Soften the Blow: Turn Subscription Cancellations Into Product Improvement Opportunities

By Thomas DiNatale
April 5, 2022

We’ve all been there: wanting to cancel a subscription and having to jump through hoops to do it. It’s not fun. Are you giving your customers the same run-around?

No matter what you do, you’ll have customers who want to leave. It’s a way of subscription product life. But instead of showing them the digital door, why not try to reverse their exit — or at least give them an easy way out?

When customers are one foot out the door, giving them a friendly cancellation flow can give them pause — or at least leave them with a positive last impression.

Even so, cancellations aren’t all for not. There is so much to learn about your product when customers decide to leave. If you’re not leveraging those insights, you’re missing out on opportunities to improve your product.

Give your customers a sweet kiss goodbye, and learn something constructive along the way. Here’s how.

Before They Cancel Their Subscription, Show Customers What They’ll Be Missing

A cancel button void of friendly messaging and honest attempts at retention is a dull and impersonal experience. What would compel anyone to want to stay after a ho-hum send-off like that?

You still have a chance to salvage your customer’s subscription before they hit the cancel button. Start by emphasizing the benefits they’ll miss out on before they go through with quitting. These benefits can frame the cancel button or be part of a multi-step cancel flow experience. 

To remind customers what benefits they’d lose, try these different types of messages:

  • Remind them why they joined. Show your subscribers the value their subscription provides. It’s why they joined in the first place and perhaps why they remained loyal. You could give facts and figures that reflect the value received. For example, a subscription food service could emphasize hours saved by not grocery shopping or extra time spent making meals with friends and family. You could also reframe the subscription’s values by using customer testimonials. A little social proof can go a long way.
  • Make it personal. Show the customer precisely what they’ve received since they began their subscription. Along with emphasizing the value, your product provides, giving them a glimpse into their ‘stats’ can be a real eye-opener and make them think twice. For example, you could show the total amount saved or the number of healthy meals delivered since becoming a subscriber.
  • Offer pathways to find information. Sometimes, customers want to cancel because they don’t get your new feature. To try and clear up any confusion and save them from canceling, offer an opportunity to chat with a customer experience representative and provide links to FAQs. For example, a subscriber may not know they can pause a subscription, delay a bill date or change the items they are receiving. Rather than allow them to cancel, allowing them to learn about their options can satisfy what they are trying to accomplish in the first place.

Learn the Cause Behind the Cancellation With a Multi-Step Cancel Flow

Even with your friendly messaging and articulated benefits, cancellations will still happen. But that doesn’t mean you still can’t get something out of your subscribers or give them a chance to air their frustrations. Ideally, their feedback will improve your product.

So before you show subscribers the cancel button, take advantage of the opportunity to ask them questions about why they want to cancel. Again, a multi-step cancel flow will be your best bet to gain insight into what’s not working and where things went wrong. 

When they hit the cancel button… 

  • Offer an alternative plan. Allow your subscribers to tell you why they’re leaving using structured inputs. Then, after they’ve answered a few questions, supply targeted alternatives based on their answers. For example, if you learn they enjoy the service but find it too expensive, offer lower-priced plans as an alternative. Doing this feels a little more personal and less overwhelming than offering every solution to stay if they’ve already felt compelled to hit ‘cancel.’  

When the targeted alternative tactic didn’t work… 

  •  Improve the existing subscriber experience. If the alternative suggestions didn’t work, give your out-the-door subscriber a few final questions to understand why. Ultimately, you want to learn about their experience and why they’ve decided to leave. Aggregating this data helps you understand the “why,” which informs what needs to be improved in the customer experience

For example, you might learn subscribers want more flexibility with their delivery frequency and billing dates. If you know this, you can get to work designing new features that keep future customers from churning for the same reasons.

  • Create cohorts for re-engagement. With the information you get from your multi-step cancel flow, create cohorts that you can target with specific re-engagement offers in the future. For example, you might learn people only want to utilize the service during particular times of the year, like holidays or summertime. Or maybe people are tired of the same options and are looking for new product offerings.

Above All, Make Your Cancellation Experience Feel Like a Sweet Goodbye

The peak-end rule states that people will remember the extreme positives and negatives of an experience and the last interaction. 

If we’re going by the peak-end rule, you’ve tried to give them multiple positive experiences to remember. So now is your final chance to leave them with a good impression. 

(Who knows? They could come back!)

So don’t make it difficult for your subscribers to cancel. To make it straightforward means making the cancel button easy to find and the process simple to execute. And give them a positive message to remember you while you’re at it. 

What you don’t want to do is make your cancellation flow so cumbersome and impersonal that it makes them feel happy that they left. 

So leave them with a kiss goodbye — give them an easy way out. You’ve done what you could. And with an empathetic cancellation flow, you’ll hold up a better overall impression of your brand. 

Don’t let cancellations get you down. Instead, view them as an opportunity to bring subscribers back from the brink — and learn how to give your existing and future customers a better experience while you’re at it.