After all of our postings on limiting customer churn, every subscription business must face the fact that your customers will choose to unsubscribe at some point. It happens. However, there are some simple things that can be done to influence the decision-making process as your customers choose to leave you.

In the most simplistic terms, a choice to unsubscribe is an expression that your customer either a) does not believe that they are receiving value from your service (at this price point) any longer, or b) they can get better value from a competitive service.

It’s a Given: Cancellation Paths Must Be Clear

Before we dive into the many ways to alleviate churn by tuning your unsubscribe flows, we have to reiterate the importance of having a clear, ‘well-lit’ path to cancel any subscription. Making this function anything less than perfectly clear and visible is a real mistake that will come back to bite you in the form of chargebacks and negative customer sentiment.

For the remainder of this post, we are going to evaluate the Hulu unsubscribe flow, because they have included great examples of best practices for us all to learn from.

Recommendation #1: Offer the Ability to Put Subscriptions On Hold

Although this recommendation is more important for B2C subscription providers than B2B, it is logical that you should provide an alternative to ‘pulling the plug’. If your customer knows that they will not be receiving value from your service during an upcoming period, don’t make the only choice one that might result in a lost customer. The ‘softer alternative’ of a postponed subscription could be just what your customer is looking for. 

Hold subscription option

Recurly provides a nifty webinar available to help you understand exactly how to offer a subscription ‘On Hold’ function to your customers.

 Recommendation #2: Now is A Good Time To Personalize An Offer

Once a user elects to cancel their subscription, you’ve got one opportunity to offer them a gesture to change their mind. Hulu does a nice job with this by presenting a personalized pop-up window presenting a free month of service as an alternative to cancelling my account.  

Churn offer message

Some of our observations of this particular technique:

This can go one of two ways; it will be perceived either as a special gesture, or an annoying obstruction to my path to cut ties. 

The way Hulu makes this work:

  • Personalized - Making it personalized to me felt like Hulu was making an effort to address me personally, rather than every user that cancels from their service. The offer is presented in a very human tone. Note the language “…on us”

  • Friendly Tone - The Call To Action is phrased in a way that makes the customer feel as though they are receiving something. “I’ll Take It” feels like you are ‘receiving’ something rather than ‘giving’ something up.

  • Meaningful Offer - The offer for a free month of service is long enough to provide real value to most customers. It is likely a very well understood, probabilistic ‘bet’ that the customer will end up paying for far more than another month of service.

It is worth noting that this particular call to action highlights the ‘Call-To-Action’ in green. The cancellation button is pure text, and not bolded.  Be careful with this kind of presentation, because the cost of obstructing your customers path towards cancellation is very high. You risk chargebacks and potentially making some customer irate if your presentation is unclear.

Recommendation #3: Reiterate the Value, Or What You’ll Miss

This next moment in the flow felt like a virtual ‘customer saves’ call. We also felt that it was dangerously close to being too aggressive in its choice of presentation - emphasis and weighting of the relative options. 

Before you cancel screen

We have called out 4 attributes of this page which may be useful to your business:

#1 (optional) Hulu presented a nice trailer video, (which auto-played on pageload) highlighting the content upcoming in the season ahead. The equivalent for your business could include pre-announcing features about to launch.

#2 Again - The Option to Hold

#3 Terms of cancellation – This is an important, yet lawyerly moment which can be helpful in contesting chargebacks resulting from disputed charges. By asking for your customers to explicitly acknowledge the terms of their cancellation, it makes it more difficult to request a pro-rated amount, or to dispute the entire charge altogether.

#4 Call to Action -  In this moment, Hulu assumes that they have been successful in convincing you to not cancel by presenting the highlighted CTA in green with bold text.  This is a powerful technique using UX design to give the user a moment of pause. Psychologically, it makes you feel like you’re making the ‘unpopular’ or even ‘incorrect’ decision.

This particular presentation is a bit aggressive for our taste, but a good example of how far some companies are willing to push the power of persuasion during this critical moment of customer interaction. It is likely supported by Hulu testing data to be effective.

Recommendation #4: The Confirmation Email – With a Return Hook

It is absolutely a requirement to confirm the decision to cancel with your customer via email. Hulu puts an interesting twist on this required communication by an easy means to act on your ‘cancellation remorse’.

Return hook message

In this email, Hulu provides the customer with a clear confirmation that their subscription has been cancelled. However, they don’t miss the opportunity to provide an image with all of their most popular titles and a big Call-To-Action button waiting to be clicked.  

Hopefully these techniques highlighted in this dissection of Hulu’s unsubscribe flow have been helpful to you. Not everything will translate to your business perfectly. However, they have clearly put a lot of time, energy and testing into the experience they present to their users.

We recommend that you evaluate your subscription cancellation flow to determine how you can find the right balance of great customer experience and optimal business results. The way that you treat your customers during this critical flow can influence your churn rates in an important way.

We hope some of these techniques help your business.