Offboarding: Create a Guided Experience To Understand & Reduce Churn

Victoria Rudi
June 15, 2022
⌚ 8 min read

→ Your growth practice

Design a straightforward, survey-based offboarding workflow to understand and reduce your churn rate.

→ Quick explanation

💥 Problem(s)

  • No or few insights about the churn reasons.
  • Low retention rates once the user decides to cancel the subscription.
  • High customer churn rates.

Citing ProfitWell as the source, a Paddle article indicates:

“Established companies with ARPUs in the $500+ range should have an average churn of somewhere between 2-4% range. For early-stage companies still searching for product-market fit, though, it depends. Churn in the first year can be as high as 24%.”

According to the 2021 Subscription Churn Benchmarks by ProfitWell:

“Companies recover less than 1 out of 3 customers.”

💡 Solution

Design a guided, survey-based offboarding experience to:

  • Gather information about customer churn
  • Address the objections your users may have
  • Get people to stay with your brand

As the 2021 Subscription Churn Benchmarks by ProfitWell indicates:

“Companies with offboarding and salvage offers churn much less.”
ProfitWell Benchmark Screenshot

► Quick note: Avoid friction. Some companies may add unnecessary bumps on the road, asking people to fill in cancellation forms or add redundant data, such as name, email address, and more. This will create a negative user experience, reducing the chances of winning your customer back. Offboarding should feel natural, intuitive, and easy.

→ Definitions

📓 Offboarding workflow: A designed process that guides paying customers to cancel their software subscription.

📓 Offboarding survey: A series of questions a company may ask the customers who’ve decided to cancel their subscriptions. Some companies will incorporate the survey as part of the offboarding experience, while other brands may send a survey via email after the user cancels the subscription.

📓 Offboarding retention: Changing a user’s mind during the offboarding experience to stay as a customer. This may happen thanks to addressing specific objections people may have or offering them discounts.

📓 Salvage offers: Product discounts a company provides as part of the offboarding experience prompting users to stay as customers.

→ Types of offboarding

  • No questions asked: An experience that enables customers to simply cancel their subscription without providing any feedback or getting answers to possible objections they may have.
  • Survey-based: A guided experience that allows people to indicate their cancellation reasons, provide feedback, and get their questions asked in case there’s an easy fix, prompting them to stay as paying customers.
  • Post-offboarding interactions: In some cases, companies may send a post-offboarding survey or email to collect data on churn reasons or nudge people into re-activating their accounts. But wouldn’t it be more efficient to use the offboarding process to achieve these goals? After canceling their subscription, people may have little interest in giving post-offboarding feedback.

→ Your growth opportunities

  • Collect essential insights about the way your users think.
  • Understand the reasons people have to cancel their subscription.
  • Improve retention during offboarding.
  • Gather enough data to improve your product, communication, or workflow.
  • Reduce the churn rate.

→ Case example

>> Timely, time tracking software

Timely customers can cancel their subscriptions via the product dashboard. Once they click on Cancel subscription, they see this message:

“In these highly unpredictable and anxious times, we are working with our customers on a case-by-case basis to protect access to essential time management in Timely. If you are unsure how you can continue to afford Timely during the COVID-19 storm, please talk to us now. We will do everything we can to support you through this.”

Timely offers a context that justifies the workflow they’ve put in place. It’s a way of preparing soon-to-be-ex-customers for the offboarding process. It’s also an excellent way to ask permission or justify the few questions people have to answer before canceling their subscription.

Timely Screenshot

Clarify the Doubts

After reading the first subscriptions cancellation message, people can choose between two options:

  • Skip
  • Tell us how we can help

If they click on Tell us how we can help, an in-app chat opens up with several options:

  • I need help using your product
  • I have a feature request
  • I want to report an issue
  • I have questions about my subscription
  • It’s something else
Timely Screenshot

Let’s take them one by one.

👉 I need help using your product

When customers choose this option, the chatbot algorithm asks them to select a category they need help with:

  • Logging timeProjects
  • People / Users
  • Reports
  • Memory
  • Plans and Pricing
  • Other

Next, they have to supply more details about the challenge they’ve encountered. Usually, a person from Support will get in touch via chat to clarify the customer’s doubts.

👉 I have a feature request

If customers have a feature request, they are redirected to a form where they can outline their idea.

Timely Screenshot
Timely Screenshot
Timely Screenshot
Timely Screenshot
Timely Screenshot
Timely Screenshot
Timely Screenshot
Timely Screenshot
Timely Screenshot
Timely Screenshot
Timely Screenshot
Timely Screenshot

As the chatbot copy specifies, customers can follow updates on the company blog.

Next, customers can choose from two options:

  • Thanks, I’m all set!
  • Yes, I still need help.

If they click on the second button, a conversation opens up with the following message:

No problem. You’ll be connected with a Success team member who will reach out to help.

👉 I want to report an issue

When customers want to report an issue, the chatbot algorithm presents a list of categories to choose from: 

  • I’m having trouble logging timeI need help with Projects
  • I need help with a user
  • I need help with Reports
  • I need help with Reports
  • I’m having trouble with Memory
  • I need help with an integration
  • I need help with a subscription
  • It’s something else

Once people click on a category, they’re asked for more details. As in other cases, this open conversation will end with a support team representative getting in touch with the customer.

👉 I have questions about my subscription

This option is much more straightforward. The chatbot algorithm asks the customer for more details while notifying them that someone will get in touch.

