Biz Tips: How to Run Customer Exit Surveys to Improve Product Retention

Biz Tips: How to Run Customer Exit Surveys to Improve Product Retention


How to Run Customer Exit Surveys to Improve Product Retention

No matter how great your product is, it is very likely that 40–60% of your free trial users never see the product a second time. — Samuel Hulick, Author of ‘The Elements of User Onboarding’

Whether you’ve found product-market fit or not, your business will be confronted daily with:

  • Visitors coming to your site and leaving;
  • Users signing up for your product without using it;
  • Paying customers churning.

Although these 3 situations are completely different, they have one thing in common: they’re great opportunities to learn how to improve your product and tighten your product-market fit.

For this post, we’ll focus on customer churn (e.g. churners), but learning from all 3 situations is essential to make your business grow.

Why Customer Exit Surveys Matter

There are countless reasons why visitors cancel their subscriptions.


  • They found another product that better matches their needs;
  • They’re only using a fifth of your product functionalities;
  • Your product is slow and buggy;
  • Your support can’t answer their questions;
  • Their business has cashflow problems and no longer can afford the subscription;
  • Your user or economic buyer has left the organization;
  • The credit card associated with their account expired;
  • Your product has become too expensive;
  • Etc.

These situations can be handled differently, yet they all lead to churn.

Sometimes your product is at fault, and sometimes there’s nothing you could have possibly done to prevent the cancellation.

Customer exit surveys help you gain valuable insights into how well your product meets the goals and requirements of your customers; they help you prevent future cancellations.

How to Recruit Participants for Customer Exit Surveys

It’s notoriously hard to recruit customer exit survey participants.

Because they’ve already expressed dissatisfaction with your product (they left!), a lot of churners won’t want to engage further with your team. Chances are, the participants you’ll get will be either early adopters or the angry-type. It’s something to keep in mind when analyzing survey data.

The best time to ask churners to take your survey is at the time of cancellation — when they’re still thinking about your product — as part of your downgrade flow or via email.

You’ll get the best response rate by asking the following question during the downgrade flow:

“What’s the single biggest reason for you cancelling?”

  • [ ] I don’t understand how to use your product
  • [ ] It’s too expensive
  • [ ] I found another product that I like better
  • [ ] I don’t use it enough
  • [ ] Some features I need are missing

If email is the best option for you, you’ll want to contact churners right after cancellation with a low-friction exit survey.

Some businesses incentivize their churners with gift cards (e.g. Amazon gift cards) to increase the number of responses they get, but this is often unnecessary, and can lead to biases in data collection.

How to Analyze Customer Exit Surveys

Once you know why your customers are leaving, it’s not hard to realize that some cancellations could have been prevented.

However, to truly understand what the data means for your product, you have to segment responses using key criteria:

  • Subscription plans (e.g. Basic vs Pro, Monthly vs Yearly);
  • Personas;
  • Product engagement;
  • Subscription length (First month vs Second year);
  • Feature set used;
  • Etc.

There are usually patterns to be found, but they won’t be apparent without segmentation.

These patterns will help refine your customer success, onboarding, pricing, product, etc.

Customer Exit Survey Interviews

To dig deeper into these patterns, I recommend conducting Jobs to Be Done interviews.

Contrary to customer discovery interviews, Jobs to Be Done interviews focus on a single story. In this case, it’s the story of what led your users to stop using your product and start using another. Because of this, these interviews are often call “Switch” interviews.

Here are a few customer exit survey questions I like to use in these interviews:

To make sure you capture valid information, you’ll want to brush up on the code of conduct for customer interviews.

A Customer Exit Survey Template

There are several customer exit survey examples available online. To help you get started capturing cancellation reasons and Jobs to Be Done, we made our customer exit survey script available on the Lean B2B website.

Check it out! And start learning from cancellations.

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Originally published at on August 2, 2018.

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