Dear Dr. Jay:
What's the best way to estimate customer turnover for a service business whose customer transactions are usually anonymous?
You have posed an interesting question. My first response was, “you can’t”. But as I think about it some more, you might already have some data in-house that could be helpful in addressing the issue.
It appears you are in the mass transit industry. Most transit companies offer single ride fares and monthly passes while companies in college towns often offer semester-long passes. Since oftentimes the passes (monthly, semester, etc.) are sold at a discounted rate, we might conclude that all the single fare revenues are turnover transactions.
This assumption is a small leap of faith as I’m sure some folks just pay the single fare price and ride regularly. Let’s consider my boss. He travels a fair amount and even with the discounted monthly pass, it’s often cheaper for him to pay the single ride fare. Me, I like the convenience of not having to make sure I have the correct fare in my pocket so I just pay the monthly rate, even if I don’t use it every day. We both might be candidates for weekly pass sales if we planned for those weeks when we know we’d be commuting every day versus working from home or traveling. I suspect the only way to get at that dimension would be to conduct some primary research to determine the frequency of ridership and how folks pay.
For your student passes, you probably have enough historic data in-house to compare your average semester pass sales to the population of students using them and can figure out if you see turnover in those sales. That leaves you needing to estimate the turnover on your monthly pass sales.
You also may have corporate sales that you could look at. For example, here at CMB, employees can purchase their monthly transit passes through our human resources department. Each month our cards are automatically updated so that we don’t have to worry about renewing it every few weeks. I suspect if we analyzed the monthly sales from our transit system (MTBA) to CMB, we could determine the turnover rate.
As you can see, you could already have valuable data in-house that can help shed light on customer turnover. I’m happy to look at any information you have and let you know what options you might have in trying to answer your question.
Dr. Jay is CMB’s Chief Methodologist and VP of Advanced Analytics and holds a Zone 3 monthly pass to the MTBA. If it wasn’t for the engineer, he wouldn’t make it to South Station every morning.
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