How To Handle Client Cancellations
If you’re in business you’re going to have clients cancel.
It’s not one of the enjoyable aspects of running a business, but happens.
And it happens for all sorts of reasons. The client may run out of money. The client may be disappointed with the product. Maybe they found something cheaper or something they think offers more value.
Whatever the reason, it happens. It will bring about emotions for most people. That’s a key point in the proceedings. How you handle the client cancellation could determine future success.
For example, the client may come back in the future. Maybe they leave for what they think will be a better option, but after some time they realize that wasn’t the case. Or maybe the product wasn’t right for them, but because things were left on good terms they refer clients to you.
Here are a few tips for handling client cancellations so you set your company up for future success.
1. Accept Blame
There is no use pointing fingers. The client may say hurtful things to you. Maybe it was your fault. Maybe it was the client’s fault for not using your product the correct way. Maybe their expectations were out of line with what you provide.
It doesn’t matter.
Getting into an argument won’t result in any positive outcomes. It may make you feel “in the right” for a moment, but it will only damage the relationship.
The best course of action is to accept 100% of the blame. And really, that’s usually the case. But for some people it takes more effort to accept the blame and be cordial with the client as things end.
I’ve always had the best luck being as kind and courteous as possible in just about all business situations. That includes when a client cancels your service.
Sometimes the client will be nasty. Sometimes they’ll say negative things that make you want to retaliate and put them in their place, but nothing good will come from that reaction.
Thank them for their time with you. If you can’t think of anything nice to say then just keep it sort and cordial. But if there were good things about the relationship then mention it.
3. Make The Transition Easy
Sometimes there will need to be some kind of transition. Information. Software. All kinds of things.
When a client cancels it can seem like a hassle to make this easy. Even without realizing it you can kind of put it on the back burner of your priority list as you work on clients that aren’t going to cancel with you.
But you want to make it as smooth as possible. You want to leave the client with as good of a feeling as possible as they leave.
And if that doesn’t seem like a good enough reason then just think of it as the sooner they’re gone the sooner you both can move on. No reason to make it take more energy than necessary.
4. Don’t Nickel & Dime
Sometimes with business relationships that end there are loose ends as far as money goes that need to be tied up. Certainly you want to get what’s coming to you, but sometimes it can be more trouble than it’s worth.
For example, maybe the client owes you a relatively small amount of money for something. It’s often better to just forget about what they owe you and move on.
You’ll have to determine what “relative” is for your situation. But often the client will just want to move on and forget about the situation. They won’t want invoices and reminders and that kind of thing. Especially if it’s a relatively small amount.
If it looks like a lot of hassle for a small amount of money just forget it.
5. Ask For Feedback
Big one here. It can be forgotten in the heat of the moment.
But it’s almost always worth asking the client for feedback. As much as they’re willing to provide.
Ask them why they’re leaving. Ask for details. Ask for what they liked and didn’t like about working with you.
The more you know the more you can improve in the future. And it can be good to frame it that way. Tell the client you’re always looking to improve so any feedback they have can help you do that.
But don’t chase it down too much. You don’t want to pester the client to the point that you leave a bad taste in their mouth as they transition away from you.
One last thing you can do is to followup. Maybe six months. Maybe a year. Just send them a quick email to see how things are going. That’s it. You don’t need to sell your product. They know what you’re selling. Just check in to see how it’s going.
I’ve had luck with this over the years. Just a quick email one year later results in a clients signing up again and staying for a long time the second go around.
Obviously it works better when things end for reasons that aren’t nasty. You don’t have to followup with the nasty former clients.
I haven’t found any reason to be argumentative with clients that are cancelling. In fact, I’ve had mostly positive results from using the tips above. It helps you learn. It helps leave a good impression of you and your brand. And it can even lead to future business.