Yes, you need churn retrospectives

You just lost a customer. Fingers may be pointed; tempers may be frayed–it’s a good time to conduct a retrospective analysis of why it happened, and what you can do to

First, make sure that the customer is, indeed, gone. There may be ways to rescue the loss or recoup part of the business. If so, attend to that first. Don’t attempt to conduct the retrospective until the situation is completely clear.

The CSM facilitates the retrospective, inviting other players as appropriate. For small losses, the CSM may proceed alone, but for larger losses, the team can be quite large. Emotions can run high so it’s important to maintain a factual and constructive atmosphere for the exercise.

Use a structured template. I like to cover four items:

  • The use case: Why did the customer purchase the product or service in the first place? How was the product used, or intended to be used? What did the customer expect to get from the purchase?
  • The churn story: How did we get to the churn event? Was it expected or a surprise?
  • The root cause(s) for the churn: What caused the churn?
    I like to organize root causes in three buckets, and identify the main one or two issues:

    • product fit (the use case did not match the product capabilities; the customer wanted features that were not delivered; there were product quality issues)
    • service quality (slow support, inadequate onboarding, gaps in customer management)
    • customer event (bankruptcy, change in ownership, change in champions, third-party influences)
  • Lessons learned & actions: What can we do in the future to avoid similar losses?

Once the retrospective is complete, the essential next step is to implement the changes identified during it. They may include changes in how you sell (e.g., stop selling to customers with a particular use case), how you onboard (e.g., offer ongoing training for new users), and how you manage customers (e.g., work more closely with integrators). Avoid losing another customer!


Do you use churn retrospectives? Have they allowed you to make changes for the better? Please share your experience. And if you need help controlling churn,  ask me.