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It’s Not Over: How Cancellation Emails Can Boost Retention and Make Lifelong Friends

We all know the cliche breakup line, “It’s not you, it’s me.”

In romantic relationships, this phrase may be a cop-out, but when it comes to your customers, it might actually be true.

There are many reasons a customer might cancel their paid subscription. Perhaps it was a fit issue. If that’s the case, that’s valuable insight for your sales and marketing teams to qualify leads better.

Perhaps it was a pricing issue. Maybe your team can strengthen your user onboarding and help customers realize the full ROI of your product.

It’s dangerous to ignore opportunities for retention when your business model depends on it. For SaaS and subscription-based businesses, customer retention is an ongoing process of engagement. Ideally, boosting retention is the focus of your efforts throughout the customer lifecycle — even (and we’ll argue, especially) at the end.

Let’s discuss how to use cancellation emails — a type of transactional email — to improve your product and user onboarding practices and turn churned customers into brand advocates.

Using Cancellation Emails to Optimize Churn Reduction

There’s a scene in the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail, where a man walks through the village calling for everyone to “bring out ya dead!” One man places a seemingly dead man on the cart. The “dead” man speaks up, saying “I’m not dead!” and then “I’m feeling much better!” The man tries to convince the man pushing the cart to take the “dead” man, saying he’ll be dead soon enough.

This scene rings true for many companies with their churning customers. Instead of trying to revive them, we mark them as cancelled and guide them toward the exit door.

The thing is, some customers don’t really want to cancel. Maybe they just haven’t been nurtured enough to realize the full ROI of your product. And they don’t know how to use it well enough to extract that value.

Do something different with your cancellation emails. One strategy is to show your customers their options, as YesInsights has done here:

YesInsights provides several options to keep the relationship alive. This approach turns an almost surefire cancellation into an opportunity for you to prove your value to the customer.

If they do still cancel, this is an opportunity for you to learn why your customers leave. Alex Turnbull from Groove says:

“Learning the reasons why your customers cancel is painful, but it’s unquestionably valuable. I did nothing to systematically collect and measure the feedback I was getting. There’s no way around it, it still sucks when people point out where you’ve failed them. But actively collecting and leveraging that feedback has become one of the most important drivers for continuous improvement at Groove.”

Ask for more insight in a user-friendly way — once again, a built-in survey in your cancellation email is a great way to do this:

To earn retention, use cancellations emails to gain insight into why your customers churn and to help your team optimize your churn reduction efforts.

Staying Friends with Churned Customers

So, it’s officially official: Your customer dumped you. Now what?

Even if a customer cancelled, that does not mean the relationship is dead. You can still add immense value to their lives. You can still be friends.

And who knows? Maybe in a few years, you’ll run into each other again and the timing will make more sense. For example, maybe they’ll change jobs and their new employer could benefit from your tool.

It’s worth it for your brand to continue helping churned customers achieve their goals. These are just a few ideas for how to do this:

Invite them to use the free version of your product

If you have a free version of your product, it makes sense to offer that as a first step. Using the free version will add value to your customer’s work.

If they continue to use the tool, they might realize that the features included in your paid version might be worth the cost, after all. Taking the risk (cost) out of using your tool could give customers the time they need to understand the true value of your product.

Be sure to explain how the experience will be different, as Spotify does in this example:

Spotify explains the differences between their Premium and Free plans.

Encourage them to follow your product updates

If your customer churned due to a lacking feature or functionality, encourage them to follow your product updates blog or social media channel. If you add the feature in a few months, it might be enough to convince them to come back.

Encourage them to continue enjoying your content

Your content team spends a lot of time creating free tools to help customers win with your product. You can add value to your customers’ lives simply by sharing this content with them. It’s a great way to stay in touch with churned customers and continue the relationship.

Here, Moz gently encourages the churned customer to enjoy the Moz Blog, free educational resources, and free tools like Open Site Explorer.

Ask them to refer a friend who might benefit from your product

Just because your tool didn’t work for your customer, doesn’t mean that they don’t have friends who are a perfect fit. Send a referral email asking churned customers to refer a friend. In exchange, you can offer an incentive, such as free swag or an opportunity to beta test your next product feature.

How Do You Approach Cancellation Emails?

There are several ways to extend your customer relationships during and even after the customer cancels. Your cancellation emails are a great place to start.

Keep communication open by asking for feedback, offering free educational resources, inviting them to follow you on social media, or finding your own unique way to continue to add value after they cancel.

Do you use cancellation emails to boost retention? We’d love to discuss. Add a comment below!