At-Risk Customers

Whether it is because of their financial situation, a change in their business structure, or something beyond their control, many organizations eventually change course. When it comes time for a business’s customers to renew their contracts, upgrade their products or services, or expand into new markets, some of them will be at-risk.

What are At-Risk Customers?

At-risk customers are those who may be at risk of leaving the company, changing their product or service offerings, or otherwise changing their relationship with a business. This impacts customer churn and could mean expensive losses for the business, especially if an at-risk customer is a major account.

There are several reasons that a customer would be considered “at-risk”:

  • Financial situation: Changes in a customer’s financial situation—such as decreased cash flow or increased expenses—could make it difficult for them to renew their contracts or purchase new services.
  • Change in business structure: Some businesses may need to restructure due to external forces, such as changes in the market, government regulations, or changes within their industry. This restructuring could lead to new customer requirements or less favorable terms.
  • Change in customer needs: As customer needs and preferences evolve, some customers may decide to switch providers or products.
  • Poor customer experience: If a customer has a poor experience with the company (e.g., bad customer service, inadequate product quality, etc.), they will be more likely to leave and look for another provider. In fact, PwC research indicates that nearly one in five customers will leave after one bad experience.
  • Bad publicity: If a company is under fire in the media for any reason—fraud allegations, employee mistreatment, etc.—it can drive customers away and keep existing ones from renewing.

At-risk customers are not necessarily bad customers—they may have trouble meeting their obligations or need additional support. And sometimes, the risk of churn is due to something out of their control.

That’s why customer retention is a critical part of any business strategy. By identifying customers at risk for churn early, businesses can work proactively to keep them engaged and loyal.

When businesses recognize potential risks, they can take steps to mitigate issues before a customer decides to leave. This could mean providing discounts, offering additional services or support, or investing in innovative solutions that better meet the customer’s needs.


  • Churn Risk: The relative risk that a customer will move away from a business’s product or service.
  • Risk of Attrition: The risk that a customer will not renew their relationship with a business.
  • Churn Threats: The potential risks that could lead to customer churn.
  • Unsatisfied Customers: Customers that are at risk for churn because they are frustrated or unhappy with the product or service provided.

Identifying At-Risk Customers

At-risk customers could mean serious losses in predictable revenue for a business. To succeed with customer success efforts, businesses must first identify who their at-risk customers are.

There are several things organizations look at when identifying these accounts.

Negative Reviews

If an existing customer has posted negative reviews or feedback about the company on social media or review sites, there is a good chance that they won’t renew their contract.

Negative reviews will usually be posted on a public platform and can be monitored by the business. In the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) space, these include Capterra, G2 Crowd, and Trustpilot.

Occasionally, users will also post customer complaints on YouTube, TikTok, or another social media platform as a warning to other potential customers.

Low Engagement

Customers who are not interacting with the company, whether by phone, email, or social media, are at risk of leaving. This could indicate that they’re unhappy with their product or service and may be looking for a better alternative.

An inactive customer will usually do one or more of the following:

  • Not respond to emails
  • Not open marketing messages
  • Stop interacting with content on the company’s website
  • Ignore their account manager or customer success team
  • Spend significantly less on the company’s products or services

Monitoring these customer behaviors can help businesses identify at-risk customers before it’s too late.

Support Tickets

When customers open support tickets, it usually indicates that they have a problem or issue with the company’s product or service. Customer support tickets offer numerous indicators of customer sentiment, including:

  • Issues using a product or service
  • Complaints about the product or service
  • Questions about how to use or access the product or service

Within the support chat, there are also several other customer data points businesses can look at, including the time it took for the customer to get a response, how satisfied they were with the resolution, and whether or not the problem was resolved.

Some help desk software even offers sentiment analyses that allow businesses to see if customers are angry, frustrated, or satisfied. And using keywords, it shows businesses exactly where customers may be confused or unsatisfied.

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a metric used to measure customer satisfaction and loyalty. Customers are asked how likely they are to recommend the product or service to friends, family, or colleagues on a scale of 0-10.

The scale works like this:

  • 0-6 is considered a detractor.
  • 7-8 is considered passive.
  • 9-10 is considered a promoter.

When an account is a detractor (based on customer survey responses), it could indicate they won’t be a loyal customer much longer.

Calculating NPS is a straightforward process. All you have to do is add up the values of survey responses, then subtract the percentage of detractors from promoters.

For example, if you have a 30% promoter rate and a 10% detractor rate, your NPS would be 20 (30-10=20).

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) surveys measure how satisfied customers are with a product or service. The survey asks customers to rate their experience on a scale of 1-5, usually using stars, smileys, or other visual indicators.

The score works like this:

  • 1-2 is considered unsatisfied.
  • 3 is considered neutral.
  • 4-5 is considered satisfied.

The CSAT score is the proportion of satisfied customers (i.e., 4-5 ratings) divided by the total number of customers surveyed.

For example, if you had 100 people surveyed and 80 said they were satisfied (4-5 rating), then your CSAT score would be 80.

Social Listening (Monitoring Online Communities)

The best way to track negative reviews is by using social listening tools. This type of business software enables businesses to monitor conversations about their brand and products on social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, as well as review sites such as Yelp and Google Reviews.

By setting up alerts for keywords related to their company name or product, businesses can be notified whenever someone talks about their company and its products. This can help companies identify dissatisfied customers quickly and move to address any issues before the customer decides to switch to another provider.

