Churn Surveys – What Are They and How to Use Them to Reduce Your SaaS Churn
Implementing churn surveys in your SaaS is one of the most important and effective ways to improve customer retention and satisfaction.
Not sure what churn surveys are or how to get started with them? You’re in the right place!
In this blog post, you will learn what churn surveys are, get to see some examples, how to create them, as well as how to analyze and act on them.
Let’s dig in!
- Churn surveys are how you gather feedback from users after they decide to cancel or downgrade their subscription plan.
- The goal behind using churn surveys is to gather customer feedback so you can act on it to improve the product and reduce churn.
- In comparison with email churn surveys, in-app churn surveys are more effective as they are contextual – users see them inside the app directly after clicking the cancel button.
- Use open-ended questions and multiple-choice questions or a mix of both, and then conduct A/B tests to decide which ones work best in your case.
- To create churn surveys, you can use tools like Userpilot, Typeform, or Hotjar.
- Analyzing churn surveys’ qualitative data can give you insights that can be used to develop a better user experience and reduce future churn.
- Automating responses to churn surveys is crucial to their effectiveness – responding manually is ineffective and reduces the number of responses.
What are churn surveys?
Churn surveys (aka customer loss surveys, exit surveys, or cancellation surveys) are a subset of micro surveys – they consist of short questions sent after a user decides to cancel or downgrade the subscription plan.
The purpose of churn surveys is to gather customer feedback and discover insight into why users churn. Armed with that knowledge, you can take action towards improving your customer experience and your product, which will reduce churn.
Most sources on churn surveys refer to them as long surveys sent via email after a customer stops using the product. However, that’s not the best approach in SaaS.
Benefits of in-app vs email churn surveys
There are two main ways to collect customer feedback via churn surveys – in-app or email. Both of them can be triggered automatically using marketing automation tools.
Which one should you use?
In-app churn surveys are contextual – they are displayed right after the user clicks the cancelation button which can increase:
- completion rate– while emails may get lost in the user’s inbox, users can’t miss in-app surveys.
- the chance of users changing their minds– by showcasing what they will be missing out on if they cancel.
Using in-app churn surveys vs email gives you a chance to change your users’ minds by automating personalized in-app responses based on their reasons to leave (we’ll explore this later).
For example, you can give users the option to ‘pause my account’ as an alternative to canceling it entirely. On the contrary, email churn surveys are sent after the process of canceling an account is finished, so it’s harder or impossible to do the same.
Here’s how Mailchimp does this:
Still not convinced in-app churn surveys are the way to go? Here are two more reasons why in-app churn surveys tend to be more effective:
- There is a low chance that the user will decide to fill in an email survey after canceling the subscription, especially if some time has passed since that moment.
- Following up via email is still an option, but the chances of the user opening up the email and engaging with you are low considering they’ve already canceled their account.
Now, let’s see some examples of survey questions you should ask.
Churn surveys questions examples
Churn surveys should be short and sweet, so it’s easy for users to engage with them and fill them quickly.
Don’t turn them into questionnaires-remember, the user is about to leave and you want a chance to engage with them. While long-form surveys might be great for collecting user sentiment, it’s not the way to go when you are trying to keep a user from churning.
A churn survey done right will look like a normal part of the canceling process while avoiding adding friction.
There are three kinds of questions you can ask within a churn survey:
- Multiple-choice questions
- Open-ended questions
- Mixed questions
Examples of multiple-choice churn survey questions
These questions are most commonly used because they don’t require much effort from the users. Also, they make it easy to set up automated responses based on given answers.
You can take some of these questions, rephrase them in multiple ways or even use A/B testing to check which ones work best.
- What’s the main reason you are canceling your account?
- Why did you decide to cancel your subscription?
- What made you cancel your account?
Examples of answers to multiple-choice questions you can use:
- I am not using [product] anymore
- I’m having technical issues
- Price is too high to justify
- Not sure how to use the data&tools
- It was not effective, and I didn’t see the results I wanted
- I’m switching to a different solution
- Missing features I need
- I only needed the product for a short-term project
Your main goal here should be to understand the reasons behind the user’s decision to cancel (or downgrade) the subscription so you can act on it. You can use the feedback to improve your product for future users or by offering personalized alternatives to leaving.
For example, if most of the users leave because of your product’s price, it might mean a few things:
- You should reconsider your pricing
- You are attracting the wrong audience
- Your users don’t see the value in your product (you might have an onboarding problem here)
Examples of open-ended churn survey questions
Open-ended questions have the same goal – to discover why users are churning and to reduce churn by improving the product and/or the experience.
The questions you ask might be the same as in the multiple-choice survey, but this time you let users tell their reasons using their own words.
While a multiple-choice survey limits the answer a user can give only using open-ended questions can:
- make it difficult to analyze the responses
- make it hard to act and automate personalized responses
Pro tip: be mindful of your tone and language.
- Why are you canceling your subscription? – this can put the user in the defensive mode (because of its accusatory tone)
- What made you decide to cancel your subscription? – such a question sounds more like you are asking for help
Examples of mixed churn survey questions
This option is a mix of the previous two survey types – just add a response box (check the example below) under the multiple-choice question. Make sure this is optional (not required) as your main goal is to collect answers to that multiple-question.
