Avoid These Terrible Membership Cancellation Policies
Every membership owner wants to retain their members.
But often the drive to hang on to every single member can result in you going down completely the wrong path when it comes to handling cancellations.
Making the cancellation process difficult or too harsh is certainly a way to leave a bad taste in members’ mouths!
Even if someone leaves your membership, they may still recommend your product to their friends and families.
And possibly come back one day themselves.
But not if you screw things up by having terrible cancellation processes like these…
Deliberately making it difficult to cancel
Making it an overly convoluted or confusing process for members to cancel isn't going to stop people from wanting to leave.
And yet that doesn't stop some membership owners from doing everything they can to make cancellation difficult.
Whether it's by making people fill out lengthy and confusing contact forms or spend forever going back and forth with a chatbot in order to figure out how to cancel.
Or worse – expecting members to call you and beg to be allowed to leave!
Even something that may seem innocuous can be a pain in the butt – like asking customers to email you if they want to end their subscription.
This might seem like a simple and efficient method, but it can lead to major irritation, logistical problems and customer service issues.
If you don’t respond before their next scheduled billing, members won’t be happy if another month’s payment comes out of their account just because you were slow in reading their email.
Considering most membership software includes features that allow members to manage and cancel their own subscription – there really is no excuse for taking this option away from them.
As Robbie Kellman Baxter, the author of The Membership Economy, said:
“Your retention strategy needs to be more sophisticated than simply hiding the cancellation button”.
Your member’s decision to leave may be down to financial circumstances, a change of interest or all manner of other things.
It doesn’t necessarily mean that they are let down by your membership.
They could be 100% happy with their experience so far.
They may have learned what they needed to learn or achieved what they wanted to achieve by being in your community.
In fact, many members who cancel actually return later down the line.
So don’t let a terrible cancellation process sour their experience and burn that bridge.
Put yourself in the shoes of the member.
It’s important to make the decision to leave difficult…not the process.
Requiring a notice period for cancellation
Demanding a notice period for members to cancel is… well, it's dumb.
There is no good justification for it.
If you're making members email you or book a call in order to cancel and this is the reason you need a notice period – then that's you adding unnecessary bloat and delays to the cancellation process.
If your admin setup is such that you require a week or two in order to process cancellation requests – then your systems suck and you need to sort them out.
These are all your problems – not your members problems.
So they shouldn't have to bear the brunt of them.
Your member didn’t have to give notice to join, so why should they to leave?
A lot of members will make the decision to leave close to the time of their next re-bill date.
So if they then discover upon trying to cancel that there's a 14 day notice period requires – this means you're going to end up taking more money from them against their will.
This isn't a situation you want to be in as a business owner.
And it's one just ripe for complaints, refund requests or members filing payment disputes against you.
You need to ensure that stopping a subscription is as easy as starting one.
Preventing members from rejoining after cancellation
As crazy as it sounds, some memberships actually block their former members from joining again if they've had the nerve to cancel.
This could be for up to a year, or in some cases even permanently.
This can definitely come across as petty or even feel like a punishment, which is not what you want parting members to feel about you on the way out.
There are some unique membership models where you can find justification for this.
But these are typically cohort based courses or mastermind groups as opposed to typical memberships.
Now you may even argue that you only want “committed members” in your community and that having this sort of policy is a good way to achieve this.
However there's a big difference between someone staying because they're committed and someone staying because they're too scared to leave!
And in being so inflexible you're not allowing for unforeseen circumstances that may arise for your members.
None of this is good for the long term success of your membership.
Revoking access as soon as a member cancels
Ending a member’s access instantly after canceling is just plain immoral if it’s during a period they’ve already paid for.
Until the next billing cycle comes around, they are still paying customers.
If someone's billing date is the 30th and they cancel on the 10th – they still have 20 days of paid time remaining.
You have a responsibility to honour that.
(Not to mention a legal requirement…)
If a member cancels, they may still want to use your service until the time they've paid for expires.
Ultimately this all comes down to simply need to treating people well!
Yes, even when they're cancelling!
Someone ending their membership shouldn’t be considered a personal attack on you.
Don’t make the assumption that the members hates your product.
Every canceling member could quite easily return very soon.
So how you leave things is key.
It’s vital to get the balance right.
And as we said earlier…
It’s important to make the decision to leave difficult… not the process.