Exit Surveys: Questions To Ask For Churn Reduction

Leaky buckets representing churning customers

Why isn’t every SaaS business carrying exit surveys when their users cancel?

Whether you call them cancellation surveys, churn surveys, or exit surveys, these are simple tools anyone can use. When used well they will cut your churn, improve user experience, and increase the likelihood that ex-users become customers again in the future. 

In the course of this blog, we’ll explain what exit surveys are, why they matter, what the best questions to ask are, ways to cut churn using exit surveys, and how to put one together for yourself.

What are exit surveys in SaaS?

Exit surveys are structured questions in the form of a microsurvey you ask a customer for feedback when they cancel or downgrade their subscription to your service.

In the past, these tended to be done sometime after cancellation, by telephone or email and were often long and time-consuming to complete.

But in the world of SaaS, exit surveys are most commonly done in-app, with a triggered microsurvey popping up as soon as a user indicates the desire to leave. 

Exit survey for potentially churning customers

You can also utilize these micro survey templates for your project.

The importance of using exit surveys

Businesses use exit surveys to try and win the departing user back or to fix problems identified so as to stop other users from canceling. 

Harvard Business Review has found that simply asking for feedback actually improves customer sentiment

Use exit surveys to:

  • remind customers of what they’ll be missing (eg saved data) or things they may not know about that could change their minds (eg unused features) to give them a reason to change their minds
  • reduce churn by offering alternatives to canceling like discounts, downgrades (for SaaS), free add-ons for added value or pausing the account, like Purechat does
Example of an exit survey from purechat.com
Source: Purechat.com
  • gather feedback data that you can use to improve your product and proactively reduce churn in future:  missing features, wrong target audience, buggy experience etc
  • get specific and accurate data: uncover insights into what makes users unhappy in terms of experience not only product (you shouldn’t ask for feedback from happy customers only)

How in-app exit surveys work best for SaaS

In-app surveys are contextual: triggered immediately when a customer tries to cancel, at which moment your service and their feelings about it are absolutely front-of-mind. 

Compare that to sending your exit surveys via email that can be ignored, forgotten about, or sent to junk mail. On top of that  when somebody receives an email exit survey, they have already canceled. 

Even with incentives to come back, it is a much bigger challenge to convince someone to change a decision that has been acted on.

Using in-app as the main channel to send your exit surveys will:

  • Get you a higher completion rate
  • Get you more honest feedback as users are less likely to forget or rationalize why they wanted to cancel
  • Give you the opportunity to convince users to change their mind before the end of the cancellation workflow

Exit survey questions you should use and ask

These short, punchy in-app exit surveys can be so valuable for SaaS businesses to collect feedback forms and improve the product. But it’s all in the way you ask your customers for feedback.

Why short and punchy? 

Because no one likes a novel when they were promised a sentence. If your survey is too long, users are likely to skip it or give up part-way through. 

Remember, at this moment, the customer wants to end their relationship with you: they won’t be in the mood to go out of their way to help. The best in-app exit surveys are just one or two questions, and they let users know how far they have to go to completion. Brevity and openness will maximize your completion rates. 

As will your choice of questions. There are two types of exit survey questions:

  1. Multiple choice/closed questions, which force feedback into predefined categories
  2. Open-ended questions, which allow users to describe things in their own words

Plus combinations of the first two, as shown below:

Baremetrics churn exit survey example
Source: Baremetrics

Choose your words carefully. Baremetrics’ example is clear that the user is doing the company a favor by responding.

A blunt question like “Why are you canceling your subscription?” can be taken as rude and deter completion. 

Multi-choice exit survey question and answers examples

Multi-choice exit survey questions should aim at identifying the most important reasons why customers are canceling from a preset list of known issues. 

This gives you valuable information about prioritizing improvements and allows you to automate appropriate incentives to stay and other turnaround tactics. 

Questions should be worded in an inquiring tone, like these examples:

  • What is the main reason you are canceling your account?
  • Why did you decide to cancel your subscription?
  • What led you to cancel your account?

