Turn frowns upside down with your SaaS customer offboarding experience

Is your offboarding process leaving customers with a bad taste in their mouth?

According to the “peak-end” rule, an individual’s emotional state at the end of an experience colors their perception of the experience as a whole, meaning a bad cancellation process can undermine a customer’s perception of your product, while a great final impression can wash away a lot of negativity.

A bad experience may not sour just one customer, but can spread by word of mouth. According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, the average unhappy customer will tell 9-15 people about their experience; 13% tell more than 20 people. On the other hand a positive experience may encourage personal recommendations and can increase the chance of winning back the customer in the future.

Consider these eight points when designing a positive offboarding experience, while also reinforcing your product’s value and reducing churn.

Automate offboarding with a self-service cancellation flow

Avoid dark patterns that make cancellation confusing, tedious or otherwise unpleasant. Putting up barriers to cancellation (e.g. requiring a phone call) won’t magically stop churn and could backfire by creating negative experiences, among other problems. Make your cancellation button easy to find and your cancellation flow as painless as possible. It’s okay to ask for feedback and present alternatives, just don’t go overboard.

Reinforce value

Use this opportunity to remind your customer of the value your product has provided. People are motivated more by avoidance of loss than pursuit of gain (called “loss aversion” in psychology), meaning a reminder of your product’s utility can lead customers to reconsider cancellation.

Example of value reinforcement in a cancellation flow

Personalized details are most meaningful, e.g.:

  • Features the customer uses regularly
  • Titles of drafts/in-progress items
  • The number of active users
  • Metrics or titles of reports actively gathering data
  • Details about data that will be deleted on cancellation

Provide alternatives

This may be your last opportunity to resolve problems your customer is having. Provide links to your support materials and make it easy to connect with support/success representatives via phone or chat.

YNAB's offboarding page links to educational alternatives

Give your customer options besides complete cancellation, like an option to pause the account for free or to go “on hold” at a nominal cost to maintain their data, or allow them to transition to a free plan. Maintaining a relationship is better than losing the customer entirely.

Require acknowledgements

Acknowledgements are statements the customer must accept before completing cancellation. Use acknowledgements to clarify what will happen when the cancellation is complete, such as billing details, the effective date of cancellation or loss of data that will result.

Collect feedback

Use a customer exit survey to gather useful feedback from your cancellations. Every exit survey should ask two questions:

  • The primary reason for leaving – use multiple-choice to make it fast to answer and easy to aggregate for reporting
  • Open-ended feedback – make this optional; not everyone will answer, but the candid responses you do get can be gold

The collected data is valuable for product, pricing and marketing decisions and as the basis for win-back campaigns.

Present offers

Use targeted offers to reduce churn. These can include a discount, a free upgrade to the next tier, or an extension of a free trial period.

Saving a customer is great, but your job isn’t done when they accept the offer. You kept them around, but you haven’t solved the core issue that caused them to consider cancellation in the first place. Mark these customers “at risk” and reach out to them.

Be memorable

Be fun or surprising. Build on your brand voice. Ask yourself, how can we leave this customer feeling positive after all is said and done?

Intercom provides this great example: Spotify shares a parting gift after you downgrade–a playlist called "Can we still be friends?"

Spotify's memorable "break up" playlist

Send an email

The post-cancellation email needn't be just a dry confirmation: it can be used as a hook to keep the churned customer enaged with your brand. For example, you can provide links to free materials or lower-end products that solve a similar problem. What value can you provide to keep your product in the customer's mind?


A lost customer isn’t a lost cause. Use your customer offboarding experience to reinforce a positive perception of your product and earn the chance of serving the customer again in the future.


Prevent churn and win back lost revenue with the ProsperStack cancellation flow.