Some of your customers will eventually leave. No one wants to admit it, but no matter how much value you provide, a few people will drift away. You can't entirely prevent it from happening. But if you put in the effort, you can create an offboarding process that leaves a positive impression and keeps the door open for future business.

Most companies don't think much about what happens to customers who leave. In their eyes, anyone who abandons ship is a dead end for sales. These businesses spend all their time and energy on pampering new arrivals, leaving other customers to let the door hit them on the way out.

Today's consumers may move in and out of relationships like the Kardashians, but they do care how you say goodbye. A well-executed offboarding strategy can have a host of benefits for smart businesses. You may not get the win today, but a dialogue of respect and a good final impression could earn your company a lifelong brand advocate.

Good Customer Offboarding Makes Your Business Better

As in most relationships, the bonds between consumers and their favorite companies grow stronger (or weaker) in moments of conflict or need. One good customer service experience or helpful blog post can inspire someone to view a brand favorably, even when faced with difficulties down the road. Likewise, one flippant service rep or careless communication can turn a neutral relationship hostile.

When customers leave, you get one opportunity to nail the moment by which they will judge your brand in your absence. Mess up that opportunity, and you may not get a second chance.

Once a customer unsubscribes from your email list, life will return to the way it was before the two of you ever met. Think Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind—but instead of getting over a breakup, you make less money.

Research consistently proves that better customer offboarding experiences lead to positive returns on investment. Returning customers spend 67% more than new customers, and companies are 300% more likely to woo back an old customer than to acquire a new one, according to the Journal of Marketing Research. Even if your customers have decided to leave, you can still find value in that relationship by providing a good experience and treating them with respect.

How to Improve Your Customer Offboarding

Plenty of businesses struggle with customer offboarding. Many companies are embarrassed by their net win-back scores. If your company falls into that category, don't fret; you still have plenty of time to turn things around. A new decade is on the horizon. So check out these four essential tips to boost your offboarding and increase the odds that dissatisfied customers will return to the fold.

1. Get a specific reason from the offboarding customer

Ask your customers why they want to leave. Do they think your product costs too much money for the value you provide? Do they hate what your brand represents or like the values of a competitor more?

You won't know unless you ask, so start collecting data about your existing customers to identify trends and plug leaks in your company's strategy.

Customer churn exists for a reason. People prefer not to make changes, if they can help it; but, when something drives your customers to cut ties, get to the root of the problem so you can use that information to reduce cancellations at the source

If you can resolve the problem, do it quickly and completely to prove to your wavering loyalists that you value their business.

2. Provide incentive for customers to stay

Apologies only go so far. Instead of waiting for your customers to get fed up and offering perks when they do, do something before dissatisfaction sets in. Identify common areas of concern in your customer relationships and see whether customers might stay if you offered a new feature or option.

Subscription food services like HelloFresh, for example, allow users to pause deliveries instead of canceling altogether. That allows people who enjoy the service but may not want to use it every week to continue to engage with the company.

They may not order 52 weeks a year, but even if they only order 20 boxes, that's still 20 more boxes than a canceled customer would order.

3. Ask the customer for permission to keep in touch

Even if they say, "It's not me, it's you," your customers know that their situation may change in the future. Keep the door open by requesting permission to keep communicating after the breakup.

Personalize post-cancellation communications by talking about the improvements you have made based on customer feedback. If they wanted more options and you just added a new product line, reach out to let them know.

By keeping track of why people cancel, you not only build a helpful database of ideas to improve your business but also create a shortcut to communicate with old customers about issues that matter to them.

4. Create tiers of cancellation

Cancellations are not something that should be viewed as black and white. Instead, you should adopt the mindset that there are tiers of cancellation—and, from there, implement a program that provides different options for customers looking to cancel.

For example, more and more organizations are providing their customers with the ability to put their subscriptions on pause instead of outright canceling, thus empowering the customer to have more options and also decreasing the friction of winning them back as a paying customer down the road.

* * *

Don't be fooled into believing that a lost customer stays lost forever; you can reignite the spark with people who used to love your brand. But if you treat them poorly on the way out, you will sacrifice the opportunity before it even arrives.

Find out what makes people leave, make the necessary changes, and keep up communications to increase your net win-back score and bolster your bottom line.

More Resources on Customer Onboarding and Offboarding

Five Steps to Winning Back Lost Customers by Using Targeted Content

The First 90 Days: Onboard Sales Reps for Success [Infographic]

Five Tips for Marketing a Subscription-Based Business

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Your Customer Offboarding Process Should Be Just as Good as Your Onboarding Process

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image of Matt Moody

Matt Moody is the CEO and founder of Bellwethr, a startup using machine-learning to solve the customer retention challenge.

Twitter: @matmoody

LinkedIn: Matt Moody