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Showcase: telco customer churn prediction with GNU R and H2O

Showcase for using H2O and R for churn prediction (inspired by ZhouFang928 examples).

ZhouFang928 in a blog post Telco Customer Churn with R in SQL Server 2016 presented a great analysis of telco customer churn prediction. I found it missed one of my favorite machine-learning library H2O in the comparison. This showcase presents how easy it is to use H2O library to build very good quality predictive models.


I have used:

Remark for Windows users

Instalation of the packages requires Rtools compatible with your R version.

Usage instruction

Prepare project

Install dependencies for the project

rsuite proj depsinst

It will result in the following output

2017-09-23 20:39:18 INFO:rsuite:Detecting repositories (for R 3.3)...
2017-09-23 20:39:20 WARNING:rsuite:Project is configured to use non reliable repositories: S3. You should use only reliable repositories to be sure of project consistency over time.
2017-09-23 20:39:20 INFO:rsuite:Will look for dependencies in ...
2017-09-23 20:39:20 INFO:rsuite:.          MRAN#1 = (win.binary, source)
2017-09-23 20:39:20 INFO:rsuite:.            S3#2 = (source)
2017-09-23 20:39:20 INFO:rsuite:Collecting project dependencies (for R 3.3)...
2017-09-23 20:39:20 INFO:rsuite:Resolving dependencies (for R 3.3)...
2017-09-23 20:39:44 INFO:rsuite:Detected 29 dependencies to install. Installing...
2017-09-23 20:43:47 INFO:rsuite:All dependencies successfully installed.

Build custom packages

rsuite proj build

You should get the following output

2017-09-23 20:48:46 INFO:rsuite:Installing externalpackages (for R 3.3) ...
2017-09-23 20:48:51 INFO:rsuite:Installing modelbuilder (for R 3.3) ...
2017-09-23 20:48:57 INFO:rsuite:Successfuly build 2 packages

Train and evaluate models

Run model training and evaluation

Rscript.exe R\build_telco_churn_model.R --nthreads=4 --max-mem="4g"

Please note that script has two parameters:

  • nthreads - number of threads to be used with -1 (all) as default
  • max_mem - maximum memory size for H2O with 4g as default

Check results

After succesful model building you can find it (in H2O format) in folder export. It can be loaded in H2O Flow for further inspection.


I decided to go with Gradient Boosting Models. To select best model I used grid search for such parameters:

  • number of trees: 50, 100, 500
  • max tree depth: 4, 8, 16, 32

Best model was selected using AUC metric -- resulting in 100 trees with max depth equals 16. After model building I optimized threshold to maximize minimum per class accuracy.

Obtained results

Best model (with threshold selected to maximize min per class classification error) gave following results on test dataset:

  • AUC = 0.949
  • Accuracy = 0.879
  • Precision = 0.420
  • Recall = 0.848

Performance issues

Computation involved validating (using 5-fold cross validation) 12 GBM models with different parameters. On my laptop (Intel i7, 8GB RAM, Windows 10) it took around 25 minutes. Using Amazon's EC2 c4.4xlarge instance the time droped to around 14-15 minutes.

Good practices

  1. Always install packages for each project separately. R Suite solution makes it for you.
  2. Select best model with any parametr tunning procedure.
  3. Do not forget to optimize threshold.
  4. Use logging instead of print function.

Project structure description

Project structure


  • data - this folder contains CSV file with customers' info. It is a copy of data from ZhouFang928's example.
  • export - this folder is for saving computing results (currently final model is stored there)
  • R - master scripts
  • packages
    • externalpackages - dummy package to maintain 3rd party packages dependencies
    • modelbuilder - package that delivers funciton that builds GBM models


Showcase for using H2O and R for churn prediction (inspired by ZhouFang928 examples)





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