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Customers Will Cancel, Be Lovable Anyway

When you craft your cancellation experience to optimize near-term revenue, you leave money on the table. And you’re not fooling anyone.
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Illustration of barricades blocking exit

I needed to cancel a subscription recently, and as usual, the experience sucked. It doesn’t matter whose product it was. Brands know that all customers will eventually churn, yet most of them act like a resentful ex, blocking your way to the door.

I go to my account page—no mention of how to cancel. I check the links in the site footer, the settings page, the rest of the site. Ditto, nada. Finally, I resort to Googling “how to cancel brand x,” and somebody has posted instructions. I can choose to call an 800 number or go to their store to do it in person. Because my time is limited, I put it aside for five weeks, and they get their intended result, two more months of revenue. Kudos to the “retention” team!

Revenue-optimized cancellation experiences annoy customers, but businesses do it anyway. They conclude that all businesses do it, and we customers will understand. Hence, as we go, they waste some of our time and take some of our money—they suddenly ditch their promise to make our lives easier to grab a few extra bucks, creating cognitive dissonance. So we tell some friends what they did, then resolve to give their competitors a try next time, and the customer lifecycle is complete.

When brands behave that way, they sacrifice future dollars that come from staying true to their value proposition by providing a good customer experience from beginning to end.

Customers don’t hate your brand the day they leave. They just don’t feel like they need it right then. As customers go, businesses have the opportunity to influence how they will feel and what they’ll say over cocktails about your brand. A creative product team can even find a way to remind people of what was lovable about their brand on the way out.

Is your cancellation experience being orchestrated with an eye on quarterly earnings? It doesn’t need to be and should not be. Everything your customers experience with your brand, negative or positive, accrues to your brand’s overall value. Your brand has a reason for being, a personality, and a voice, all made to build relationships with your customers. In whatever part of your business process you conduct, that voice should be consistent. I challenge you to treat customers as they would want, craft your brand with sweetness and humanity, and make your customers feel good in every moment of interaction. I invite you to reap the rewards that come from unwavering honesty and commitment to doing right.