Prevent cancellations with doubt

If customers want to cancel, instill doubt by tapping into loss aversion.


  • Once people start using a service they also create data and artifacts (photos, documents, contacts, and so on) that are tied to the service. Any time that customers attempt to cancel their membership can also reinforce just what they’ll lose. Even when companies such as Google offer migration of data so that there’s less to lose, there’s still a lot tied up in social capital (friends and colleagues with whom the data is shared) that can’t necessarily be replicated elsewhere. Instilling doubt in these situations simply involves pointing out what people might lose by closing their account or migrating their data.


Tap in to the natural loss aversion that people will feel when they are reminded of what they have in their hands and what they’ll lose as a result of their actions.

How to use loss aversion to prevent cancellations

  • Loss aversion is strongest when people have recently experienced the benefits of the product or service. If a customer is cancelling after a period of inactivity, find a way to convince them to use the product again (for instance by offering a free month of service, or access to a premium feature) so that they will feel the loss more keenly.
  • At select points in your product, remind users of what they might lose by not choosing your preferred option. Be subtle, but remember to phrase in terms of loss.
  • Save fear tactics for high-stakes interactions. People don’t like being scared on a regular basis, and the effect is diminished with over-use.
  • On cancellation forms, invoke loss aversion by asking “which of these features will you miss the most?” – this may be sufficient to pull customers back from the brink, and it’s still useful information to know regardless of the outcome.