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Using pivot tables to find out non performing customers



Moosa, one of our readers emailed this interesting question:

I have huge list of customers (around 1500).
Table includes following information
Customer # , Customer Name, Sales 2002, sales 2003, … sales 2012

My requirements are
1. list of customer who did not have sales during all these years
2. List of customer who have not business from 2002
3. List of customer who have not business from 2003

10.List of customer who have not business from 2012

So how do we identify these customers?

Of course, we can write a very long and complex formula to get the list. I think we are better off using that energy to reach out to these customers and improve the sales. So lets figure out an easy solution.

Enter Pivot Tables

Assuming our data looks like this:

Analyzing non performing customers using Excel pivot tables - example

1. Select any cell and insert a pivot table

2. Set up pivot table like this:

Pivot table settings for analyzing non performing customers in Excel

3. Add Value filter show only customers with sales

Click on row label > value filter and set up criteria like this:

Value filter settings > Pivot table for non performing customers

[More: using value filters with pivot tables]
4. Our report for non performing customers in 2002 is ready!

Pivot report for non performing customers - year 2002

Hmm.. this good, but tedious

You are right. Although this approach gives answer for a particular year, when we want results for another year, we need to repeat all steps again. Not cool man, not cool.

So what next?

Part of the problem is due to how our data is structured. If we had 3 column structure like below,

If our data has this structure, then we could easily create a slicer based pivot report to see customers for any year

we could set up a report filter on year and see which customers did not have any sales for any given year.

Alas, lets assume Moosa is stuck with this data.

Enter a helper column

We could improve our original solution so that user can select any year (or all) and see which customers did not fetch any sales by using a simple helper column.

  1. Just go to the original data set and add an extra column at the end.
  2. Call this selected year
  3. Now, go to an empty cell somewhere else in the worksheet and name it asselYear
  4. This is where we will keep the year for which we want the results (can be 2002, 2003…2012 or all)
  5. Lets assume our data is in range C4:M4 (C4 has 2002, D4 has 2003 … M4 has 2012)
  6. Now, we want to fetch only the selYear’s data in to this helper column. So if 2002 is selected, we want data in C4, for 2003 data in D4… and for all we want sum of all numbers in C4:M4.
  7. Looks like we can use some INDEX magic here.
  8. In the helper column write =IF(selYear="all",sum(C4:M4),INDEX(C4:M4,selYear-2001))
  9. Go ahead and examine that formula. I am not going to explain 😛

Now, our helper column fetches any one years data or sum of all years data, based on what users want. Awesome!

Using helper column and showing values for any selected year - demo

Lets go back to the pivot

Armed with our helper column, lets re-create the pivot table. But this time, instead of dropping any one year, we will drop selected year column in to “Values” area.  This way, our pivot report shows customer names for selected year.

Lets add a combo-box form control so that we can select the year interactively.

But there is one problem!

Our pivot report does not refresh whenever we select another year.

Of course, we can easily fix this with a one line macro & some duct tape.

Right click on the combo box and choose “Assign macro”

Name the macro as refresh Pivot and write below code [more on the macro here]

Sub refreshPivot()
End Sub

And we are done! We can interactively see which customers did not fetch us any sales for any given year. See this demo:

Interactively see which customers are non-performing for any given year - Excel Pivot Tables

Download Example workbook

Click here to download example workbook & see this in action. Explore the macro & pivot table settings to understand how this works.

Using Pivot tables vs. Formulas for cases like this

I think this is a perfect example when Pivot table based solution is simpler compared to formula based one. Not only is it simple to set up, but it is very usable & modifiable. Often we complicate a problem by trying to figure out the perfect formula for it. I think an intelligent Excel user needs to mix various options – pivot tables, vba, formulas, tables etc. to get the solution in few simple steps.

This way, we can spend rest of our time finding out why Foger Rederer never bought anything from us after 2005.

What do you think? Do you use pivot tables often? How would you have solved Moosa’s problem? Please share using comments.

Learn Pivot Tables & Become a data rock-star

If you are new to pivot tables or have not used them to their full potential, now is the time to dip your toes. Check out below resources:

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13 Responses to “Using pivot tables to find out non performing customers”

  1. David Onder says:

    To avoid the helper column and the macro, I would transpose the data into the format shown above (Name, Year, Sales).  Now I can show more than one year, I can summarize - I can do many more things with it.  ASAP Utilities (http://www.asap-utilities.com) has a new experimental feature that can easily transpose the table into the correct format.  Much easier in my opinion.


    • Chandoo says:

      Of course with alternative data structure, we can easily setup a slicer based solution so that everything works like clockwork with even less work.

  2. Martin says:

    David, I was just about to post the same!
    In Contextures site, I remember there's a post on how to do that. Clearly, the way data is layed out on the very beginning is critical to get the best results, and even you may thinkg the original layout is the best way, it is clearly not. And that kind of mistakes are the ones I love ! because it teaches and trains you to avoid them, and how to think on the data structure the next time.
    Eventually, you get to that place when you "see" the structure on the moment the client tells you the request, and then, you realized you had an ephiphany, that glorious moment when data is no longer a mistery to you!!!

  3. JMarc says:

    If the goal is to see the list of customers who have not business from yearX, I would change the helper column formula to :  =IF(selYear="all",sum(C4:M4),sum(offset(C4:M4,,selyear-2002,1,columns(C4:M4)-selyear+2002)))
     This formula will sum the sales from Selected Year to 2012.


  4. Elias says:

    If you are already using a helper column and the combox box runs a macro after it changes, why not just adjust the macro and filter the source data?

  5. RichW says:

    I gotta say, it seems like you are giving 10 answers to 10 questions when your client REALLY wants to know is: "What is the last year "this" customer row had a non-zero Sales QTY?... You're missing the forest for the trees...
    Change the helper column to:
    =IFERROR(INDEX(tblSales[[#Headers],[Customer name]:[Sales 2012]],0,MATCH(9.99999999999999E+307,tblSales[[#This Row],[Customer name]:[Sales 2012]],1)),"NO SALES")
    And yes, since I'm matching off of them for value, I would change the headers to straight "2002" instead of "Sales 2002" but you sort the table on the helper column and then and there you can answer all of your questions.

  6. Kevin says:

    Hi thanks for this. Just can't figure out how you get the combo box to control the pivot table. Can you please advise?

  7. Kevin says:

    Thanks Chandoo. But I know how to insert a combobox, I was more referring to how does in control the year in the pivot table? Or is this obvious?  I note that if I select the Selected Year from the PivotTable Field List it says "the field has no itens" whereas this would normally allow you to change the year??
    Thanks again

  8. Kevin says:

    worked it out thanks...
    when =data!Q2 changes it changes the value in column N:N and then when you do a refreshall the pivottable vlaues get updated 
    Still not sure why PivotTable Field List says “the field has no itens"?? I created my own pivot table and could not repeat that.

  9. Bermir says:

    Hi, I put the sales data in range(F5:P19) and added a column D with the title 'Last sales in year'. After that, in column D for each customer, the simple formula


    will provide the last year in which that particular customer had any sales, which can than easily be managed by autofilter.

    • Bermir says:

      Somewhat longer but perhaps a bit more solid (with the column titles in row 4):


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