Examples of answers might include:

  • I’m not using the product anymore
  • I’m having technical issues
  • The price is too high
  • It’s missing features I need
  • I’m not sure how to use the data and tools
  • I didn’t see the results I wanted
  • I’m switching to an alternative
  • I only needed it for a short-term project

Each of these leads naturally to responses that may convince the customer to stay or otherwise help you in the future.

For example, the “missing features” reply could trigger either:

  • An introduction to features the customer has not used before
  • A request for information about what was missing for them

If your list of responses is very long, it can provide a better user experience to show a drop-down list, as Monday.com does here:

Monday.com churn exit survey example
Source: Monday.com

Open-ended exit survey question examples

Open-ended questions ask users to give reasons for canceling in their own words.

They demand more effort from them (which may reduce response rate) and yourself (it’s harder to analyze results and to automate next steps), but open-ended questions have advantages too:

  • Multi-choice questions may ignore important cancellation reasons that you didn’t choose as options – as in the Baremetrics example above
  • The user’s choice of words can provide information about use cases and their specific difficulties – they can uncover what’s missing from your product

Open-ended questions work particularly well as follow-ups, letting customers elaborate on previous answers. For example, these questions could be posed as follow-ups to some of the multi-choice cancellation reasons from the last section:

  • What could we do to improve?
  • Which tool are you moving to?
  • What will you be using in the future to [insert your Job To Be Done]?

Benefits of collecting qualitative and quantitative data with exit surveys

High performing exit surveys will typically use both types of questions:

  • Start with a multi-choice cancellation question to make automating a response workflow simple
  • Follow up with an open-ended question to get insight into the reason cited to improve your product

One question alone will give you less actionable insight. 

You may discover that a user thinks your tool is missing features, but there’s nothing you can do with that information unless you also ask what those features are. 

Knowing that would give you valuable insight into that users’ Jobs To Be Done – even without being able to provide that feature right now, you may be able to show other ways your app can provide value. 

Similarly, answers to open-ended follow-up questions can be very revealing about problems and threats you are unaware of. Canceling users may not be switching to a direct competitor, but a completely different service that solves their problems in a new way, for example. 

But while it’s tempting to keep digging for more information, the shorter your exit survey is the more users will complete it. And that extends to the look and feel of the survey as well. 

Check out this exit survey form Mixpanel, using both multichoice and open-ended questions.

Mixpanel long-form exit survey example
Source: Mixpanel

Even though this survey is only three questions, it looks complicated and intimidating. Asana’s example below is far more user-friendly:

Asana user-friendly exit survey
Source: Asana

How to reduce churn with exit surveys and improve the user experience

Let’s look at some high-performing exit survey examples from other SaaS companies and why they are successful. 

Use exit surveys and offer an alternative to canceling the account

Even before a customer has completed your cancellation flow, you can try to turn them around by offering a temporary suspension instead – as Mailchimp and Usersnap do here.

Mailchimp pause account churn survey option
Source: Mailchimp

By offering a pause without loss of data, Mailchimp gives users who don’t have time to use their product or who need to save money now an alternative to canceling. Not only will this win the goodwill of users who don’t really want to quit, but it also secures Mailchimp’s future revenue at  a lower cost than acquiring a new customer.

Use exit surveys and redirect users who are experiencing technical problems

Most customers will excuse bugs and technical problems. This is SaaS, and it’s understood that products are always changing. 

What really causes problems is when bugs are reported and not dealt with – that is, poor customer experience. 

60% of people say they will switch suppliers in response to poor customer service. If the first time you’re finding out about a technical problem is when a customer cancels, you should review your entire feedback collection and user communication setup. 

Many people’s technical problems will actually have known workarounds. When one of these comes up in exit surveys, trigger re-onboarding flows that offer to walk the user through the solution. This is where those predefined multi-choice answers come in handy. Using an in-app messaging tool like Pendo or other alternatives, you can trigger in-app modals that offer solutions to the user’s indicated problem.

