What Can You Learn from Churn

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The answer: So much more than our vanity is worth.

Lean Grief

Shit happens, customers churn. But you have to admit, it hurts. Especially when the customer churning is one you really wanted to make happy. You get a sinking feeling, which can lead to that dark place that no founder wants to go.

When we lost one of our first really cool customers, I started to pay attention to the feelings I was having and noticed it’s very similar to experiencing accelerated grief. Here’s how it breaks down.

1) Shock & Denial
This is that first sinking feeling I was telling you about. Since we’re still early on with Kera, we don’t find out a customer churned from some table in a report. When you build real relationships with your customers, you find out about churn from a person. And that makes the experience especially real.

2) Pain & Guilt
Next, it’s time to blame yourself for their leaving. You start second-guessing every move you’ve made in the past thirty days. Maybe I messaged them too much. Maybe not enough. Perhaps we let them in too early. We definitely should have built that extra feature before letting them come on board.

3) Anger & Bargaining
At this point, you’re throwing darts at a picture of your ex-customer’s logo. How dare they leave us! Don’t they understand exactly how worse off they’ll be without our service? Whatever. We’re too good for them anyway.

Wait. Maybe if I give it to them for free maybe they’ll come back.

It’s bad. But it’s about to get worse.

4) Depression, Loneliness
This is when The Struggle happens. You close up. You start thinking crazy things about why you started a company in the first place. This startup business is garbage. In fact I should be a garbageman. So I can live with my friend, the garbage.

5) The Upward Turn
Something usually has to happen here to knock you out of whatever dark place you were just visiting. Maybe one of your mentors takes you out for a few beers. Perhaps you go off-grid for a whole weekend with your significant other. Maybe you get a cold call from an investor you respect. Or, maybe you get a few easy technical wins and delight a few more of your existing customers.

Luck is a two-sided coin and sometimes good things happen. Not often, but eventually. This is when you start thinking about your loss a little less than before.

6) Reconstruction and Working Through
Now we’re getting back into the swing of things, shall we say. We’re getting back into our rhythm. Now is the perfect time to get over ourselves and ask for honest feedback from the customer who left you.

We make a point to reach out to every customer that churns from Kera. There’s so much to learn, even if it hurts.

7) Acceptance and Hope
We’re never going to bat a thousand and retain every customer. It’s useless to train and hit an arbitrary goal. But if you can get a benchmark of where you’re at, and move that number upwards every time you ship code (even if it’s just a little), at least we’re setting ourselves up for success instead of failure.

Even when shit happens.

- Max Cameron