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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
Plus combinations of the first two, as shown below:
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 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:
Examples of answers might include:
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:
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:
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:
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:
High performing exit surveys will typically use both types of questions:
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.
Even though this survey is only three questions, it looks complicated and intimidating. Asana’s example below is far more user-friendly:
Let’s look at some high-performing exit survey examples from other SaaS companies and why they are successful.
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.
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.
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.
Alternatively, your survey can trigger a direct chat with an expert who can help solve tough problems.
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…
…followed by a suggestion for a lower-tier when the price is cited.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
There are several options for building in-app exit surveys:
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
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
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.
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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