Cursor Curated
6th March 2023

Tips for enhancing digital cancellations and renewals in membership organisations

From frustration to satisfaction...

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Cursor Curated Issue 12
Daniel Westlake

In a landmark case in July 2022, Amazon had to agree to simplify its processes for cancelling Amazon Prime. As any marketer will tell you, good customer service goes beyond the sale alone – it also encompasses returns or general customer queries.

Amazon’s is a cautionary tale for any membership organisation seeking to review its cancellation flow. If the big guys can get it wrong, the little guys can learn from it. Done right, a simple membership renewal or cancellation process can increase customer satisfaction. It’s also ideal for those with additional accessibility needs.

So where exactly do the challenges lie?

Current challenges in membership organisations’ digital cancellations and renewals processes

Whether they’re looking to renew their membership or cancel it, customers shouldn’t have to face these problems.

Lack of automation

If a customer is happy with a service, they should have no problem with letting it tick over for another payment period. A manual membership renewal process makes this cumbersome – particularly if it’s over email, or even worse, over the phone.

The same applies to manual payments. Customers should be able to store their card details securely and enjoy an interrupted flow of service.

Inadequate communication with members

Customers can’t be expected to take action if they’re not in the know. A simple email or notification about upcoming renewals will help them feel at ease – whether they want to stay or go. And if they do choose to part ways? A lack of support options will only increase their frustration.

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Difficulty in tracking and managing member information

Data is important; knowing how to use it is even more important. If we let data become out of date, we risk errors when communicating with our members about their subscriptions.

We may also make poor decisions based on inaccurate data. Without proper tracking and management, we could be making assumptions or spotting trends that don’t exist. The right data will help us make decisions for the future, and segment customers based on behaviour patterns. The result? Better, more targeted communication and higher retention rates.

Poor user experience (UX) in cancellation and renewal flows

If members cannot cancel their subscriptions easily, they can get frustrated. Sadly, this is becoming more of a problem. Many organisations are turning to “dark patterns” – wherein they may remove the cancellation button altogether.

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In less extreme circumstances, organisations might not have clear guidance on how to cancel or renew. The process itself may take too long (see the manual processes above) and the company may even risk charging inactive customers.

Customers need to be aware of everything that comes with cancellation or renewal. Any issues such as service disruptions should be clear and transparent. Let’s not forget GDPR, either – customers will want to know where their data has gone if they do choose to cancel.

Case study: Amazon Prime

When the European Union has to intervene, you know something has gone wrong. That is exactly what happened at Amazon, which was famous for its cumbersome Prime cancellation process. The membership would auto-renew after a free trial, leading many customers to unwittingly start paying.

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Customers should feel that they can trust a brand – as Cursor Administrator Anna Westlake points out. “I trust (perhaps naively!) that a company will do their duty and inform me before a free trial ends, and they start charging me. Actively respecting that contract of trust goes a long way in creating loyalty, in my experience.”

When consumers took action

By April 2021, Amazon had amassed huge numbers of complaints from users. The e-commerce giant finally responded in July 2022 after speaking with EU regulators. Today, the cancel button is displayed more clearly and the explanatory text is shorter. There are also fewer distractions and warnings about the disadvantages of cancelling.

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Best practices for building better digital cancellations and renewals processes

By following these cancellation flow examples, we can continue to retain customers with better service.

Implement self-service portals for members to manage their own accounts

Leave the data management to the customer. A self-service portal will automate the manual processes involved with managing membership accounts. Members can update their information as and when.

Customers will feel more engaged with the platform – for example, accessing resources and services. They’ll also have more autonomy over their data and spending.

Not only does this leave organisations less vulnerable to error; it also reduces reliance on support teams, allowing them to focus on other tasks.

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Focus on user-centred design for an improved membership and cancellation flow UX

User-centric design will never go out of style, and this starts with research and testing. Working with real users will help to simplify the process, looking at click patterns and language as well as error handling.

Again, self-service portals are great for UX. Mobile-optimised sites are also ideal for better accessibility and UX. It’s important to note that this is iterative: it should be a continuous improvement project.

Make cancellation and renewal processes accessible to all members

Accessibility goes beyond diversity of devices. Users with visual impairments, for example, will benefit from high-contrast colours and larger font sizes. Supporting multiple languages will help those who don’t speak the organisation’s primary language.

Clear and simple instructions are always best. Remember, cancellations and renewals should be accessible to everyone.

The takeaway: goodbye is not always goodbye

Every membership organisation wants to retain members, and this is achievable without being unethical. But we should see cancellations as a chance to review and improve our UX. The underlying principles of customer service ring true here – treat them well, and they may come back in future. Make renewal easy, and they’ll stay for the long haul.

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