Try not to create churn surveys that are too long, as the longer it is, the bigger chance the users will get annoyed.
But who can blame them? They want to close the account, not give an interview.
Mailchimp has the longest churn survey I’ve seen, but before asking for so many things from the user, they first offered the alternative of pausing the account- a proactive way of reducing churn.
Keeping the number of questions low and working on the user experience is the best combination of a churn survey that users will engage with. See an example from Monday below.
Knowing the benefits of churn surveys and what questions you can (and should ask), you can create a churn survey.
How to create a churn survey
To build in-app churn surveys, you can either custom code it inside the app or use a no-code tool to build it. The advantage of using a tool (besides saving your developer’s time) is that you will be able to create, analyze and automate responses- all in a single tool.
Before choosing one, it’s important to determine the functionalities you will need. Ask yourself:
- who will be using the tool? (developer or not)
- how will you analyze responses? (what type of analytic do you need)
- how will you use the insights? (automate responses or manually reach out to users)
Tools like Typeform will allow you to create and embed a churn survey but you won’t be able to automate a response. Hotjar lets you build multiple types of surveys on your website or in-app but you will still need custom coding to automate any response.
You can use an in-app engagement tool such as Userpilot to:
- build in-app churn survey without coding
- customize surveys to your brand
- automate responses based on answers
- A/B test different surveys to understand which has the highest user engagement
Read a more comprehensive comparison of tools for building churn surveys in our article here.
How to analyze and act on churn surveys
What’s the point in collecting data if you don’t act on it?
Following up on every churn survey manually isn’t really an option when we talk about SaaS and wanting to reduce churn.
By the time you will get to respond, your user will be already halfway onboarding into a new product.
That’s why it’s important to automate responses based on your users’ choices in your multiple-choice survey. Before getting to automated responses, there are other ways you can use churn surveys to reduce churn and improve your product.
Use churn surveys to improve your product
How? Try open-ended questions and different multiple-choice questions and see which are the most common reasons users leave.
Keep updating the list of answers to narrow down the most common reasons users leave. Do they have to do with your product? Maybe there’s something constantly causing friction, making users churn.
Sit down with your product team and discuss what you can do to improve based on the insights collected mixed with the ones you get from your feature surveys.
A/B test different churn survey types to find the one users engage with the most
Users prefer to engage with content in different ways. A/B testing will help you decide which churn survey type works best and results in more engagement and responses.
Here are some A/B tests you can try:
- a different number of questions
- different types of surveys (open-ended, multiple-choice, mixed)
- formating and style (drop-down list, radio buttons)
You can set A/B tests directly inside Userpilot while building in-app micro surveys.
Let’s move on to the automation side and see how responding to surveys can increase retention.
Automate a response to your churn surveys and reduce churn
These automated responses should be personalized based on the answer given by the particular user. If you have a reason why someone wants to cancel, it might give you an idea of how to prevent it from happening again in the future.
Let me give you some examples of how it might work in practice.
Offer users the option of pausing their account
The user only showed their intention of canceling but hasn’t canceled yet. Now is your last chance to offer an alternative and incentivize them to stay before they churn.
You can offer an option to pause billing and freeze the account without deleting it. Consequently, the user data won’t be erased.
Having to move data can be a burden. If someone isn’t using the tools or doesn’t need them for a determined period of time, giving them the option to pause the account will be a good alternative. It will also increase the chances of the user coming back (even if your MRR might take a small hit in the short term).
Technical issues churn survey response
Technical issues can cause a lot of frustration up to the point of deciding to find a better product. You can still change your users’ minds and improve their experience by offering multiple ways to get in touch.
When this issue keeps reappearing consider making in-app support more user-friendly to avoid users keep hitting the cancelation button due to lack of proper support.
If some users want to cancel because some particular feature is missing, you can ask them for permission to keep them updated about new features.
Your product might not be enough right now but leaving an open door is always best and gives you a chance of continuing the conversation. The feature they’re missing might be on your next release so you might even be able to convince them to stay.
The price is not right
Sometimes the reason people churn is that they can’t justify the price.
Either because they’re not really the right user persona for your product or they didn’t get to experience the value your product has to offer.
You can offer a one-time discount for a longer period of time (like 6 months or 1 year). This way, your pricing can look more convenient for them and they win something while you buy more time to make the product better and showcase the value it provides using secondary and tertiary in-app onboarding.
Offer downgrades as an alternative to cancelation
Notice the small text in the image below?
It’s hard, I know. But offering the option to downgrade the account can be an alternative to canceling an account, and this reduce your churn.
Although this will translate into a lack of functionality for the user it might just be what they need at the moment. If your SaaS has a Freemium plan this tactic can work really well in incentivizing users to stay. Keep in mind you will still have to work to reengage and bring them back.
Churn surveys are great for collecting customer feedback and revealing reasons why users leave. Act quickly on this data to improve your product and reduce the churn.
Now that you know how to build and use churn surveys it’s time to get started and take action towards decreasing your churn.
Implement no-code in-app churn surveys! Get a Userpilot Demo and see how you can reduce the churn.