How to find 'at risk' customers before they switch

Here at Compete we analyze consumer behavior online, and as part of that we look at specific consumer segments to understand how their behavior differs from the general population. In the wireless world, we look at a number of segments including existing customers who are checking out competitors. These at risk subscribers, or "˜pre-churners’ as we call them, are a critical segment in the saturated wireless market.

Looking at the Big 4 carriers’ customers below, you can see the percentage of existing online customers who are evaluating competitors in the wireless space. Not surprisingly, T-Mobile customers are the most active in checking out competitive products and services. This is partly because they are a younger, more active subscriber base, and partly because of the legacy of 1-year contracts at T-Mobile. These data help carriers identify when their customers are about to leave, and then dig deeper to understand why (what products and services are they looking at?) and how they can keep them.

The flip side of this is to figure out where customers (or prospects) are that are thinking of switching. If you’re a marketer looking to identify opportunities to attract competitive customers, or a CRM manager trying to retain your base, you need all the help you can to identify and reach these flight risk customers.

If you look at an upstart like Helio, 4% of their site traffic is from existing T-Mobile customers, with 2% from both AT&T and Verizon Wireless, and Sprint/Nextel customers seemingly uninterested in checking out the MVNO. T-Mobile customers also over index at Boost Mobile, another youth oriented brand that is successfully attracting T-Mobile interest.

Understanding where pre-churners are cross-shopping is valuable information. But Helio, Boost Mobile and others can’t just place their company’s ads on T-Mobile’s website. In order to get an idea of where marketers could go to lure these consumers, we next indexed websites unrelated to the wireless industry. As a benchmark we know that on average 1% of the Internet Browsing Population (IBP) falls into the "wireless pre-churners" segment.

If you want to find wireless pre-churners, you may want to head over to gather.com, a social networking site for adults, and invite them into your community. Gather.com had the highest composition of pre-churner traffic of any non-wireless website that attracted significant pre-churners from all of the Big 4 carriers. This means that gather.com’s traffic has twice as many Sprint pre-churners compared to the IBP average, and 4X as many AT&T pre-churners.

On the other end of the spectrum, pre-churners from all the carriers combined only composed 0.3% of yelp.com‘s traffic. This is interesting considering that yelp.com is an open forum for recommendations on everything from restaurants to vacations (and does include cell phone discussions).

Understanding the popular sites of specific demographic segments is great first step to convert target segments, but adding in the behavioral component sheds new light on how to find, and convert, those hard to reach, and valuable, segments.

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