👉 It’s something else

When customers click on It’s something else, the chatbot algorithm asks them for an explanation. Depending on the answer, customers will be redirected to search for more information through the Help Center.

Overall, the chatbot options encompass all the possible questions and doubts people may have before canceling their subscription. In some cases, answering the questions and clarifying the doubts will help keep customers subscribed.

► Quick note: Not all people are 100% convinced they want to leave your platform. Sometimes, it’s just a misunderstanding, and if you can address it through the offboarding workflow, you’ll retain customers who’re about to churn. Don’t miss this golden opportunity.

Offer an Upgrade Trial

We saw the Timely workflow that develops if people click on Tell us how we can help. Let’s see what happens if the soon-to-be-ex-customers of Timely choose the Skip option.

Once people click on Skip, they’re offered a 30-day free upgrade trial. This way, they can discover and enjoy the platform’s full potential. They can explore the upgraded version of Timely, accessing the features they’ve never used.

Moreover, if a customer isn’t satisfied, Timely will refund their last invoice to make the offer more attractive. That’s a great first nudge to encourage people to stay longer on the platform and maybe get them to change their minds.

Timely Screenshot

Identify the Main Churn Reason

If your customers decide to leave regardless of your offer, don’t waste this opportunity to identify the churn reason. But keep things easy for your soon-to-be-ex-customers. Make sure they don’t feel overwhelmed when canceling. For example, Timely lists churn reasons they can choose from.

Timely Screenshot

Go Deeper

But don’t stop there. Create a separate micro-workflow for each reason and ask additional questions to get better insights. Let’s see how Timely handles it:

👉 I don’t understand how to use your product

If people signal that they don’t understand how to use the product, the algorithm asks them to choose which Timely section is challenging.

Timely Screenshot

Once people pick the section, a new field opens up, asking for more details.

Next, the algorithm asks them if they would like to get in touch with someone from the support team. That’s an excellent opportunity to connect with your customers, solve their issues, and maybe get them to stay.

If people click Yes, the chat window pops up, along with a copy that nudges them to share their feedback by selecting a chat option. The copy informs the customer that their cancellation request will be paused. They’re also given a second alternative: contact the support team via email (in case they can’t see the chat).

If people click No, the cancellation workflow continues with the next question.

👉 It’s too expensive

If the soon-to-be-ex-customer chooses the It’s too expensive option, they’ll see the following window:

Timely Screenshot

Regardless of which option the customer picks, the algorithm asks for more details and displays a green button saying Compare our new plans.

Click on Compare our new plans, and the algorithm will show a comparison list of the Timely different plans.

👉 No longer need to track time

When people choose the No longer need to track time option, they’ll be asked for more details.

Timely Screenshot

Also, the algorithm will nudge them to connect with the support team via chat.

👉 Some features I need are missing

If people choose Some features I need are missing, the algorithm asks them what features are missing.

Timely Screenshot

👉 I’m experiencing bugs

If the soon-to-be-ex-customer cancels their subscription because they’re experiencing bugs, the Timely algorithm will ask for specifics, offering a list of bugs to choose from.

Timely Screenshot

Regardless of the type of bug, the algorithm asks for more details, then suggests getting in touch with someone from the Support team.

👉 Duplicate account

Finally, if people say it’s a duplicate account, the workflow will continue with the next question.

Ask the Hard Question

It’s heart-wrenching to know that your customers left you for another platform. Yet, you need to know if there’s someone better than you. That’s why you shouldn’t avoid the hard question: Are you switching to a different solution?

Timely Screenshot

Follow the example of Timely and ask what platform your users will go for. You can even offer a pick-list of your competitors.

Timely Screenshot
Timely Screenshot

Regardless of people’s choices, the Timely algorithm offers them a 50% discount for the next three months.

One Last Question  

If people answer No to whether they’re switching to another platform, the algorithm will show one last question.

Compared to other questions, this one is more general. Its goal is to capture one last insight regarding the churn reason. Once people fill out the field, the 50% offer pops up as a final attempt to convince them to stay. Finally, if the almost-ex-customer doesn’t care about the discount, they’re asked to Cancel the Subscription.

Timely Screenshot

Did you notice the tiny details in this last step of the offboarding workflow?

  • The cancelation button is red. In UX, the color red usually symbolizes an error.
  • You can still see the option saying Stay with Timely.

→ What to consider?


  • What are the main insights to collect from unsubscribing customers?
  • How can I use these insights to reduce the churn rate? Can I improve my product? Can I redesign people’s platform experience? Will I change my communication strategy?  
  • What are the objections my customers may have when canceling their subscription?


  • There are no specific requirements to design an offboarding experience for your paying customers. You should create one regardless of your stage, revenue, and the number of users.

→ Your action framework

✅ Write down the reasons and objections your customers may have to cancel their subscription. These reasons may include:

  • It’s too expensive
  • I don’t understand how it works
  • It misses some features
  • The platform has bugs
  • And more.

► Quick note: These objections are the reasons why your users may want to cancel the subscription.

✅ Find ways to address these objections. For example, if someone cancels the subscription because they’re changing jobs, you can encourage your user to stop their subscription for a certain amount of time until they find another job.

✅ Create an offboarding survey. Make sure to include option-based questions, making things easier for your users by letting them select an answer.

✅ Ask yourself if you’re willing to provide a salvage offer. If so, what discount do you want to include?

✅ Write an offboarding email you’ll send to those who’ve canceled their subscription. The email should include an account re-activation CTA.

✅ Finally, incorporate the survey into the offboarding workflow.