Last week, in the first article of this two-part series, I wrote about the concept of customer off-boarding, the opposite of customer onboarding. This week’s article will cover who’s responsible for it, if it makes sense to automate it, and how to design a proper off-boarding program.
Let’s dive in. Lots to cover!
WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR CUSTOMER OFF-BOARDING?
Similar to onboarding, the job of off-boarding customers sits with multiple folks because it can and does include multiple aspects of the relationship. It’s a team effort. Who is involved and what are their roles?
- Customer Support: They are often at the forefront of the off-boarding process. They are responsible for handling customer inquiries related to the cancellation of services, guiding customers through off-boarding steps, and addressing any issues or concerns the customer may have.
- Customer Success/Account Managers: For larger B2B customers especially, account managers or customer success managers may take a more active role in the off-boarding process, working closely with the departing customer to ensure a smooth transition and assist with data migration or other technical aspects.
- Sales: If the customer initiates the off-boarding process due to dissatisfaction or other reasons, the sales team might be involved in attempting to retain the customer, perhaps offering incentives, discounts, or alternatives to address the customer’s concerns and encourage them to stay.
- Billing and Finance: This team handles the cancellation of subscriptions or services, ensures that the customer is no longer billed, and processes any refunds or final payments, as needed.
- IT: Handling customer data during off-boarding requires careful consideration of data protection and privacy regulations. Your IT team will ensure that customer data is handled in compliance with relevant laws and that any data retained is done so with proper consent or legal basis.
- Marketing/CX: They may send surveys during or after off-boarding to gather details about the reasons for customer churn and to identify areas for improvement.
- Product and Development: Any technical requirements related to the off-boarding process, e.g., data export, migration, or account closure, the product and development teams may be involved in ensuring a seamless and secure transition.
- Leadership: Ultimately, the responsibility for customer off-boarding falls on the company’s leadership. They set the tone for the organization’s customer-centric approach and, thus, must ensure that all departments work together to properly off-board the customer.
SHOULD YOU AUTOMATE CUSTOMER OFF-BOARDING?
It’s fair to ask if automation is appropriate for the customer off-boarding process. I think it depends. I believe the customer experience is very much human, and there should be human interaction to learn, understand, and perhaps even save the customer. That personal touch, especially when customers have concerns or unique circumstances, goes far to leave a positive last (and lasting) impression.
Some aspects that can be automated include: account deactivation, subscription cancellation, data export/download, confirmation emails, surveys, access revocation, refunds, and payment cancellation.
This affords increased efficiency, reduced manual workload, consistency in execution, and faster response times for customers. The convenience of self-service options is also a plus for customers, too.
If you do automate processes, do so with a human touch in mind; make sure you give customers options to contact customer support or customer success managers if they have additional questions or need assistance. Be sure to design and off-boarding process that embraces empathy and care, ensuring that customers feel valued even as they are leaving. This can bode well in the future, should the need arise again to engage with your brand.
Leverage automation for repetitive tasks and offer personalized support when needed to ensure customers have a positive and respectful off-boarding experience.
HOW TO DESIGN A PROPER CUSTOMER OFF-BOARDING PROGRAM?
That last sentence says it all: companies need to ensure customers have a positive and respectful off-boarding experience. What does a proper off-boarding program look like? What are the key design considerations?
- Clear and Transparent Communication: Ensure that the process itself is clearly communicated to customers. Transparency about the steps involved, timelines, and potential impacts can help manage customer expectations and reduce confusion. Communication is one of the most-overlooked aspects of the customer experience; don’t skimp on communication during this process.
- Self-Service Options: Allow customers to initiate the off-boarding process, if they choose to. Make online cancellation forms or account deactivation options accessible through customer portals. Automate deactivation to make the process more efficient.
- Personalized Approach: While some aspects can be automated, give customers opportunities to interact with a preson if they have questions, concerns, or unique circumstances that require personalized attention.
- Data Export and Portability: Enable customers to export or download their data before their account is deactivated. Data portability is essential for compliance with data protection regulations and allows customers to retain their information for future use.
- Feedback Mechanisms: Include surveys as part of the off-boarding process to understand the reasons for customer churn and to gather insights for improvement.
- Incentives for Staying: As appropriate, consider offering loyalty incentives or alternative solutions to address customer concerns and encourage them to stay.
- Legal and Regulatory Compliance: Ensure that the process complies with relevant legal and data protection regulations. Handle customer data with care and obtain consent where necessary.
- Process Analysis and Improvement: Analyze churn data and reasons to identify trends and patterns. Use that to improvements to the process and to address root causes of churn.
- Employee Training: Educate employees about the importance of proper customer off-boarding and provide training to ensure they are equipped to handle it efficiently and effectively, with empathy and understanding.
- Positive Last Impression: Conclude the process with a positive closing message. Thank customers for their business and leave the door open for them to return.
Ultimately, you want to create a customer off-boarding process that reflects your commitment to customer satisfaction, upholds your brand reputation, and maintains a customer-centric approach even during the end of the customer’s journey with your company.
Just know this: you should be designing and executing this process through the lens of your core values.
Marketing sells us emotions during onboarding. It’s important to unravel those emotions during off-boarding. ~Joe Macleod, author of Ends
Annette Franz is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, speaker, and author. In 2019, she published her first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the “Customer” in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business); it’s available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. In 2022, she published her second book, Built to Win: Designing a Customer-Centric Culture That Drives Value for Your Business (Advantage|ForbesBooks), which is available to purchase on Amazon, Books A Million!, Target, Barnes & Noble, and thousands of other outlets around the world! Sign up for our newsletter for updates, insights, and other great content that you can use to up your EX and CX game.
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