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The Aptitude Blog

Why Subscriber Offboarding is Equally Important as Onboarding

January 18, 2022
Posted by Tim Yeates

Last month, NeimanLab, published results from a survey uncovering key reasons why customers voluntarily cancel their subscriptions. A key finding from this data, which consisted of 503 responses, was the dissatisfaction of subscribers having to call to cancel their subscription, with no online alternatives, even though they were able to onboard online – a widespread issue across the U.S. and beyond.

Reducing the Reliance on Call-to-Cancel

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have now weighed in, issuing a press release with an enforcement statement to all companies operating a call-to-cancel policy, to find alternative and easier measures for subscribers to cancel due to rising complaints. Additionally, the FTC have also said that deceptive tactics throughout the cancellation journey and making it hard for people to leave may in some ways be illegal, with Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, Samuel Levine, stating “tricking consumers into signing up for subscription programs or trapping them when they try to cancel is against the law.”

It’s understandable why subscription businesses have introduced such barriers to cancel in order to protect their revenues and reduce churn, but this should not come at the expense of the customer. By adopting a customer-first mindset across both onboarding and offboarding, brands can unlock various tools to protect revenue, reduce churn, optimize engagement, and ultimately, ensure satisfaction remains in what’s already a competitive market.

Making it Easier to Stay, Not Harder to Leave

A different way of looking at this is instead of making it harder for subscribers to leave, efforts should be repositioned at how brands can make it easier for subscribers to stay. But regardless of what tactics a brand employs, if a subscriber is determined to leave, why let them leave with a bad taste in their mouth, instead of becoming an opportunity for win-back? MPP Global’s Senior Vice President, Americas, Broadcast & OTT, Jose Luis Kruyff suggests:

Click on the image above to view the full LinkedIn post.

While retention is the key driver for such tactics, there is also an in-direct opportunity to boost acquisition and win-back rates by introducing transparent cancellation workflows. Peter Fader, a professor of marketing at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania suggested to The Wall Street Journal that “easy cancellation policies could actually help businesses lure in more subscribers and encourage more customers to come back if they have left”.

Automated Subscriber Self-care & Cancellation Workflows

The answer to these frustrations is to deploy a comprehensive, customer-focused subscriber self-care portal, enabling media brands to trigger events and cancellation workflows that reduce churn, without causing the friction and annoyance caused by call-to-cancel policies.

The Wall Street Journal is one of those companies already reacting to such controversy, with Karl Wells, Chief Subscriptions Officer for Wall Street Journal parent Dow Jones & Co., stating that the newspaper is testing “new ways to provide subscribers with a more flexible approach to managing their subscription preferences.”

But what does an ideal self-care portal look like? What preferences are critical to replacing/enhancing call-to-cancel practices? What features will help you maximize retention? What technology supports these ambitions?

We’ve listed eight key features to consider when building a comprehensive self-care portal to reduce the reliance on call-to-cancel, enabling businesses to:

  1. Manage payment, identity details & accounts
    Somewhat a given for all subscription businesses is to ensure subscribers can update or change payment details, personal details, marketing preferences and manage authentication methods, for example switching to social sign-on. Additionally, the ability to administer user access and privileges is critical for family, group and B2B subscription packages.
  2. Capture data to gather feedback on cancellation
    By offering the opportunity for subscribers to feedback during the cancellation workflow enables two things: one, the opportunity to automatically tailor an incentive to retain that subscriber, i.e., the reason for cancellation equals lack of funds, offer the subscriber a discount, and two, the opportunity to learn why customers are leaving, and unlock opportunities for win-back.
  3. Surface promotional incentives & add-ons
    The obvious go-to strategy for retaining subscribers throughout a cancellation workflow is to provide an incentive or add-on, be this to extend an existing offer or discount their current subscription for a short period. While this may reduce revenue, it offers businesses another window of opportunity to sell the value of their subscription pre-renewal.
  4. Pause, hard and soft cancel subscriptions
    The ability to simply cancel instantly, or at the end of a given billing cycle should be a minimum requirement for all self-care portals. But there’s a middle ground available: subscription holidays. NeimanLab state that the number one reason people cancel content subscriptions is financial, a whopping 31%. Supplying the possibility to pause a subscription (across several payment methods) may be a plausible solution to limiting churn for this reason – again, without having to call and speak to a representative. The subscription holiday provides yet another window of opportunity for the brand to tailor its proposition to encourage the user to re-activate at a later date.
  5. Manage devices & concurrent streams
    In a multi-device environment, being able to manage, add, remove and change devices, while also prioritizing concurrent streams is vital. It can also be used as an incentive to retain subscribers by offering tailored device management policies to perhaps add an additional device to the subscription.
  6. Switch package (upgrade/downgrade/sidestep)
    Self-care can be used as both an opportunity to retain users, but also, upsell, by offering subscribers the opportunity to up/downgrade or switch package to something more suitable. A crucial part of switching subscriptions is being able to manage which services are surfaced to the user that makes logical sense to switch to – automatically. For example, if a user is on a monthly all-you-can-eat subscription, logical, alternative packages may include an annual package or a more focused, unbundled subscription based on their behaviors, i.e., a sports-only only subscription.
  7. Redirect & customize delivery patterns 
    Many content businesses offer physical subscriptions as part of their offering, either as standalone or as part of a product bundle. The obvious example being print & digital newspaper subscriptions, triggering both digital entitlements and physical fulfillment. Subscriber needs for managing digital vs physical subscriptions vary, with the likes of delivery details, addresses, detailed order breakdowns, tax etc., needed for physical subscriptions within the self-care portal. But these features and flexibility can also be used to minimize churn, offering subscribers the opportunity to cancel/delay individual fulfillments, or temporarily redirect to alternative addresses, or even creating custom delivery patterns to deliver to various addresses.
  8. Promote upcoming content and subscription features
    For many media businesses, their content and rights are their critical differentiator and unique selling point. So, it makes perfect sense to promote upcoming, exclusive and most popular content to users prior to cancellation, highlighting what they would miss should they cancel, as well as features that enhance viewing for the subscriber, such as viewing parties, or high-definition video quality.

Centralized Technology to Optimize Subscriber Offboarding (and Onboarding)

Subscriber self-care portals are a given for any subscription business in this day and age, so the basic needs should be met. But those who choose to enhance their self-care portals to maximize retention and up-sell opportunities are likely to see greater success and increase customer satisfaction.

MPP Global’s Subscription Management subscription management platform centralizes and unlocks all the critical tools to build a comprehensive self-care portal, including, but not limited to the features above, all accessible via REST API to provide ultimate flexibility and customization to the needs of the business.

We’re here to help

If you are reviewing your subscription management and subscriber self-care technology, get in touch to arrange a demo of how Subscription Management can unlock all the tools needed to succeed now, and in the future.

Contact our helpful team; Telephone +1 929 502 2360 or E-mail

Alternatively, download our ultimate guide to minimizing churn and optimizing payments, to learn more.

We’re here to help

If you are reviewing your subscription strategy, get in touch to arrange a demo of how we can unlock all the tools needed to succeed now, and in the future.

Contact our helpful team; Telephone +44 844 873 1418 or visit our contact us page.

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This blog post was written by:

Tim Yeates
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