How to Run a Customer Exit Survey to Improve Product Retention [ Definitive Guide ]

A customer exit survey can help you increase customer retention and improve your product’s market fit. In this detailed guide, we explain how to put one together.

Whether you’re pre or post-product-market fit, your business will be confronted with:

  • Visitors coming to your site and leaving;
  • Users signing up for your product without using it;
  • Paying customers churning.

As user onboarding expert Samuel Hulick says: “No matter how great your product is, it is very likely that 40-60% of your free trial users never see the product a second time.”

Although these three situations are different, they have one thing in common: they’re excellent opportunities to learn how to improve your product and tighten your product-market fit.

For this article, we’ll focus on customer churn (e.g. churners). However, learning from all three situations is essential to truly accelerate your business.

What Customer Exit Surveys Can Do for Your Business

There are countless reasons why visitors cancel their subscriptions.


  • They found another product that better matches their needs;
  • They’re only using a fifth of your product functionalities;
  • Your product is slow and buggy;
  • Your support can’t answer their questions;
  • Their business has cashflow issues, and they can’t afford the price of the subscription;
  • Your user or economic buyers have left the organization;
  • The credit card associated with their account has expired;
  • Your product has become too expensive;
  • Etc.

These situations cause churn, but they can often be addressed (and remedied) differently.

Sometimes your product is at fault, and sometimes there just isn’t anything you could have done to prevent the cancellation.

So, What is a Customer Exit Survey?

A customer exit survey or customer exit interview is a questionnaire that helps you collect information about the reasoning and decision-making of the customers who have left your business or canceled their subscriptions.

Customer exit surveys help you gain valuable insights into how well your product meets the goals and expectations of your customers. This, in turn, can help improve your product and services and prevent future cancellations.

How to Recruit Participants for Customer Exit Surveys

It’s notoriously difficult to recruit customer exit survey or customer exit interview participants.

Because they’ve already expressed dissatisfaction with your product (and left!) many churners won’t want to engage with your team. Chances are, they will be frustrated or resent your organization. It’s something to keep in mind when you’re analyzing the survey data.

The best time to ask churners to take your survey is at the time of cancellation – when they’re still thinking about your product – as part of the downgrade flow or via a follow-up email.

You’ll get the best responses by asking the following churn interview questions during the downgrade flow:

“What’s the single biggest reason for you canceling?”

  • [  ]  I don’t understand how to use your product
  • [  ]  It’s too expensive
  • [  ]  I found another product that I like better
  • [  ]  I don’t use it enough
  • [  ]  Some features I need are missing

If it’s impossible to recruit churners while they’re canceling, or via an In-App message on your site or in your product, a follow-up email will be your best option. Either way, you’ll want to contact churners right after cancellation with a low-friction exit survey.

Some businesses will incentivize churners with gift cards (e.g. Amazon gift cards) to increase the response rate, but this is often unnecessary and can lead to biases in data collection. If you don’t need to offer a reward, start without one.

How to Analyze Customer Cancellation Data

Once you know why your customers are leaving, it’s often easy to see that some of the cancellations could have been prevented.

However, to truly get value from the data collected, you’ll need to segment the responses. Consider segmenting the data by:

  • Subscription plans (e.g. Basic vs Pro);
  • Subscription cycles (Monthly vs Yearly);
  • Personas;
  • Product engagement;
  • Subscription length (First month vs Second year);
  • Functionalities used;
  • Etc.

Segmentation will help reveal the patterns.

The information collected will be useful to help improve how you do customer success, onboard new clients, price your service, build your product, etc.

Customer Exit Interview Questions

To dig deeper into these patterns, I recommend conducting Jobs to Be Done interviews.

Unlike customer discovery interviews, Jobs to Be Done interviews focus on a single story; the story of what led your users or customers to stop using your product and start using another. Because of this transition from one product to another, these interviews are often called “Switch” interviews.

Here are a few customer exit survey questions I like to use during these interviews:

  • Why did you initially sign up for [PRODUCT]? Did you evaluate other tools?
  • What was your previous experience with [SOLUTION SPACE]?
These questions help you understand your customer’s expectations coming in, and what convinced them to give your product a try. They help you understand whether the customer was a good prospect to start with.
  • What were you using [PRODUCT] for? How often were you using it?
  • When was the first time you started thinking that maybe [PRODUCT] wasn’t going to work for you? Or realized that you weren’t using it?
These questions help you understand the Job they were hiring your product for, and what sparked their cancellation.
  • What happened the last time that you used [PRODUCT] for [JOB TO BE DONE]?
  • What happened the first time you had [JOB TO BE DONE] that you didn’t use [PRODUCT] for?
  • Why did you cancel the day that you canceled? Why that day, and not the day before or after?
  • What are you using now? How do you feel it compares to [PRODUCT]?
  • What happened the day you started to move to the new [PRODUCT]? Why did you start that day and not after?
These questions help you understand whether the customers are actually better off with their new solutions. It also gives you good insights into the actual switch. Note: if they’re not using a replacement product, or they’re no longer using anything, it might mean that they thought your product was a nice-to-have.
  • What would it take for you to reconsider subscribing to [PRODUCT]?
  • How much do you feel [PRODUCT] improves [JOB TO BE DONE]?
  • What is the biggest benefit of [PRODUCT]?
Bonus questions: These questions can help you evaluate the perception of the value and benefits of your product.

To capture valid information from interviews, brush up on the code of conduct for customer interviews.

A Customer Exit Survey Template

There are many customer exit survey examples online. To help you get started capturing cancellation reasons and their Jobs to Be Done, we made our customer exit survey script available to everyone:

Customer Exit Survey Examples

Get Started Fast – Download Our Customer Exit Template (Free)

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