How much friction is too much in cancellation journeys?

When it comes to subscription services, one thing you never want a person to do is unsubscribe. However, you’re not going to be able to hold onto all of your customers forever. Determining how much friction should be incorporated into the cancellation journey is something you need to consider carefully. A low friction approach would mean that you make it easy for a user to cancel their subscription. A high friction approach is the opposite, i.e. you make it difficult for someone to unsubscribe. Below, we will discuss friction in regard to cancellations for subscriptions in further depth so that you can get a better understanding.

Don’t make it impossible for customers to unsubscribe

Firstly, while debating the pros and cons of both a high friction and low friction approach, one thing we certainly do not recommend is making it as difficult as possible for people to unsubscribe. While you don’t want to make it extremely simple, you also don’t want customers to jump through hoops. Forcing customers to call up in order to cancel can cause a great amount of frustration. It will be even worse if you send customers on an obstacle course in order to cancel, throwing in red herrings along the way. There are some businesses that provide dead links on their websites when it comes to unsubscribing. Tricks like this are only going to hurt your business, resulting in you receiving a negative reputation and it can even hurt your search engine presence as well. There are a number of different practices that are simply unfair and exploitative, and we would never encourage this.

Reasonable friction

While you should not make it as difficult as possible for your customers to leave your subscription service, you do need to consider how you can implement a reasonable level of friction so that you have a chance of retaining the customer or at least gaining valuable information so that you can ensure that people do not leave for the same reason in the future.

Firstly, it is a good idea to find out why the person is leaving. If you opt to have a cancellation feature on your website whereby people can unsubscribe, you may want to ask for their feedback before they leave. Ask them why they are leaving your website. You should put a minimum character requirement so that they actually do type something in the feedback box and do not purely leave it blank. It is also a good idea to ask whether they would consider re-joining in the future. This is beneficial because it will help you to determine whether the person is a lost cause or whether you should focus marketing efforts on this individual in the future. For example, if someone states in their feedback that their reason for leaving is because they can’t afford it and they tick ‘yes’ that they would consider rejoining in the future, then this represents an opportunity for you to send a special offer to this person in order to get them to reconsider.

Another option is email cancellations. While people hate having to cancel their accounts over the phone, most people will not mind if they have to email in order to unsubscribe. When emailing someone who wants to unsubscribe, it is always important to make them aware that you will cancel their account. While you should ask why they are thinking of leaving and encourage them to reply so that you have the opportunity to change their mind, you still need to make it clear in your first email that you will cancel their account. If you don’t, and you simply ask why they are leaving, the person reading the email is going to get frustrated because they are going to assume that they are going to have a battle on their hands when it comes to cancelling their account.

Cancellations are a natural part of any business operating on a subscription business model

It is vital to recognise this. You cannot expect everyone who signs up to remain a customer. Subscriptions are part of the norm. In today’s digital age, the manner in which you handle cancellations is more critical than ever before. If you are rude or you make the process difficult, you can bet your bottom dollar that comments will appear on trusted, independent review platforms, and once these comments are out there, it’s very hard to get rid of them or to reduce their impact. This is why you need to make sure that you respect the customer’s wishes while also making the process straightforward. This does not mean that you cannot use the situation to gather important data and to try and get the individual to reconsider.

As you can see, there is a lot that needs to be considered when it comes to how much friction should be incorporated into the cancellation journey. One thing is for sure; you should not make it virtually impossible for a customer to unsubscribe. Making your customers jump through hoops in order to unsubscribe is not going to benefit your business. However, making it as simple as clicking a button is also not going to be beneficial either. Make sure you use this as an opportunity to find out why the person is subscribing so that you can gather valuable data that will help you to reduce those unsubscribing in the future. Aside from offering people discounts, there are a number of other ways you could try and retain their business, depending on their reason for wanting to leave. You could, for example, offer to put their subscription on pause for a couple of months or you could offer from one-to-one training to help them get on track with your product, depending on the nature of your subscription service, of course.