How to get valuable feedback from customers who cancel your product or service

When you have a free trial, like we do at SERPs for our SEO reporting software, you will have customers who for any number of reasons won’t wish to continue their trial, or become a paid subscriber.

I used to get personally upset at at every single trial or customer cancellation. “How dare they cancel! They don’t know what they are missing!” I would yell at no one. After a few weeks of this, and some prodding from my wife, I realized, “These people wanted to pay for this application. They took time from their day to evaluate this software. Somewhere along the line, we failed them. And I must find out how.”

With this change in mindset, I took a new approach to these cancellations. No matter how painful I would try to get as much info on what happened as possible.

Always give a reason why their feedback is vital to you

The first rule in gathering feedback is that you need to give a reason you so desperately need their feedback. Most people canceling a service actually feel bad about doing so. Remember, they wanted this app, your app, to work for them. So you have to get them out of the mindset that negative feedback will hurt your feelings.

Two examples that get responses

Here’s what I say after processing a cancellation:

“Could I ask why you signed up? Because your feedback really helps us improve the product at this stage”


“Could I ask what you thought of SERPs? Because your feedback is super helpful to us at this early stage”

These two queries are looking for two different gold mines of information. In the first I want to know what attracted them to our SEO software in the first place. What messaging resonated with them? This helps me figure out what features we need to emphasize more in our marketing and what is seemingly most important to customers when they are signing up.

The second query is if I knew the user actively used the app during their trial and yet still decided to cancel. This one isn’t used as much, but is even more important. We convert very highly users who actively use our software during the trial, so if a user is active and doesn’t convert…I want to know their thoughts. More than likely this person has used a number of other SEO reporting tools and usually has some very insightful feedback.

In both questions I give a reason why we need their feedback. It’s a 100% true reason. We’re an early stage startup (everyone likes to help out the new guy). And their feedback really helps us out (true again).

Adding in why the customer should give us feedback has resulted in over half of our cancellations giving us some sort of constructive feedback. It’s amazing how helpful people can be when you just ask correctly, and in a safe manner.

2 responses to “How to get valuable feedback from customers who cancel your product or service

  1. Scott, thanks so much for posting this. I discovered the same thing. It’s insanely valuable advice. Here are related thoughts of my own that I’ve been meaning to turn into a blog post:

    1. People like to help and they hate to feel like they’re taking advantage of you. It’s surprising how guilty people feel about taking up our time — that’s a big reason they don’t respond. Like Melanie, Beeminder’s resident fitness expert, will offer advice/coaching etc and people think to themselves “well, that’s not fair, I’m not paying for that”. If you emphasize how much their feedback is helping us, they respond better. Maybe it’s some combination of guilt, altruism, or cynicism about our motives. In any case, customers respond better to helping us than to receiving help from us. Generally the point is to be helping them, but emphasize how they’re helping us too.

    2. It’s just ridiculous how well customers react to immediate responses. Users have written whole blog posts about how amazing we are just because of quick responses. Seriously, it’s impossible to overestimate how much this matters. I continue to fail at this because email sucks so hard, but holy crap does it matter. I guess the psychology is that it really sucks to be ignored and you half expect to be, so every hour that goes by is confirming that expectation, and the growing suckiness of that can’t be undone by the eventual reply, no matter how good it is. Or forget the psychoanalysis and trust the results: immediate responses are a goodwill goldmine.

    1. Totally agree on the speed of response. I always try to get back to support requests within an hour, it’s usually less, but sometimes our UK customers have to wait all night.

      Thanks for the comment Danny!

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