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User Cancellations: Don't Be That Crazy Ex!

User Cancellations: Don’t Be That Crazy Ex

Break-ups are the worst. It’s bad enough we have to deal with them in our personal lives, and it’s downright cruel when bad UX makes it difficult for you to end things with a service that is no longer contributing positively to your life. What I’m talking about here are subscription or member cancellations, also known as offboarding. I’ll be using these terms interchangeably. What you’ll be getting from this article is an understanding of best practices for dealing with user cancellations. We want an offboarding experience that makes us feel grateful for the subscription and everything that it gave us, but ready to move on. 

On the flip side, a good off-boarding experience is beneficial for the company, not just the user. We all have exes--or know friends that have exes--that received a break-up with about as much grace as Kanye West when he found out it was Taylor Swift that won the VMA award and not Beyonce. Your ex can cry, lock the door, and guilt you into staying, but eventually you will leave. And instead of remembering the rainbows and butterflies that comprised your relationship pre-break up, you’ll feel bitter and you’ll trash talk your ex to all your friends. As a business, bad reviews are bad news. You don’t want a cancellation process that leaves a bad memory. 

Best Offboarding Practice #1: Make the Cancellation Button Easy to Find

Companies will try to either hide the cancel button or even remove it entirely so that the user is forced to contact the company in order to cancel. This is an example of dark UX. Dark UX are deceptive UX/UI interactions that manipulate users in ways that only benefit the company, not the user. Cancel buttons that are created with dark UX practices break the trust between company and user and build a bad brand reputation. Let’s look at LA fitness as an example:

LA Fitness has a cancelation button that’s pretty easy to find from the initial landing page. But the simplicity is just a tease, because you then click on it and you get sucked into a black hole of copy. Ain’t nobody got time to read all that! Reading the first few sentences makes me want to pull my hair out. It seems archaic that gym members have to 1) find a printer and then 2) send the letter in the mail. That means I have to ask around to see who of my friends has a printer AND I have to buy stamps! 

It’s difficult to cancel, so I probably never will. But now I also hate the company! Is it really worth it for LA Fitness to keep me on as a customer if I hate their guts? I think not. Now let’s compare that to Netflix:

Under the account page for Netflix, the “Cancel Membership” button is under your account page. You click on it, and you’re immediately brought to a second page where you have to confirm your decision, and then it’s done. Unlike the cancellation process with LA fitness, I didn’t have to hunt down the mailman or even leave my house at all!  Straightforward and easy peasy.

Best Offboarding Practice #2: Offer Options

Building a good offboarding experience doesn’t necessarily mean making “cancel” a single click. As a company, you can try and address some of the common root issues that lead users to terminate their subscription. This might mean offering a cheaper alternative, for example.

Cancelling Microsoft is easy...

...Maybe too easy. It definitely does not qualify as a bad user experience, because it helps a user complete their goal in an efficient manner. However, a better experience is to have options. Let’s look at Leadpages as an example.

This is a great example of a site that gives users options and allows users to give feedback in the same step of the offboarding process (spoiler alert: a good feedback mechanism is best practice #4!) Depending on the reason you select for why you’re ending your subscription with Leadpages, the page offers you some suggestions. If you’re quitting because of cost, did you know that we have another membership option that’s a bit less? Or if you’re not using your subscription, you can opt to put a hold on your membership. Offering alternatives to total cancellation can improve your customer retention rate and give users a version of your service  that better suits them.  

Best Offboarding Practice #3: Allow users to give feedback

So we already saw Leadpages do this by offering users a choice of reasons to explain why they’re ending their membership, which provides valuable insight for the business into what they can improve on. Getting feedback ensures helps you understand why your users are unhappy. What you don’t want is to ask users to fill out a never-ending form that is required in order to cancel. If they’re breaking up with your service, they’re already unsatisfied in some way and a mandatory feedback form is only going to assure them they’re making the right choice. Hulu does a good job of inviting feedback without forcing it. In addition to the multiple choice pictured below, Hulu offers an open field text box if a user wants to give further context about their decision to cancel.

Best Practice #4: Follow Up

You definitely don’t want to receive a million messages from your ex-boyfriend immediately after you’ve dumped him. You end up feeling bad about their desperate attempts, which does not help their chances of getting you back. The same goes for a service you’ve recently canceled. On the other hand, it can be kind of nice to have an ex contact you in the wake of a break-up to ask how you’re doing. It makes us feel good to know they haven’t moved on too quickly, perhaps it leaves us with a better memory of the relationship. Our relationships with television subscriptions are not so different (let’s be real, we’re often more dedicated to our Netflix account than someone we’re actually dating).

In the following example, from Hulu, we have an ex-subscription that’s sounding a little desperate:

Hulu expecting me to immediately re-sign up makes me think 1) that they think I'm stupid and 2) like the issues I had with their service don't matter to them. They’re trying to bait me into re-subscribing; clearly the money I give them is all that matters. That may not be true, but it would be easy for a customer to jump to that conclusion! A cancelled subscription doesn’t have to be permanent. Customers may come back. But they won’t if you’re weird and desperate about it! Blue Apron provides a nice (positive) contrast:

These two Blue Apron screenshots are from a follow-up email from a subscriber who has recently cancelled. The email states right off the bat the cancellation has been successful, and then gives the customer details about when they will receive their last meal delivery. These subscription details are put at the top of the email body, a free recipe archive in the middle of the text, and information about re-subscribing is put at the very bottom. This is a very user-centric format because it prioritizes the information that is likely of the most interest to a freshly offboarded customer. The parting gift of a recipe archive and the little PS letting you know that Blue Apron will always be there for you leaves a positive final impression in the customers’ eyes and sets them up to come back on their own volition. 

So what does a good break-up look like? It’s when two people can part ways and leave the door open to perhaps one day be friends or even get back together. At least this is what you hope for if you’re a company getting dumped by a customer. UX best practices for offboarding include:

  • Making the cancellation button easy to find
  • Offering users alternatives to full cancelation
  • Allowing users to give feedback (but not forcing it!)
  • Following up after cancellation

When offboarding is handled well, the door is left open for reconnection in the future. In my own relationship, it took us 3 times before we decided that we wanted to be lifelong partners. There’s always a chance of being reunited! (Me and my fiancé's sappy photo below!)

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