Letting Customers Depart Gracefully


Letting Customers Depart Gracefully
Illustration by Nick Slater for Contact Center Pipeline

“Ride our bike for 50 days; if you don’t like it, return it, no questions asked.”

“Cancel your subscription for those razor blades—it’s OK, we understand.”

“Try our bank for a little while, and if you don’t like how we help, we will send you off with £100; thank you, please come back when we can serve you again.”

These three honest, simple and easy terms of engagement are brought to you by three customer-driven companies: First, Roll bicycles decided that road time and assistance in helping you receive, build and take care of that bike is why they want you to stay. No contract can convince you of that. Roll bicycle customers get 50 days to ride and decide, then return. Next, Dollar Shave Club decided that great value blades, whimsy and service are their glue. They won’t keep you captive with a contract. And finally, UK-based First Direct Bank, which makes it easy to switch to them, gives you £100 as a farewell gift if they’re not your cup of tea. These companies won’t pen you in. Delivering value to you is what motivates them.

Make-mom-proud companies would rather keep your business with service and value, not contract terms. On the other hand, some companies just don’t want to let you go.

Kevin purchased a one-year software package of services, expecting from the description of the service offering that he could end the subscription after that year if he needed to. What he didn’t know was that he had signed up for an automatic-renew cycle, and billing automatically began after his first year ran out. The fine print said that he could only cancel within month 11 of the 12-month subscription.

When he figured this out, Kevin called customer service to cancel, but was informed that the automatic renewal was irreversible. The company offered him a solution: he could pay a cancellation fee equal to 50 percent of the new contract he had unwittingly just signed up for. He ended his 20-year relationship with the company.

Would you charge your mom a penalty for canceling her subscription with you? Or would you take the opportunity to learn why she’s leaving, and thank her for her business?

A Graceful Departure May Lead to an Eventual Return

As customers, our lives and needs change, and sometimes we just don’t need something anymore. Maybe it’s a monthly subscription we signed up for and forgot, and now we have a lifetime supply of vitamins. (True story.) Or we need to switch cable providers or our phone plan. Or opt out of a subscription. At these times, enabling a graceful departure, unintuitive as it may sound, can lead to an eventual return.

When you assist customers and provide them with all of the ins and outs of canceling, the fine print involved, the possible “Gotcha!” moments lurking, and the billing implications, you get a customer grateful for how you conducted yourself.

Pronet, a company that offers residential and commercial security solutions in Turkey, for example, recently reimagined their customer departure experience. They simplified the experience from having to speak to four different teams, to honoring the departing customer with one single point of contact, creating a “super-agent role” emboldened to “do the right thing” for customers as they departed. Rather than never wanting to talk to Pronet again, the previous sentiment of departing customers, this new experience opens the door for customers to return.

Think of the last personal breakup you might have had. If it went well, there was an opportunity to remain friends. If not, the breakup experience validated the reasons for letting go—and your feet couldn’t take you away from the situation fast enough. In many ways, leaving a company has the same emotional impact.

And bad breakups also tend to live long lives on social media. When customers have to jump through hoops to leave you, they will tell everyone they know. And the harder the departure, just like that breakup, the more people the customer will tell about it. The cost to the company multiplies. A well-handled departure can earn a future return. But a challenging departure closes that door.

Casper, a company that sells mattresses, makes graceful departures their mission. Casper wants to become the “Nike of sleep” by creating a new experience for resting easy in your life. They are driven more by delivering value than by enforcing rules that pen customers in and hold them captive. As a result, Casper wants you to take their bed for a long test-drive—so you can really get to know them. They want you to stay only if you sleep easier because of them. And if not, well, read on.

A Case Study to #MakeMomProud

Casper Decided to Let You “Sleep on It” for One Hundred Days.

DECISION INTENT: Take the rigmarole out of buying a bed. Casper launched in April 2014 with a single product: one bed. Its five founders had all gone through the rigmarole of buying beds, as we all have, trying to navigate the showroom, the many options, and the pitches and pressure to close the sale. Cofounder Neil Parikh said in an early interview with Inc. magazine, “The salesmen talk fast; the choices are over­whelming and the prices are hefty. Yet everyone needs a mattress…. It’s worse than buying a used car.” The result? These five guys, Philip Krim, Jeff Chapin, Neil Parikh, Luke Sherwin and Gabriel Flateman, banded together to “disrupt the sleep industry.” Then they wanted to go further, to create a whole industry around sleep. Their goal: become the “Nike of sleep.” They knew that to eventually achieve this goal, they had to break and rebuild the entire experience of trying, buying and even returning a bed.

ACTION TO #MAKEMOMPROUD: One hundred days to return their mat­tress. Casper’s one hundred days return service came out of this fact: it is nutty that people make a decision they live with for years, by lying on a mattress in a store for two to three minutes. And who is comfort­able lying on a bed with your shoes on while the salesman keeps asking you what you think? As part of their crusade to make buying a bed more humane, Casper gives customers one hundred days to sleep on their bed at home. Then if it’s not right for them, Casper will pick it up for free. No restocking fee, and no guilt. Why would Casper do this? They don’t consider a bed a one-time transaction. They are in it for the relation­ship. They urge customers to call and chat, and more than half of them do that before buying a bed. They keep track of customer data and stay in touch—because they aren’t selling beds; they’re helping you get a better night’s sleep.

Casper Lets You Sleep Easy.


IMPACT: Casper has grown from $0 sales in 2013 to more than $500 million in four years. As of this writing, Target stores had bid a cool $1billion to buy the company, but instead became a partner, investing $75 million in the company. Casper was the second-place contender for Inc. magazine’s Company of the Year in 2016. They are now in both West Elm and Target stores, where customers can touch and feel and, yes, lie on that bed a bit before they buy. The hundred-day return still applies. Casper has become the largest online brand selling beds in the world. Finally, with their “no strings attached” approach, customer re­turns remain exceedingly low—7 percent or less.

Excerpted from Would You Do That To Your Mother? The “Make Mom Proud” Standard for How to Treat Your Customers, by Jeanne Bliss with permission of Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © Jeanne Bliss, 2018.

For More on Making Your Mom Proud

To read more about “Make Mom Proud” companies that excel at living their core values grounded in what we all learned as kids, download the first chapter of Jeanne Bliss’ book, Would You Do That to Your Mother?

A special bonus: Pipeline readers who purchase 10 books will get a free 1.5-hour huddle with Jeanne and your team to diagnose where you are now and plan your actions to accelerate your culture and customer experience work. For more information, email Jeanne Bliss.

Jeanne Bliss has been guiding companies toward business growth for 35 years. She pioneered the role of the Chief Customer Officer, holding the first ever CCO role at Lands’ End, Microsoft, Coldwell Banker and Allstate Corporations. She has driven achievement of 95 percent loyalty rates, improving customer experiences across 50,000-person organizations. She is now the President of CustomerBliss, where she guides the C-Suite and Chief Customer Officers around the world on earning business growth by improving customers’ lives. Her clients include: AAA, Johnson & Johnson, Brooks Brothers, Bombardier Aerospace, and Kaiser Permanente. She is a sought after speaker and thought-leader, the author of four best-selling books, and co-founder of the Customer Experience Professionals Association. Her most recent book, which this content is excerpted from, is “Would You Do That To Your Mother?”