Most companies spend a lot of time thinking about the sales and marketing process, the customer onboarding process, and the larger customer experience. But very few think strategically about when a customer wants to cancel or otherwise “break up” with them.
This is sometimes called “offboarding,” and you should definitely be measuring how often it happens by looking at customer experience metrics like retention rate or its inverse, churn rate.
Customers wanting to cancel is just part of doing business. They may have any number of reasons why they want to cancel:
- They found a cheaper option
- They aren’t happy with your product or service
- They just don’t need your product or service anymore
- A personal reason they don’t want to talk to you about – like financial troubles or a death in the family
Companies need to accept that some customers are going to want to leave, and help them exit in an easy way. After all, offboarding is still part of the customer experience, which means it has the chance to be memorable – positively or negatively.
Why is this important? Because you never know if or when a customer will be back. Maybe that cheaper alternative wasn’t as good after all, or maybe circumstances changed again and the customer needs you again. Perhaps most importantly, even if that customer is no longer a customer, they can still refer business to you – or not.
I recently decided to fire a home services provider that had been doing work for me for eight years. The quality of the work was average, but this was a low-cost provider so I was essentially getting what I was paying for. It was when the provider stopped responding to my phone calls and texts that I decided to leave.
Being responsive to customers is core to the customer experience, especially when they are trying to give you more business. In my case, I had asked several times to meet with the provider on some new projects that would have been a significant source of revenue for them. After weeks of silence, I gave up.
When I finally got them on the phone to cancel, the call went like this:
Me: “Hi, I am calling to cancel my services.”
Me: “OK. That’s it?”
Them: “Yes that’s it.”
Me: “OK, bye.”
I suppose I could give them some points for making it easy to cancel, but how do you think it made me feel, after eight years being a dedicated customer, to not even be asked why I was leaving? The company did not show any empathy, inquisitiveness, or remorse at all about losing a customer.
What are the chances that I refer this business to someone else? Zero. Why would I? In fact, I’m more likely to tell people to avoid working with them. And if I ever need this kind of service again, you can bet I will be looking at one of their competitors.
So what can we learn from this? How can we make offboarding into the last customer experience that people remember?
- Make it easy to cancel. It should be almost as easy to cancel on your website as it is to sign up. Don’t make people hunt for it, and don’t make them jump through tons of hoops.
- Ask the customer why they want to cancel, and accept their answer as valuable feedback that can be used to improve your product, service, or experience in the future.
- Don’t make people call or chat or send an email if they are trying to self-serve. (This of course applies to most other parts of the customer journey too.)
- While it’s OK to make a retention offer (such as a lower price), make sure the offer resonates with the customer while not devaluing your product or service. (In other words, if the customer wants to leave for a reason other than price, reducing the price will probably be ineffective.)
- Leave them singing your praises. After all, you may only have one chance at a last impression.
Related: Hear stories of good and bad offboarding experiences in episode 163 of the Experience This! podcast, available here or on your favorite podcast app.