goodbye from above

When a Customer Says Goodbye, It Doesn't Have to Be Forever

5 minute read
Phil Britt avatar
A recent report found 59% of customers who leave a brand end up returning, with a critical factor influencing that choice being a good offboarding process.

Ideally, customers of subscription services — think digital publications, Netflix, Blue Apron and the like — renew every month. But there comes a time when customers will want to end the subscription.

According to Bellwethr’s State of Customer Cancellations report (registration required), 59% of customers who leave end up returning, with a critical factor influencing that choice being a good offboarding process. Below some best practices to turn that goodbye into a see you later.

Make It Simple for Customers to Leave

Don’t make leaving complicated, said Mark Floisand, Coveo senior vice president, product and industry marketing.

“Approach offboarding in the same spirit that you would other aspects of the customer experience: make it effortless by using the data you have to inform the experience," Floisand advised. “Figure out what content is valuable and relevant to them, even as they leave, and then your content can help cut through the noise when the customer is ready to come back.”

Some companies also make it extremely difficult to leave, said Morgan Taylor, CMO for LetMeBank. “This doesn’t stop customers leaving, it just angers them. If you make it difficult to leave then the customer has not only left, they are now angry with you and will never return. It’s far better to make it very simple for them to leave, at least once they try, be extremely pleasant to them, and remind them about the great deals they could avail themselves of if they change their mind in the future.”

Related Article: Better Processes = Better Customer Experiences

Provide Excellent Service for the Departing Customer

One thing to avoid during the offboarding process is discouraging customers from cancelling, said Kat Kalmykov head of customer success at Thankful. There is nothing wrong with giving an option to pause a service or providing information on alternative service options or asking the customer why they want to cancel to improve the service offering, but badgering customers is a poor customer service practice and is bound to leave them feeling frustrated.

“There are a number of reasons a customer could be cancelling a service or subscription. Regardless of why they are choosing to offboard, it is important that all customers are treated with empathy," Kalmykov added. “Whether their offboarding process is automated or they are assisted by a customer service representative, they will remember this interaction and it will heavily impact whether they choose to return or not.”

Related Article: Design Thinking Starts With Empathy for Customer Needs

Understand the Reasons Why Customers Might Be Leaving Now

"This subject is especially on point, given the state of the industry (and the world) at this moment,” said Bernard May, CEO of National Positions. “We began preparing early for possible cancelations and bill holds with a plan of action, ensuring these clients that we would still be their partner throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. We created, and continue to create, content to help support these businesses.”

National Positions delivers these COVID-19 related pieces of content to help clients with their marketing during this time via direct email, site placement and follow-ups with direct phone calls. The company decided to treat cancelations or bill holds as if they were still current clients who needed to cut back their marketing efforts for a while.

Learning Opportunities

“Our clients, past and present, know that our doors are always open, and that valuable information will continue to flow to them,” May said. “We truly care about the success and longevity of our client base, and our two-part goal with this strategy is: Our clients will have the tools they need to help them through this time and our continued nurturing will solidify how valuable we are as their marketing partner."

Related Article: What Does Great Customer Experience Look Like Today? Giving Customers Peace of Mind

Make it Easy for Customers to Return

When customers want to cancel their subscription with us, we do three key things to encourage them to rejoin in the future, said Raj Dosanjh, founder of The combination of the three has led to a 15% return rate for the company. RentRound also provides a discount code for customers who are leaving to use should they return.

“We ensure their profile and login details remain active,” Dosanjh said. “This means that if the customer does wish to return, there are no long forms to fill out. Rejoining our platform is seamless.”

Ask Why They Chose to Leave

The third strategy the company uses, one that many marketers echoed, was to collect feedback, Dosanjh said. “This gives us an indication on why the customer is leaving in the first place. This will allow us to address the issue if it's a common pattern. Secondly, it shows that we respect the customer and value their feedback, helping improve the relationship.”

“A successful offboarding provides an opportunity for us to learn from our customers and gather valuable feedback,” agreed Cece Renick, account manager at Chili Piper. “We accomplish this through an exit interview completed with every departing customer. The exit interview serves as the time to make sure your customers are making an informed decision about their choice to leave. We’re prepared to hear our customers express what’s gone well and what needs improvement.”

Chili Piper uses discovery skills to understand more about our customers' motivation to leave. Often times those reasons fall into the following categories: product feature, a change in budget, poor adoption across the team or champion turnover, according to Renick.

“Once we diagnose the reason we’re losing the customer, we brief the internal team on the details and be sure we have a plan in place to mitigate additional churn across the customer base,” Renick said. “We regularly review trends in customer churn data, as well as look at each situation one by one. This conversation is had with members of both the sales and marketing teams to make sure we are truly keyed into our ideal customer and we’re developing specific content and collateral for future customers.”