August 2003: there was a sudden event that no one expected. One that created moments of confusion and uncertainty. Power was down and no electricity: a blackout across New York City.

Much like today’s situation with coronavirus,  it was a situation that caught people off guard. 

After figuring out what the cause was (remember, this was post 9/11 NYC), and logistics like how to get home, practicality quickly set in: what about the ice cream that is going to melt while the freezers are down? 

Or the beer that would go bad without refrigeration? 

The odd situation of a city with no electricity became a catalyst for bringing people together–people came out of their houses, enjoying sharing the perishable spoils with neighbors and friends. 

How is this relevant to today? 

Even if you don’t want to talk about coronavirus, there’s a good chance you are starting to feel the real impact of it. 

And If you are a SaaS business, you may be seeing the first abnormal spike of cancellations. 

Why are these customers cancelling?

Are you asking them? 

Whether part of the cancellation process, an offboarding survey, or even via email, this is critical information to gather. 

If it is at all related to a downturn that your customers are experiencing, or anticipating in the near future, then there is an opportunity for you to get in front of it…. 

I have seen some companies do this–proactively offering a steep discount, or free months–mainly for B2C apps, to help out. 

The benefit here is that you are able to help your customers out during their struggle and challenge, while also maintaining your installed customer base for when things turn around. 

You can take a page out of Jeff Bezos and Audible’s playbook to keep customers longer with various offers and incentives as they are canceling. 

Here are two offers that they present…

One free listen:

An alternative offer is 50% off the next three months:

These incentives may not be a feasible option for all products and pricing plans, but nevertheless, the premise is applicable: what can you do, or offer, to help your customers through this challenging time? 

It is not something that everyone can necessarily do, but audiobooks and software do not have much, if any, incremental cost to keep additional users. 

So in that way, it is similar to the ice cream and beer that would have gone to waste during the blackout of 2003. 

This is undoubtedly a challenging time, but if you are able to find ways to help your customers continue to use your product, you can build strong customer loyalty, good will, and sustained recurring revenue, once this craziness passes.