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We’ve all heard the horror stories from Comcast cancellations: customers spending hours on the phone with sales-conscious reps giving them the runaround and refusing to accept cancellation. The system was so bad that a cottage industry sprang up around paying other people to go through the hassle of canceling your service for you. That said, Comcast’s PR nightmare shouldn’t scare off businesses who want to add some friction into their own cancellation policies. Recently, I wanted to cancel my SaaS service. (The reason isn’t relevant to this post.) If you scroll down, you can see I had to go through six screens to get to the final cancellation.       Sure, it was slightly annoying. But for the most part, I thought they took a smart approach. Look closer at the steps they put me through:       (1) When I first try to cancel, I get an alert that I’ll have to wait four to 24 hours for them to get in touch with me to complete cancellation. Anyone who’s ever requested 24 hours to think on a decision knows that a lot can change in that time. I might forget about it entirely, or I might solve whatever problem prompted me to want to end the service. Plus, the company reassures me that it won’t charge me for anything during this waiting period, so I don’t feel like I’m being given the runaround.       (2) The next thing they ask for is my reason for canceling and feedback on what they could have done better. Even though I don’t know yet that they’re going to ask me four more times if I really want to cancel, it’s a good choice on their part to put this form so early in the process. I’m lazy—maybe, as a customer, I’m so lazy I’d rather just keep the service than have to take the time to explain why I don’t want to. (For $199 a month, probably not, but you’d be surprised). The company wants to make sure I’ve thought about why I’m quitting, but they also want to make sure they understand my reasons: all the feedback they’re getting is going to help them lower attrition with future customers. And it’s early enough in the cancellation process that I’m not going to get annoyed and write, “make the cancellation process easier” as feedback on what they could do better. They don’t want me to leave, but they really don’t want me to leave without finding out why I did.       (3) They offer me something—30 days free. It’s nothing wildly special, no more value than a free trial. But if I still like the service, and it’s only cost that’s the issue, this might be enough to get me on the hook for one more month. And that might be long enough to get me on the hook for several more months.       (4) I’ve said no to the small guns, so now they’re offering me the big guns: a personal consultation. It’s this step more than any of the others that separates a cancellation system like this from one like Comcast’s. This is the point where I know that if I want to, I can get a real person from their team on the phone who’s going to give me some real help and advice. This isn’t some low-level customer service agent trying to convince me that an overpriced cable service is valuable: it’s a company offering a service above-and-beyond their normal day-to-day as a reason for me to stay.       (5) Finally, I get one more reminder that there may be a solution for what’s ailing me: check the FAQs. I like that they wait until after offering the deals to suggest this. So many cancellations protocols try to reroute you to the FAQs right away. And while logic suggests that that’s the smart thing to do—there is a good chance I could get my problem fixed there and not need to bother with cancellation—psychologically, it doesn’t gel well with customers. If I’m dissatisfied, I don’t want to be told to go fix my problem myself or made to feel stupid for not looking in the FAQs. In fact, I probably already have, and telling me to do it again feels patronizing. When it’s left until the end of the process, it comes across as what it’s intended to: a gentle reminder to check one more option.   Yes, I canceled in the end. The world’s greatest cancellation system can’t make up for a bad product. But thinking through the psychology of customer retention can help you recapture those on-the-fence customers and reduce your attrition. Ask:
  • How can I get my customer to rethink this?
  • What can I offer that might induce them to stay?
  • How can I make sure the customer feels heard?
  • How can I get feedback on the customer’s experience?

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