Reducing Churn: How to Fix a Leaky Bucket

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You’re doing a great job adding a lot of new sales, but why isn’t your monthly recurring revenue climbing in proportion? You have a leaky bucket.

Without an ongoing way to measure churn, you’re hurting your customer experience. It’s time to learn about reducing churn.

Recently on Now Brands Talk, we interviewed Logan Lyles, VP of CX at Sweet Fish and Co-Host of B2B Growth, about building the runway while you’re taking off, being the dentist, and how to develop a proactive approach to customer relationships.

Among other things, we discussed:

  • Warning signs of high customer churn
  • Intentionality in customer relationships for improved CX
  • What it means to be your customer’s dentist
  • Owning the expertise in a service-based business


How to recognize churn

In the summer 2020, Logan and his team at Sweet Fish realized, "Hey, we are adding a lot of new sales, but our monthly recurring revenue is not climbing in proportion to those sales." 

Long story short, Sweet Fish had a leaky bucket. 

The problem of churn shot up to the top of the list. It wasn't anywhere on the list before that — Logan didn't even have a metric for measuring churn. 

Prioritizing churn makes sense. If the number one job of sales is to bring in new revenue, customer experience’s number one job should be to retain that revenue as long as possible.

Warning signs of churn

How do you know if you're churning?

As a bootstrap startup, Sweet Fish grew very, very fast. The company hit the INC 5000 just outside the INC 500.

So — Bootstrapped. Growing quickly. Building the runway in front of the plane.

In that context, Logan and the leadership team asked, "How many more producers do we need to hire?" (At Sweet Fish, producers are the primary customer-facing role on the success team.)

That question was not easy to answer, especially when building the runway in front of the plane. You don't want to build too far; you don't want to come up short. So the math gets fuzzy. 

Trouble with planning was the first key alarm bell — something was burning at Sweet Fish.

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Culture signals and core values

Logan keeps an eye on what he calls "culture signals." They're not necessarily as prominent as the company's three core values, but the team uses these hashtags internally on Slack and in customer conversations. One of those culture signals is called #BeTheDentist. 

When you go to the dentist, you don't tell them what they should do. You point them in the direction where it hurts, and then the dentist prescribes treatment. 

They might give you options — ‘We could do this now and this later,’ that sort of stuff — but the dentist is in the driver's seat. 

It's been that mantra, #BeTheDentist, that has helped Sweet fish take a more proactive approach to customer success.

Reacting, suggesting, and prescribing

Logan said Sweet Fish maintains two main phases for their customers. 

  1. Launch their new podcast. That means Sweet Fish helps develop the name and brand identity, gets the host their equipment and so forth. 

  2. Manage ongoing production promotion once the show is live. 

In that launch process, Sweet Fish has detailed dozens of tasks meant to give structure to their launch specialists so those team members can anticipate what's next. 

The Sweet Fish team has built out a template for each task and a calendar for that template. For example, in week one, they ship equipment, so they add a video explaining how to use it. 

The takeaway here is that Sweet Fish anticipates customer needs, creates resources to help the customer meet those needs, and then develops a system to share that resource when the customer needs it.

Give people resources (but don't rely on them)

Logan just moved into a new house, so he's had calls from all kinds of providers eager to offer him services. As a 35-year-old millennial, though, Logan's been going online to do the self-serve thing. But of course, he gets stuck. Then he calls the phone number. 

What does he get?

Interminable hold with elevator music punctuated by an automated message. "For faster service, go to our website at www-dot-whatever-dot-com."

What's wrong with that message?

First, saying WWW sounds like you're stuck in the 90s. Besides, if someone is calling you, don't you think they've already tried your website and had no luck? 

You've got to think about everything from the point of view of the customer's experience. 

If your resources are not working for your customer, fix that problem.

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Customers who think they're experts

Customers come in three types — those willing to be led step-by-step, those willing to be guided, and those who believe they are experts and you are their serf. 

To provide great customer experiences, you have to first recognize what type of customer you're dealing with. Where do they sit on that spectrum? Then from there, how do you adjust your approach based on what sort of customer you're interacting with?

Episode takeaways

  • Take your customer experience from reactive to prescriptive.
  • Prescribe advice like a dentist would for a patient. Remember, you're the dentist… er, expert. 
  • Give your customers resources for the most common challenges they face to leave your human agents with the bandwidth to tackle the more complicated and complex tasks. 

Get in touch with Logan at LinkedIn or Sweet Fish.

To hear this interview and many more like it, subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or our website or search for Now Brands Talk in your favorite podcast player.


Lynn Pine
Lynn Pine

Lynn’s career has spanned across different kinds of content, from copywriting, to journalism, to marketing, and even mystery puzzle games. She brings facets from all these disciplines into her work at Ada. Outside of that, Lynn loves playing games, hiking, and reading about trees.

More info about Lynn Pine: LinkedIn

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