Don’t Hold Your Customers Hostages. Facilitate Their Exit

I can’t know how much of a fan you are of online shopping but I do know about an aspect of how a lot of big retailers do business. Here’s something that happens: when you receive your order, inside the box and along with the fancy packaging, there’s your receipt. However, here’s the catch: on that receipt, return shipping labels are also included.

That’s what you stick on the same box you’ve got for them, in case you want to return it — clothes are not fitting, they’re not as expected quality-wise or you simply don’t like them.

Therefore, they’re making it seamless for you to “churn” out of your order, so to speak. It’s right there given to you and most of the time it’s not used (if it is, the company’s going out of business soon).

Why make it easy for people to leave?

Here’s where we can make the transition to tech products. The last thing that a SaaS product wants to do is to hold their users hostages. I’m not sure if everyone experienced it at some point but it happened to me — I couldn’t cancel a monthly subscription of a software product.

And look, I’m no social justice warrior (or so I hope) to go and bash people on the internet for whatever they’ve done wrongfully. Therefore, I didn’t proceed to flood them with 1-star review or any kind of resentful/bitter activity. However, I wanted to cancel it — and they made sure they kept me hostage for a long time.

That’s the last thing you’d want to happen. If users want to leave, let them be. Even at the expense of printing return shipping labels on every single order that you send. You might not have a transaction this time but you’ll have someone who’s grateful for making it easy for them to conduct their day.

The opposite, which is what I’ve described above, can even go as far as making enemies. There are one-off .wordpress blogs that boycott what I’ve described above (the product) and in a karmic way maybe, the website of that company does not exist anymore.

When you’re confident…

…That what you give peoplesurely has value to someone — and I mean a lot of value — setbacks like these won’t do so much damage. And I might be shooting myself in the foot right now — I deal with customer/user churn. And I’m preaching now that sometimes it’s better to let them go.

In some pre-engagements, I notice sometimes this attitude of “we need to get them” (i.e. customers) as in “we need to lock them in harder”. The hostage mentality. Here’s the thing: reducing user churn is not about making sure every single individual is kept as tightly as possible.

It’s surely about having them want to stay as tightly as possibleconsentful control

Back To Online Shopping Churn

In their case, part of their designed experience (which includes every possible scenario their customers can go through, even the return) is developed to the extent of making the return process seamless.

Surely the online shopping retailer’s decision of including the return shipping labels came after seeing how much time is wasted (resources as well) on the whole return process. It’s a win-win situation. But then there’s survivorship bias. We only hear from those who succeeded.

Can we have a quick imagination exercise? If yes, then we need to imagine that those conservatives who said

“I don’t want to add return shipping labels. We’ll keep more capital if we don’t facilitate the returns”

might not be here to propagate their message. Or if they are today, soon they won’t be anymore.

About Ch Daniel

I run chagency, an experiences design agency that specialises on helping tech CEOs reduce user churn. We believe experiences are not only the reason why users choose not to leave but also what generates word of mouth. We’re building a credo around this belief.

If I’ve brought you any kind of value, follow me and get in touch here: LinkedIn | Twitter | Email | Quora | YouTube (same content but in video)

I’ve also created an infinitely-valuable app for sneaker/fashion enthusiasts called Legit Check that impacted hundreds of thousands over millions of times – check it out at

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Illustration Credits: Eva Mayzik, Marton Szoke-Kiss

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