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Culture and Engagement

How ThoughtFarmer achieved a negative churn rate

Low churn is a huge indicator of success. But what about negative churn? Find out how you can achieve it within your organization.

6 minute read
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When I first heard that our customer success team had achieved a negative churn rate, I thought it was a mistake. I mean really, a “negative churn rate?!” How is that even possible?

But, as it turns out, they weren’t lying. It was real. Our customer success team really had achieved the impossible.

If you have trouble getting your head around the topic of churn rate, let me break it down a little bit: customer churn is defined as when an existing customer, user, subscriber or any kind of return client stops doing business or ends the relationship with a company.

In short, your churn rate is the rate at which you lose customers.

So if you have a high churn rate, then your customers aren’t sticking around very long. A low churn rate would indicate a high degree of loyalty from your customers, as they rarely (if ever) leave you. A negative churn rate implies that any new and existing customer revenue exceeds that lost from unsubscribing customers.

As your business grows, your revenue from new and existing customers should continue to grow and offset any amount lost to churn and downgrades. If it doesn’t, your revenue growth will slow down, and you will likely plateau.

Are you with me still?

Negative churn rate could be realized by increasing the value of your strongest customers. It is often calculated like this: Negative Churn = (New Revenue from existing customers) + (Existing Customer Revenue) – (Churned Customer Revenue).

Is that how ThoughtFarmer did it? Well, not exactly. There is one other way of achieving a negative churn rate.

Carolien Dekeersmaeker, our Director of Customer Success explains how it was achieved:

“In Q4 of 2018, our churn rate in Q4 was 0% (100% of our customers renewed). But then something unexpected happened—we had two customers who had left in previous years contact us and renew their subscription in Q4 of 2018 as well.”

Churned customers who return are always a magical thing, but in this case, it gave us a negative churn rate and a retention rate of over 100%.

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What is our secret to achieving negative churn?

The topic of churn can be a scary concept for many. After all, no one wants to lose customers! Yet churn can happen for a variety of reasons—some within your control, some outside of your control.

By focusing hard on the things we can control, we have consistently kept our churn low.

Here are a few strategies we leverage at ThoughtFarmer to continually reduce our churn while providing our customers with an excellent experience:

A positive onboarding experience

A customers’ first impression of your product is important, but it is also critical that they fully understand the product’s possibilities. This is why, in the period leading up to launch, training, providing best practices, and pre-launch check-ins are so important. It’s also important to make sure your customers achieve their desired outcomes with your product.

Regular check-ins

We engage in regular check-ins with customers to review objectives and joint goal-setting. Frequent check-ins also allow us to address issues right away, while promoting open and healthy communication between us and our customers.


One of our key values is being user-centric; we imagine what it’s like to be someone other than ourselves. In relation to customer success, it means that we listen closely to our customers and welcome their feedback, and often consider it for our product roadmap. Having this degree of empathy has enabled us to continually look at our product through our customers’ eyes, aim to understand their point of view, and therefore make decisions based on what is best for their business and objectives.

Building relationships

Building on empathy and check-in points, we invest as much time as necessary to understanding our customers and maintaining a meaningful relationship. At ThoughtFarmer, this is something we work hard at, and as we continue to grow as an organization, we will strive to scale this.

Leveraging referrals

We get a lot of our new sales leads from referrals from existing clients, which is a fantastic testament to both our product and our customer success team. It’s no surprise that referred customers are more profitable than other customers. Referred customers are also more likely to use the product and its features more extensively than novice customers who take a more cautious approach in building involvement.

So as you can see, achieving a negative churn rate isn’t so elusive after all. It’s the result of hard work, deep insight, and of course some amazing customers we have the pleasure of interacting with on a daily basis.