Exit Interviews

Exit interviews are traditionally used to gain insights from customers who have decided to leave a company. During the interview, businesses can ask questions about the customer’s experience with their product or service, what caused them to leave, and how they could have improved their services.

This provides valuable information for the customer success team trying to identify future at-risk customers as well as develop better strategies for other customers.

When exit interview data is passed on to the sales and marketing teams, it can inform future customer segmentation, sales engagement, and marketing campaigns.

Creating an At-Risk Customer Strategy

Customer engagement isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. In order to build a successful at-risk customer strategy, businesses need to identify the key characteristics of their at-risk customers and develop targeted strategies for each of their customer segments.

Map Ideal Customer Journey

Customer journey mapping is the first step in developing an effective at-risk customer strategy. It helps businesses identify the steps customers take throughout their journey with a business and pinpoint where customers are most likely to get frustrated or drop off.

The customer journey typically begins when a potential buyer seeks a product or service to solve their problem. In the buying decision process, they research the options available and make an informed decision, based on their needs, on which product or service they will purchase.

Once they’ve made their decision, they will then move forward to the purchasing process. This includes filling out the purchase forms, completing payment, and getting any necessary instructions on setup or use.

After the customer successfully purchases their product or service, they begin using it and engage with customer success or support if needed. This is usually followed by a renewal period where customers decide whether to remain loyal to the brand or switch to another provider.

Track User Behavior Data

Customer behavior data is one of the most important metrics businesses should track when building an at-risk customer strategy. It provides valuable insights into how customers interact with their products and services, as well as any potential issues or areas for improvement.

User behavior can be monitored in a few different areas:

  • Website visits
  • Product usage
  • Customer support tickets
  • Social media engagement
  • Online reviews and product ratings

Businesses can use data from offline and online behavior to identify which features are being used the most, where customers get stuck, and areas that need improvement.

Improve Operational Efficiency

Once a business knows exactly where its customers experience issues and where its product or service can be improved, its members can work together to create a more efficient and streamlined customer journey.

The most common areas of operational efficiency include:

  • Customer Onboarding: If customers aren’t given the right tools and information to use a product or service, they might give up and switch to another provider. Similarly, an onboarding process that doesn’t outline clear expectations can lead to frustrated customers.
  • Customer Support: Customers need to know their queries and issues will be addressed promptly and satisfactorily. And 83% of customers say they are more loyal to companies that are attentive and provide quick resolutions to their problems. Help desk software and chatbots can help businesses respond to customer inquiries faster and more efficiently.
  • Marketing Strategies: Businesses should ensure their marketing messages are clear, concise, and tailored to each customer segment. This helps customers understand the value of the product or service and how it will benefit them.
  • Integration and Scalability: As a business grows, it will either use the software that scales with it or abandon it for a better option. The more third-party integrations and scalable features a product or service has, the better.
  • Product Usability/Functionality: If the product a business sells isn’t easy to use, customers will find one that meets their needs. In this case, the organization should make changes (i.e., adding more or or removing unnecessary features) to the product that make it more usable for its target customers.
  • Pricing: Product pricing is one of the most important aspects of customer loyalty. Hidden fees, pricing changes, and unexpected charges can lead customers to abandon a product or service. Competitive pricing (i.e., researching the market and setting prices to remain competitive) can increase customer retention rates.

By making critical changes to the customer journey, businesses can improve their operational efficiency and create an environment that encourages customers to remain loyal.

See At-Risk Customers as an Opportunity

Just because a customer is at-risk doesn’t mean the relationship is doomed. Businesses should see these customers as an opportunity to keep them from leaving and to create a more meaningful connection with them.

Businesses can create win-back campaigns for their most valuable at-risk customers and address their specific needs or issues. This can be done through surveys, personalized messages, or loyalty programs.

For inactive customers, re-engagement campaigns can be used to provide special offers, discounts, or other incentives to encourage them to come back.

Help At-Risk Customers Succeed

Consistent engagement is key with customers at risk of churning. Businesses should be proactive in reaching out to them, offering support and help, and addressing any problems they might have.

Customer feedback is also important for businesses to understand how customers feel about their product or service — both the good and the bad.

When a business receives a bad review or a negative support ticket, it should respond quickly and empathetically.

Reduce Involuntary Churn

Involuntary churn happens when customers cannot pay for a service because of insufficient funds, outdated information, or incorrect payment information. It also happens because of payment issues, such as a lack of flexibility in payment options.

Some of these are the fault of the customer, but businesses need to proactively

Businesses can reduce involuntary churn by:

  • Updating customers on billing changes or new payment options
  • Offering flexible payment plans to customers in difficult financial situations
  • Improving the dunning process by sending reminders when a payment is due
  • Automating the billing process with a platform that monitors customer accounts for potential problems and sends automatic notifications or emails when needed

Organizations using the subscription business model can also encourage customers to use an automated payment method like setting up a direct debit.

People Also Ask

Are at-risk customers worth saving?

At-risk customers aren’t necessarily a lost cause. Businesses should see at-risk customers as an opportunity to create a more meaningful connection with them and address their specific needs or issues.

What is a churn risk?

Churn risk is the likelihood that a customer will cancel their subscription or discontinue their relationship with a business. This can be due to dissatisfaction with the product, pricing changes, poor customer support, or lack of engagement from the business.