What To Do (And What to Avoid) When Someone Cancels Their Membership
Like it or not, membership cancellations are going to happen.
Hopefully if you run your site well those cancellations will come at the end of a long tenure, but regardless they will happen.
How you deal with these cancellations has numerous implications for the continued success of your membership site or online course; so it’s important to know how to handle them and also what to avoid.
What you should do about cancellations
As hard as it may be, especially in the earlier days of your site, you need to try not to take cancellations personally, or interpret them as meaning your product isn’t up to par or your customers are unhappy.
People will leave your site for a variety of reasons, so it’s important to handle the whole process in a manner that doesn’t leave a bad taste in the mouth of your outgoing member.
Make an attempt to change their mind
Even if your member is dead set on leaving your site, they can actually take a great deal of offense if you don’t at least make a cursory attempt to keep them onboard!
Assuming your website has a page for cancellation – whether it’s one where someone can actually cancel themselves, or just a page with information on who to contact if a manual cancellation is needed – then this is a prime spot for making some form of final ‘appeal’ for your departing member to stick around.
For the personal touch you could try adding a video, maybe one that you update regularly that outlines some of the exciting stuff you have planned in the future that you’d hate for them to miss out on.
You might even ask someone who is planning on leaving to email you or your support team and give you an opportunity to address any issues before they make the final decision to go.
You might want to offer up an alternative payment plan, the option to pause their membership, or some form of “downsell” to an lower tier or scaled back version of your membership product.
You’re not going to change everyone’s mind, but even if you salvage just 10% of potential leavers then the minimal effort it takes to at least try is going to be worth it.
Survey your lapsed members
38% of membership owners do not collect feedback from members who leave.
This is a huge missed opportunity!
Feedback on the reasons people leave your membership is extremely valuable, as it will highlight any holes in your strategy or weaknesses in your product; so it makes sense to survey those members who have left or are on their way out of the door.
Keep your survey brief – you could actually even limit it to a single question of “Please let us know why you’re leaving” and let people type whatever they want.
It’s easy to set up a basic survey using something like Gravity Forms or Survey Monkey; and you could place this either on the pre-cancellation page, post-cancellation page, or even mail it out to lapsed members a couple of weeks after they’ve gone.
The responses you get should give you some action points to work on; if you want to get more honest feedback then you might want to consider making the survey anonymous – otherwise if you do get people to fill in their email address when completing the survey it could give you the opportunity to try to address that person's problems too.
Try to win your customers back further down the road
At Membership Academy, over 25% of people who leave our site, ultimately return to us within a year, because we have a “win back” strategy in place. And we see similar results in other memberships who are actively following up with lapsed members to try to entire them to return.
And yet almost two-thirds of memberships do not have a strategy for winning back ex-members.
Circumstances change, and over time people who have left your site may find themselves missing being a part of your community, or in a better position to rejoin; so it’s well worth making an attempt to win back members who have left later on down the road.
If your email marketing provider has automation features, you could set it so that anyone cancelling or letting their membership expire gets put onto a special “lapsed members” list.
The purpose of this would not be to enable you to relentlessly spam them, but instead to give you a means of running a very brief “win back” sequence weeks or months down the line.
You have to tread carefully here as coming on too strong and blasting out endless emails will not go down well.
Simply sending a “We miss you” email, perhaps with a special returning members offer, perhaps with a single email to follow up gives you an opportunity to make a last ditch attempt to win your customer back, without pissing them off by hammering their inbox.
Another possible use of this list is for remarketing Facebook ads – whereby you upload your list of lapsed members as a custom ad audience and then run ads to just those people which they’ll see on Facebook.
If you’ve not yet tapped into remarketing then it’s an extremely powerful paid advertising option, and this is just one potential use.
The wrong way to deal with member cancellations
I’m sure that if you had things your way, your members would never leave – however some people take this sentiment a little too far to the point of attempting to stop people leaving completely.
The logic behind this is flawed.
You cannot force someone to want to remain a part of your membership site, and even if you could why would you want to keep someone around who absolutely does not want to be there?
Making it difficult to cancel your membership
One of the big faux pas people make in trying to keep cancellations down is making it as complicated and as difficult as possible for someone to cancel their account.
Removing any functionality that lets people do it themselves, making it hard to find a point of contact, and giving people the runaround when they do eventually find someone to call or email.
There’s so little point in adopting this approach, in which you’re essentially hoping that you can frustrate someone into submission and then maybe they’ll forget that they were going to cancel.
You need to make the decision to cancel difficult, but the process easy.
Considering that the most popular payment processors used by membership site owners – such as Paypal and Stripe – have the facility for the customer to cancel their subscription payments at their end; then if someone has no luck cancelling through your site they’re going to find another way out.
In this case, it’s far better to not stand in the way, and instead to capitalise on the opportunity to try to change their mind or identify the reason they want to leave and leverage this to improve your product or processes.
Enforcing cancellation periods
Another tactic people use is to insist on a cancellation period, during which time the outgoing member is presumably expected to continue payment.
Unless your member signs a legally binding contract there’s little you can do to enforce this – and even if they do agree to the terms then chances are there’s still little you can do to enforce it, unless you plan on going to court for the sake of a few dollars!
Once again it’s likely that if you try to stall the member from leaving and try to continue taking money from them they’ll simply cancel their subscription with their payment provider, or block payment with their bank or card company.
So you’re left in the same position as if you’d just let them go, only with a very annoyed ex-customer who will almost certainly tell others to avoid you like the plague.
Nobody likes to see their members leave; especially when we work so hard to get them in the first place.
But when they do it’s far better to handle it in a dignified, positive manner and attempt to get something good out of the situation rather than throwing a fit and burning your bridges with them on their way out.