subscription cancellation surveys

What exit surveys can teach you about your customer and your product

Figuring out why your valued customers have decided to cancel a subscription to your product is unpleasant at best, but it’s a valuable learning opportunity. And one of the best ways to gather data on why your customer has made this decision is by implementing an exit survey. 

In this blog post we’ll go over the reasons why you should add an exit survey to your product, analyze 3 templates you can use, and outline 5 things you should do with your findings. Plus, we’ll also cover the other types of survey you should add at different stages of the customer journey.

Let’s dive in.

Why add an exit survey to your SaaS product?

Implementing a customer exit survey gives you a unique opportunity to gather data from your least satisfied customers—helping to highlight mistakes you may have made. If you use this information wisely, you can reduce customer churn in future, and maybe even persuade the customer in question to stick around. 

Let’s explore some key benefits of customer exit surveys.

  • Map which of your product features aren’t working. If multiple customers are complaining about the same aspect of your product in the customer exit survey—that’s definitely an area to improve.
  • Test how well your product meets expectations. Another big reason customers leave is if they feel that the product they were promised is not the same as the product they received. If this is the case for you—it’s perhaps time to adjust your marketing or switch target audience.
  • Find out how competitive you really are. If customers are leaving in droves to sign up to competing services, then you need to look at why—it could be price, features, performance or a range of other criteria.
  • Reduce customer churn overall. If the people leaving are bothered by a particular issue with your product, you can bet a lot of other users aren’t far behind them. Customer exit surveys give you a chance to fix these issues before churn becomes uncontrollable.
  • Target your retention activities. Paying close attention to the results of exit surveys can help you retain more customers. Sometimes a small intervention—a call or a personal email—might be all they need to convince them their complaints have been listened to and improvements will be made.  

The above points are true for pretty much any business. For SaaS businesses though, customer exit surveys can be even more valuable. Why?

Because you have the data to know exactly when to launch your exit survey—you can track every client who enters the cancellation process. That means intervening at the precise moment they’re canceling—and still engaged with your brand. This is likely to ensure a higher response rate then sending an email survey 5 days after a customer quits. 

Equally, assuming your survey tool gives you real-time notifications of new survey responses—like Appzi—you can respond immediately with a personalized message addressing their specific concerns.

3 subscription cancellation surveys you should run for your churning customers

This survey will give you at least one reason why a user decided to cancel their subscription. The open-ended question leaves room for comments and ideas expressed in their own words, which could be used by your marketing team to adjust the message on your website and within the product.

With this survey you’ll learn what needs to be adjusted in your product or service for users to consider returning in the future. Also, it opens up an opportunity to speak to your customers and spend some time with them learning about the things that worked, those that didn’t and what your team can do to improve in the future.

This exit survey helps identify the exact moment when your customers realized your product didn’t do the job it has been hired for. The open-ended part of it gives your team the chance to learn what can be improved for your users to reconsider your solution in the future.

5 things to do with your findings

Once you know why your customers are leaving, it’s not hard to realize that some cancellations could have been prevented. Instead of filing away responses, never to be seen again, take the time to learn some important lessons.

Use engagement and completion data to enhance your exit survey, and analyze the survey results to discover what customers want, what they don’t want, and how you can make them happier.

1) Collate responses for bulk analysis

Every response matters—but not all to the same extent. That is to say, there’s always a foreseeable amount of churn—some percentage of users are always going to be a bad fit for your product, or struggling financially.

Collating and segmenting your responses—easiest with quantitative data—can help you to smooth out the information you’ve received, reducing the influence of outliers. You can then look for trends in why customer churn is occurring—by business type, location, etc. Here are some examples of criteria to examine.

  • Account type (basic, pro, enterprise, etc)
  • Subscription period (annual, quarterly, monthly)
  • Customer avatars (if you have these available)
  • Engagement stats (login frequency, time in app, etc)
  • Account age (weeks, months or years?)

There are usually patterns to be found, but they won’t be apparent without segmentation. These patterns will help refine your customer success, onboarding, pricing and the core product, by understanding the types of customer most likely to churn. 

