Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 36 Number 2 2019 pp. 355-390

Effect of Friends’ Churn on Consumer Behavior in Mobile Networks

Ferreira, Pedro, Telang, Rahul, and De Matos, Miguel Godinho


We study how consumers decide which tariff plan to choose and whether to churn when their friends churn in the mobile industry. We develop a theoretical model showing conditions under which users remain with their carrier and conditions under which they churn when their friends do. We then use a large and rich anonymized longitudinal panel of call detailed records to characterize the consumers’ path to death with unprecedented level of detail. We explore the structure of the network inferred from these data to derive instruments for friends’ churn, which is typically endogenous in network settings. This allows us to econometrically identify the effect of peer influence in our setting. On average, we find that each additional friend that churns increases the monthly churn rate by 0.06 percent. The observed monthly churn rate across our dataset is 2.15 percent. We also find that firms introducing the pre-paid tariff plans that charge the same price to call users inside and outside the carrier help retain consumers that would otherwise churn. In our setting, without this tariff plan the monthly churn rate could have been as high as 8.09 percent. We perform a number of robustness checks, in particular to how we define friends in the social graph, and show that our results remain unchanged. Our paper shows that the traditional definition of customer lifetime value underestimates the value of consumers and, in particular, that of consumers with more friends due to the effect of contagious churn and, therefore, managers should actively take into account the structure of the social network when prioritizing whom to target during retention campaigns.

Key words and phrases: : telecommunications tariffs, mobile churn, contagious churn, tariff plans, telecommunications industry