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What is customer retention?

Customer retention is a key to success for just about any business, and the best organizations are constantly looking for ways to keep their customers coming back.
Robert Scoble

The definition

Customer retention is anything a business does to get people to continue paying them.

A close relative of customer retention is user retention. Websites often focus on user retention. The distinction is that for many websites, their users don’t pay them. Therefore they’re not customers.

Two types

There are two types of businesses that try to retain customers. Subscriptions businesses and transactional businesses.

#Subscription businesses (easier)

Any business that requires you to stop your relationship to prevent being charged.

  • Your bank
  • Netflix
  • internet provider
  • Cell phone

#Transactional businesses (harder)

A transactional business charges you only when you initiate it.

  • Local coffee shop
  • Retailers (on or offline)
  • Restaurant

As you can imagine, it’s easier for subscription businesses to keep a customer paying.

How not to do it

When I think of traditional attempts at customer retention, I think of this video of a user trying to cancel AOL that made national news.

Let’s face it. If it comes to this, you’re too late to expect any customer loyaly. Customer retention starts at the time your company first interacts with you and continues for the entire lifetime of the customer.

Try fixing your leaky bathtub

Next time you’re trying to increase profits, consider improving the customer experience rather than boosting sales. You’ll be able to create customers with higher lifetime value (somewhere between 1.7 – 3.4 times the value according to Wikipedia). Imagine a leaking bathtub filled with your customers. You want the bathtub to be full. If you’re leaking customers, it takes more work to keep it full. Why not fix the leak?