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User aqusition: easy-come should be easy-go

Metric-orientated user acquisition is definitely the hot topic of the moment here in the Valley (along with “frictionless customer conversion” as my rad friend Ethan Bloch of Flowtown would say)

Exit door

But as we optimize funneleing and conversion for user acquisition within our startups, how many of us have a solid user relinquish process for those users who might want to leave?

As a technologist and generally curious geek, I like to check out most new start-ups that are launched. In fact it’s kinda my job to, and to that end I probably create at least two or three new accounts somewhere a day.

I visit, I sign up, I create an account (“just username, password and email address!”). But that’s the beginning of a probably well-oiled slippery slope. My interest is piqued, I upload my photo, fill out the profile data, connect my Facebook, etc, etc…

But what if I’m now done? “Nah, not interest in what you are doing”. Or even more importantly “Er, um!.. I’m put off by this weird thing you’re doing in your site. I don’t like it so I’m outta here”.

How many sites actually let me delete my account and leave?

Or conversely, how many sites have stubs of my personal data sitting on their servers because there is no easy way for me to remove it – despite being clear I no longer wish to use their service?

Now, I don’t consider myself some crazy privacy whack. I just think it’s pretty reasonable to suggest that if I really have absolutely no interesting in using your service at all then I would like to know that you will completely remove my data and forget about me. Data Portability ‘Removability’, if you will 😛

Two examples from the real-world…

Earlier today I decided to delete my Tangler account (nothing personal to Tangler, I just don’t use it and it sends me a digest email every week that is just spam to me). I logged in but found no “delete this account”, so I twittered my frustration. Later on Rai from Tangler @replied to me to say that this could only be done via email.

That seems like a FAIL to me.

On the other hand I had a similar-but-positive-outcomed experience with Dropbox last week. Having unshared all of my computers from my account I still had 2gig of orphaned personal files in my storage account that were proving difficult to remove. Bug or user-error I wasn’t sure, but I decided I just wanted to nix my account and start again.

To DropBox’s credit had a “delete this account” option, accompanied by very clear warnings that it was an irreversible decision. They even had a data-capture form to give me the option of explaining my reasons for leaving/deleting my account – which someone personally followed up with me when I mentioned I was having file deletion issues.

Top marks on responsibility, implementation best practice and most optimized reason-for-leaving collection mechanism (alluded to in #5 in this great blog post on customer feedback)

And that’s all this really as to be: a “delete my account” button at the bottom of your settings/account profile page, a confirmation box and perhaps some way for the user to explain why they want out. On the back-end, a quick purge of that user’s record and perhaps a separate archived audit log so that if a backup is restored deleted accounts can be consolidated.

A user relinquish strategy is good for your business

Good user relinquish practice is not only the fair thing to do for your users but it makes sense for business.

What value is there in holding all of this information about users that no longer wish to use your service? Depending on the nature of the service you may even be provisioning resource for these ghost users – resource that you will never see a return on. And VC’s/boards don’t want to see exaggerated raw account numbers, they (should) want to know monthly uniques, return visitors, etc.

And if we get into a %age game, removing users from the database who have totally left the service will actually increase the %age of your userbase that returned in the last month! 😛

There may also be boring data-storage compliance issues, especially if you trade physically in Europe.

So, that leaves the question: what is your user relinquish strategy?

[photo CC Image Zen]

Published in Thoughts and Rants

One Comment

  1. Rai Rai

    Definitely agree with you when you say a good relinquish strategy is as important as an acquisition strategy.
    Another aspect of providing an obvious and easy way out is that it potentially lends itself to user retention. This is just based on anecdotal research – I have found that when people are aware that there is a way for them to delete their accounts, they are more likely to put it off and leave the account going for the time being. (I have a theory on why this is so, but I’ll leave the pop psychology aside for now :))

    We learnt this lesson by listening to members’ feedback, like yours, and have built in an exit path from the get-go in our new product, (I hope this doesn’t come across as self-promotion. I’m just trying to convey that we are learning from our mistakes.) It’s one of the details which is easily overlooked, but no question that an easy-go path should be built in from the very first iteration of any product.

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