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Impact of the Cancellation “Gauntlet”

Jacob Brain


We’ve all experienced the impact of the cancellation “gauntlet.”

Being put through many procedures and having to speak to several different people to get to the end game of canceling or making a small change to an account or service.  The outcome is a disgruntled customer, with a permanent reminder of how difficult the product or service made their life that day and a general aversion to the brand overall.

We can only assume the reason for a process like this is two-fold. One, they hope to deter the customer from actually canceling by making the process as difficult as possible. We would equate this approach to playing a game of “cancellation chicken” to see who can stay on the phone longer through the impending hoops you have to jump through. Or second, they have a process that does not put the customer relationship first and is just difficult and time consuming. We’ve actually experienced both in our work, and unfortunately even though one is not presenting any ill-will towards the customer, the end result is both customers feel the same. Think about all the stories you have heard people share about trying to cancel a service. Do you want your company name attached to that kind of story?

So how do we create a process that allows the customer to be in control and makes the process simpler?

We’ve outlined a few best practices that can help your product or service provide a graceful exit for your customers.

  • Have a simple, clear way to cancel your service. Don’t hide the cancel button on a mysterious page deep in the account settings. Make it as clear as any other option. Do it in as few steps as possible.
  • Outline the cancellation process. Don’t surprise them with transfers, wait times, and outcomes. Let them know what to expect.
  • Collect information on why they are canceling. Not every cancel is negative, and cancellation is your best time to learn from your client base. A short survey is perfectly reasonable here.
  • Allow them to cancel online. If they have to go to the phone to cancel, its creating more work and negative feeling toward your brand.
  • Thank them for using your product or service. Extol the virtues of our service for one last time, and offer to welcome them back at anytime.

Lastly, once you’ve reviewed your cancellation process, ask yourself one important question:

If you had to cancel this product and go through the process, would you feel better about the product or service after canceling?

This goal is attainable if you put the customer first in your cancellation process and avoid the “gauntlet.”

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