alternative is to embrace responsibility for driving customer results and view every customer failure as an opportunity for deep analysis and improvement.


We should always ask ourselves why customers churned and what that means for gaining more leverage over those factors.


My experience is that rejecting this term is a game-changer, not just for CS, but for the entire company!

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