Decoded: Asana’s Customer Retention Strategy Seen Through a Behavioral Lens. What Works and Where it Can Improve

Behavioral principles used in project management software

At a time when customers are faced with a looming cash crunch, canceling their premium monthly subscription services is often their first, no-brainer response. But as a service provider, how can you convince your customers to “hit pause” on such an impulsive decision? According to Behavioral Economist Matej Sucha, Asana might have some answers.

In this article, you’ll discover:

  • What Asana — the project management software — does to make customers reconsider their decision to cancel their subscription.
  • How Asana can use the Commitment and Consistency principle more effectively by making users subconsciously commit to their reasons to stay.
  • How Asana uses the reciprocity principle to make their customer’s decision to stay stick.
  • How they can make their process more effective by personalizing their offers and messaging.
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Picture this: You’re a small business owner and you’re constantly haunted by news of businesses shutting down left and right due to a major crisis — like say, the COVID-19 pandemic. There’s a lot of uncertainty in the air and this uncertainty triggers fear.

That fear puts you into a tunnel vision mode of thinking, and you’re now preoccupied with the prospect of a devastating cash crunch. You immediately decide to save wherever you can and rid yourself of services you think you don't need. Oftentimes, the first ones to take the bullet are those monthly subscription services that are actually instrumental in organizing and streamlining your team's work, like Asana, for instance.

Postponing your customer’s decision to cancel is the number one goal you should strive for.

When people cancel these services, they’re often thinking irrationally — they’re emotional and hence acting impulsively. When deciding to do away with a subscription, they don't stop to think about the consequences of letting a service go and that canceling it might actually make them worse off in the long run.

To understand this entire process better, we spoke to Matej Sucha, Founder and CEO of MINDWORX Behavioral Consulting to decode Asana’s cancelation process and explore how service providers can tackle such a scenario by thinking through a behavioral lens.


Deferring the decision to cancel

According to Matej Sucha, “Postponing your customer’s decision to cancel is the number one goal you should strive for.” And for several reasons:

  • If the decision was an emotionally charged, impulsive one, it gives them time to reconsider, much like the mandated 'cooling-off period' when filing for divorce or purchasing a firearm in some states.
  • During this period, their decision might change because their circumstances have now changed — e.g. their business is still flourishing despite a global pandemic; they’ve found a new source of income and have no need to save, etc.
  • You as the service provider have bought yourself some time to address their problems and have found effective solutions to make them forget about canceling altogether. 

Let’s now take a look at how Asana employs this as a customer retention strategy, as Matej takes us through their cancelation process step by step and emphasizes what they did well and what they could do better to retain their customers.

Step 1: Reasons for canceling

Once the user decides to click on the cancel option located in their billing details, the next window that pops up will ask them why they’re leaving.

Right after hitting the cancel option, Asana directs users to this page to enquire about their reasons for leaving
Right after hitting the cancel option, Asana directs users to this page to enquire about their reasons for leaving Source: Asana

In this step, Matej notes that “although they execute this well in terms of maintaining a friendly, humanistic tone with ‘We’re sorry to see you go. Would you tell us why?’, they’re unknowingly triggering the principle of Commitment and Consistency.”

By making users pick their reason for leaving, they’re forcing users to subconsciously commit to their decision to leave; and as research by Cialdini shows, this commitment not only increases the likelihood that they will act in a way that is consistent with their decision, but will also find a way to rationalize this decision once they've committed to it. 

Matej stresses that Asana, in this case, should not do this.

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