Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Image courtesy of cursedthing
Did you know... when customers cancel their subscriptions or their memberships, it's not the end of your relationship with them? Clearly, it's not a stage that you ever want to reach in the customer experience lifecycle, but if you do get there, it doesn't have to be over. And more importantly, you don't have to treat the customer like it's over. It's not.

I know. I know. Breaking up is hard to do. But don't treat customers with anger and frustration if they decide to cancel or move on. Don't process their cancellations begrudgingly. As a matter of fact, be gracious, grateful, and make it easy for them to cancel, if they need to.

Why is this important? Two reasons:
  1. If their experiences have been positive to that point, they will continue to talk about your company and refer friends, even after they've left. (And imagine if you surprised them with an easy cancellation process, the great things they could say!)
  2. Given the opportunity, they could subscribe or join again in the future.
A good example of the second reason is gym memberships. Assume that the customer is canceling because he is moving to a different state. As long as he is moving to an area where you have a club, thereby allowing your club to be in his consideration set again, he could rejoin. But if you've made his cancellation experience difficult, you will likely have lost him for good. 

Design the cancellation process from the customer's viewpoint. To reduce the customer effort and to make it easy to cancel:
  1. Clearly outline your cancellation policy.
  2. Don't just make it easy to read; make it easy to find.
  3. Be sure your policy is sensible, too.
  4. Make your customer service number easy to find.
  5. When the customer contacts you to cancel, happily complete the transaction and thank him for his business.
  6. Completing the transaction means do it within the time parameters of your policy; if it's a membership with a 30-day notice required, for example, on or by Day 30, you must stop collecting fees.
  7. Better yet, don't require a 30-day notice; let customers cancel when they need to cancel.
  8. And don't charge a fee to cancel.
  9. Don't have a contract.
Some people might not like or agree with 7, 8, or 9; as for 9, I'm not sure industries with contracts are ready for that, though some are trying it, e.g., health clubs.  Regardless, I guarantee you, if you want to be different, this is the way to go!

If we don’t take care of our customers, someone else will.

2 comments:

  1. Nice post, Annette. When a cancellation experience is at either extreme (difficult/stressful vs. easy/stress free), that is likely to be the thing that the customer remembers most vividly, and as we all know, customers these days have a larger megaphone than ever.

    Whether the company is aware of it or not, how the customer FEELS and how much effort they are required to expend in connection with the cancellation will factor heavily into the true long-term cost/benefit to the company attributable to the cancellation.

    I'd like to think that companies fully assess the long-term impact of their cancellation policies but doubt it happens across the board.

    Cheers,
    Scott Heitland

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    1. Scott, thank you so much for reading and for commenting. One would hope that companies think about the impact those (and other) policies have on the customer experience and their business, in general, but I'm not so sure that they do.

      I appreciate your thoughts!

      Annette :-)

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