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Defying Sticky; It Should Be Easy to Leave

Customer Service & Sales

Josh Winkles wrote this article


Put on your seatbelt.

I’m about to walk you through an idea that contradicts almost everything you’ve ever been told about your business.

This mostly applies to online apps, but it can also be used in other business models as well.

We’ve heard for years that your app should be as sticky as possible — meaning that you want people to use it as much as possible and also for it to be difficult for the person to change to a competitor or to cancel.

Well, I’d argue that is a terrible idea.

Not so much from a financial standpoint, but from a customer happiness and PR standpoint.

What do I mean?

Let me give you an example that most of us can unfortunately relate to.

You have been being charged for a service for months, and you realize you actually haven’t used it, or you decide it isn’t worth the money.

You decide it is time to cancel.

You log into your account online, go to My Account or Settings and start to look for a cancellation link.


You email customer support or jump on a live chat.

They can’t help.

They say that in order to cancel you have to call the number provided in order to cancel.

We all know why they do this.

They have reps that want to see if they can persuade you to stay or offer you a few dollars off each month to keep your subscription.

We know this before we call and yet we have to jump through all of the hoops just to cancel.

One time I even had to cancel my debit card to get the subscription to end because the process was so complicated!

Don’t be that company.

By the time a customer is looking for the cancellation link, you’ve already lost them.

It is like when employees want to leave a company.

Studies have shown that giving them a raise or some other compensation will keep them from moving in many cases, but only for 6-to-12 months. They’ve already left in their minds.

It is the same thing with your customers.

So if you haven’t already dismissed me, you might be wondering, “Well then what am I supposed to do? Let people leave and keep losing money?”

Sort of.

The first step is keeping it from getting to that point with excellent customer service and clear communication. Check in with your customers regularly, hear their feedback and own up to any mistakes that you make as soon as you make them.

Treating your customers like you care whether they stay or go is one way to minimize the people that seek out that cancellation button in the first place.

Take that phone call that you were going to allocate for when they want to leave, and put it earlier in the customer lifecycle as a part of touching base, hearing their stories and problems and improving the experience.

The next step is understanding that some people will call your baby ugly and want never to see it again. It’s going to happen.

At a certain point, it just becomes the law of averages. Sometimes it is your fault. Sometimes it is the customer’s fault.

Sometimes…. things just happen.

When they do happen, take the high road. Don’t try to hold data hostage saying they can’t take it with them. Don’t charge customers for exports or insulting them with a bunch of slimy scare tactics.

Where possible, build in an export feature of customer data that they can access or make it part of what happens in the background when someone cancels. Take the time to write out a knowledge base article explaining what they can take with them, what they lose and how they can reactivate (if that is an option).

This all sounds counterproductive, but you never know when someone will want to come back as a user or is willing to recommend you to others if they generally had a good experience. That experience includes how they were treated as they were walking out the door.

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