UX: What happens when the user wants out?

As people obsessed with great UX, we tend to discuss the importance of the entire user journey. As we design experiences, we highlight the importance of the onboarding, how crucial engagement is, and when to offer delightful details. But have you ever considered the experience you provide users when they want out?

Wanting out made complicated

A couple of months ago, I caved in and signed up for a digital Wall Street Journal account. Signing up was, as you’d probably expect, painless. Click-click, done. The first three months were just a mere dollar which, of course, required me to enter my credit card information.

Well, time passes and I realize I hardly ever read it. I did read a couple of articles here and there, but not enough to the justify the $36.99 per month that my subscription now cost. I remembered the smooth and frictionless onboarding and headed over to my account to look for ways to cancel it. Nothing. Nowhere. After digging, I finally saw ‘Manage subscriptions’. Surely this is where I could cancel my subscription. Nope. Dead end. I could see my subscription and when it would renew (ironically the one thing I did know).

I tried searching for ‘Cancel account’ and got one hit: Cancellation and refund policy. This didn’t really seem like the right place, but guess it’s the closest thing I can get. The first lines I’m met with is:

“In order to change or cancel your subscription, please contact Customer Service. We do not accept cancellations by mail or email or by any other means other than calling Customer Service.”

Honestly, this would be where most users would just give up.

It seems very user hostile to allow me to subscribe digitally, but cancellation required a call to Customer Service. I’m redirected to a page with toll free numbers for every country and finally find the one for Sweden. I called the number and was greeted with a voice saying that this number is no longer in use or it’s been disconnected.

Clearly, they really don’t want people to cancel.

I decided to call the UK number - obviously not toll free - and I was finally patched through to someone who could help me cancel my account. It probably took her 4 or 5 attempts before she got my email address typed in correctly (spelling lepetitgarcon.com over the phone is not the best experience). Once she found my account, she broke into some dark design patterns trying to convince me to not just cancel, but to instead add more features at the same monthly cost. I declined. After 10 minutes on the phone, and surely an hour since I started this endeavor, my account was finally closed. Let me tell you this much, I’m going to think long and hard before I ever sign up for a digital service from the WSJ again.

Wanting out made simple

Since I started working out a couple of months ago, I’d been playing with the idea of getting an Apple Watch. I had the original Series-0 Apple Watch, but hadn’t used one since. In a way, I think it’s fair to say that I’d never used an Apple Watch that is fair to evaluate. So two weeks ago, I headed over to the Apple Store to pickup a space grey aluminum Apple Watch. I was just planning on primarily using it for workouts, so I got the base model with a sport loop. The guy in the store was super helpful and, since I have smaller hands, offered great advice on which case size to get even though it’s less expensive.

I soon learned the Apple Watch just isn’t for me. I don’t particularly like having all that data available as it tends to stress me out more than actually give me insights. The app that my glucose meter uses only worked with one of the complications for the watch faces so that didn’t give me much value. This was one of the primary reasons for me getting one - to easily see my blood sugar while working out. So last week I went back to the Apple Store to return it. I’ve done this with Apple products before - bought something, tried it out for a few weeks, and returned it. The experience is always the same. They let me return it, no questions asked. They smile. They validate me when I say that it just wasn’t for me and I leave feeling good about the experience.

I was telling my wife about this experience later that evening. I said to her that it’s almost as if I get even better service when returning something than buying it! “Of course, because that’s the experience you will remember,” she said, “and it’ll lower your barrier for buying something there again”.

Why are these experiences are so rare in the digital space? Even when it’s easy to delete an account, it always leaves you feeling like you’re breaking up with someone (or something!). And then after 3-6 months and they start emailing you asking to come back. What if we instead focus on delivering a service that’s so good you’ll never want to leave, but if you do, you’d actually want to come back. End things on good terms. Remain friends.


Get my bi-weekly newsletter

"A great resource for anybody with an interest in the psychology of design, user behaviour and digital experiences."

From my newsletter