Exit survey example of following up with customer

Alternatively, your survey can trigger a direct chat with an expert who can help solve tough problems. 

Use exit surveys and special offers to reduce churn

Depending on your business model, it may be possible to keep hold of cost/price sensitive customers with discounts (A/B test to find the best incentives). 

Zoom does this with a multi-choice cancellation reason question…

Step 1 in Zoom exit surveys

…followed by a suggestion for a lower-tier when the price is cited. 

Step 2 in Zoom exit survey following up
Source (last 2 images): Zoom

Similarly, if you offer freemium and paid alternatives, you should always offer canceling paid users the option of moving to freemium instead of leaving. From there, measure your churn rates and if your pop-up survey did the trick.

Act on data collected from exit surveys

You should be acting on the data you collect. As a minimum, that means updating the multi-choice cancellation reasons on the exit survey in response to the answers you get back. 

As you gather user feedback from your exit surveys, you can put together better targeted, automated flows to respond to objections. 

There are many other ways to use it too. 

For example, Leadpages used their most common reason for canceling (missing features) and now invites extra feedback and offers potential solutions by adding a chat button to the survey form:

Leadpages churn exit survey
Source: Leadpages

Even if you do lose the customer, their story is valuable, as our own story shows. You should collate and analyze exit survey data to:

  • Show that you are listening
  • Improve the experience for future similar users
  • Sharpen Product Market Fit and marketing efforts
  • Win back ex-customers in the future

Bring churned users back

Perhaps you’ve now added the features your  churned customers told you they needed when they left? Reach out to tell them and invite them back. 

Asana churn email survey follow up
Source: Asana

Of course, this can’t be done in-app with ex-users: you’ll need permission to contact them via email to use this tactic, but you can easily do that using the exit survey too.

Don’t rely on exit surveys only

Exit surveys are your last chance to address a lack of customer value. 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 being proactive in asking for, uncovering, and fixing problems that could lead customers to click the “cancel” button later.

  • Send out regular feedback surveys (NPS, CSAT, CES, etc) to see how user sentiment evolves over time, and when new features are launched
  • Use triggered in-app microsurveys (again, NPS or other standard types) on completion of tasks, to examine how users find particular workflows
  • Have an always-on feedback widget, so users can comment whenever they have something to say
feature requests in a feedback menu

Usersnap sets the bar high with many customer feedback collection options. As well as common rating templates like NPS, CSAT, and CES, you get all in one tool:

  • Visual feedback tools for submitting annotated screenshots
  • Options to share screen recordings
  • Widgets to direct users to help information

How to build an exit survey

There are several options for building in-app exit surveys:

1. Use an off-the-peg tool like Typeform to embed survey questions in the cancellation flow. 

While these tools are easy to use, (i) they don’t provide options to automate responses and (ii) they will not be consistent with your product experience

2. Create a custom-coded tool in-house. 

This is often a poor choice: it takes your developers away from more important tasks; it’s hard to test variants or tweak the questions when your options are hard-coded in; and it would need custom integration into any third-party tools you use to analyze data collected

3. Use a no-code tool designed for building this kind of survey 

Alternatively, if getting feedback throughout the customer’s life cycle is your priority, Usersnap gives you all the tools you need – including exit surveys. 

If you’re ready to give it a try, Usersnap offers a free trial

Conclusion: Listen, learn and make better decisions

Exit surveys can really make a difference to your bottom line, by giving you the opportunity to turn around canceling customers before they leave and by giving you the information you need to stop future users from quitting. 

Of course, collecting customer feedback should be a priority throughout your users’ journey. But we hope that we’ve shown you how effective this one simple tactic can be. 

Get in touch to find out more about creating exit surveys with Usersnap today. 

Author Bio:

Adina Timar is the Head of Content at Userpilot, a product growth and adoption platform for SaaS businesses. As a SaaS Product Marketer with a passion for CX she is continuously testing innovative ways of improving the product and user experience that are mutually beneficial for businesses and customers alike.

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