Maybe it’s customers who don’t spend more than 5 minutes per day in the app. Or maybe it’s related to account age—with most people leaving around the 6-month mark after they’ve solved their problem with your product. In each case it’s important to ask yourself what you could do differently to better support that specific group of churning customers. 

2) Share your findings with other teams

This is a vital point, and often overlooked by busy marketing teams. While gathering all of this valuable data will, it’s true, help you market your product or service better, that’s only part of the value.

It’s crucial to share the lessons learned with the other departments in the business to which they are most relevant. So, if churn is being caused mostly by a feature gap—the product team needs to know about this. If it’s an issue with not feeling supported—you need to make sure the helpdesk understands what’s gone wrong. If these valuable insights aren’t delivered to the people capable of making changes—then the churn will continue at the same level—or grow. 

Make sure that as part of the customer exit survey process you include feedback and reporting, before moving on to the next activity. 

You should also share feedback data with front-line teams, but it’s best if this is presented in terms of general improvements needed, rather than specific criticisms of their work, especially in small teams where the subject of a feedback item might be easily identifiable. 

3) Plan and execute the next steps

Make sure that you have a thorough list of the next improvement steps with defined deadlines and teams responsible for execution. It can be useful to identify key people in each department to receive ongoing feedback reports, and take responsibility for implementing the findings. And consider setting up a regular customer feedback review meeting, where new lessons learned, and ongoing improvements are discussed. 

The ultimate goal of subscription cancellation surveys is to foster product and process improvements that will ultimately reduce customer churn as much as possible. There will always be those who’ve decided to cancel their subscription for reasons not pertaining to your performance, however you need to focus on doing everything you can to improve those aspects that you control.

4) Keep in touch with ex-customers

Customers churn—but they also return. If a new product or service fails to live up to their expectations, your ex-customers might be happy to consider coming back to what they know, especially if they’ve heard about updates or changes you’ve made.

The key is to stay open to these customers without appearing pushy. You can add an opt-in to your customer exit surveys such as “if we address the issues you’ve raised, would you like to hear about it”, which will allow you to keep in touch with them about new product or service upgrades, future discounts, or promotions.

Don’t keep them in your main contact lists—that’s just going to lead to unsubscribes. Instead, maintain a churned customer list which you only contact once or twice a year, with carefully planned, personalized messaging that speaks to their specific issues. You may find they are more receptive to this approach, especially if they feel the new company they’ve moved to doesn’t seem to care as much on a personal level.

You can also use the engagement stats from your outreach campaigns to predict those customers most likely to re-engage. If a particular recipient isn’t even opening your emails, it might be time to accept you’ve lost them and move on. 

5) Check-in with customers before they think about leaving

As we’ve seen, exit surveys are a really valuable tool, but you should be doing everything you can to prevent your customers ever seeing one. Research shows that just over one-in-ten customers who left a product or service would have been likely to stay if the business had reached out to them at some point. 

Customers like to feel heard. If they start to feel that their voice doesn’t matter, they’ll vote with their feet instead. So don’t leave it too late to keep in touch. Reach out proactively to ask customers for feedback when things are going well, when they’re actively using the product, when they’re logging in daily. Keeping productive communication going through the customer lifecycle can help prevent a significant amount of the problems which can lead to churn.

Closing thoughts: Don’t rely on subscription cancellation surveys only

Exit surveys are your last chance to address customers’ expectations. They shouldn’t be the first time you show an interest. High customer retention depends on the continuous collection of customer feedback, with the product manager and customer-facing teams being proactive in asking for, uncovering, and fixing problems that could lead customers to click the “cancel” button later. Here’s what you should do:

  • Use onboarding surveys and regular feedback surveys (NPS, CSAT, CES, etc) to see how user sentiment evolves over time, especially when you launch new features.
  • Use triggered in-app feature surveys on completion of specific tasks, to examine how users respond to particular workflows.
  • Analyze the performance of your technical content to see if it hits the mark.
  • Deploy an always-on feedback widget, so users can comment whenever they have something to say.