Book Reviews: Fighting Churn with Data

Fighting Churn with Data by Carl Gold is an interesting concept with a pretty good implementation. I had a chance to read it while it was still in the Manning Early Access Program, an experience which always has its pros and cons. On the pro side, it was coming out right when I started to get into an initiative on customer churn at my company, so it was great timing. On the minus side, you could definitely see the chapters which had an editor’s touch versus the early drafts—there were typos, grammatical issues, and the things that authors simply won’t catch the first time around. To be clear, though, this isn’t a knock on the book itself; I haven’t checked the final product, but I’m sure that was cleaned up as the book went to print.

Gold does a good job of keeping the topic light. You can get into the weeds with churn, but his writing style keeps the book entertaining. Also, it helps that the book follows a few real companies as they try to fight churn, meaning that the metrics look realistic and the results are reasonable even if the actual numbers shown are randomly generated. Furthermore, they aren’t all in the same industry or using the same business model, so you do get some variety there.

The one thing that I think could have been better about the book is the sections on forecasting and machine learning. The author takes us through logistic regression and classification techniques, which are useful, but misses out on the chance to cover Kaplan-Meier survival curves or the Cox proportional hazard function. Those are definitely more complex to explain to business users, but they’re quite effective in forecasting, and I think the book would be better for having them or at least telling readers that these are additional techniques used in the field.

Other than that critique, I was happy with the book and recommend it to people looking for a way to understand churn risks and rates. The approach is pragmatic and I think data scientists and business analysts can both get something out of it.

Gold has a website dedicated to the book and additional resources, too.

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