Not cool, Microsoft

I got a message that my developer subscription for Windows Phone App Store was about to auto-renew. Well, I had created the subscription on a whim (when it was $8 during last years’ Windows Phone 8 promotion), but I hadn’t ever done anything with it. So, I decided to cancel. Thanks to MS for reminding me.

I go to log in to account. I see the subscription like, I click it.
I see my subscription and it’s renewal date.
Screen Shot 2013-10-06 at 10.27.09 PM

I click the link to Manage My Subscription.
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What the hell? No option to cancel? Ok, I click on the “How can I cancel or renew my service?” link, and I get:

Screen Shot 2013-10-06 at 10.27.44 PM

Are you serious? This is really lame.
I click the drop-down and these are my options:

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Well, that doesn’t seem right. However, there is a Windows Phone choice… I click the Windows Phone option, and I get:

Screen Shot 2013-10-06 at 10.28.22 PM

Which is end user support and is completely not what I need. After finding a link for Developer Support and going to their forums, I immediately find someone else who asked the same question. The answer? File a support ticket. Really. A support ticket. To cancel my subscription? That is beyond lame. That is a roach motel kind of tactic used by shady startups trying to lock in subscriptions, not by one of the most profitable companies in existence. Repulsed, I decide instead to just remove my credit card from my account. They can’t auto-renew if they don’t have my card, right? Wrong.

Screen Shot 2013-10-06 at 11.28.02 PM

That is right. Microsoft won’t let me remove the credit card from my account because it is tied to the subscription that I don’t want to auto-renew. Instead it tries to force me to give it another payment option:

Screen Shot 2013-10-06 at 11.28.17 PM

This is insane! I’m sure that from the perspective of the PMs and the Developers on the project, this may have made some sense. There might have even been big debates about it. In the end though, someone made the decision that they would force you to go to Technical Support to cancel your subscription. I doubt that they specifically made it difficult to actually go to Technical Support on purpose. I trust by the axiom “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” I’d like to think that the fact that the link to Technical Support effectively sends you to the wrong place and the fact that Microsoft will not allow you to have no payment method on file if you have an active, renewing subscription as two independent, bad, decisions. If you combine those bad decisions with the deliberately EVIL (yes, I went there) decision to force you to go to technical support in order to cancel your subscription, you get a colossal FU to a developer who might otherwise return at a later date. I’ve heard on the internet that other subscriptions are even harder to unsub:

This should be a lesson to anyone building services, especially subscription services. Don’t be stupid and don’t be evil. Make it as easy to get out of your service as you do to get into your service. Make it trivial to export your data. Make it easy to cancel your subscription. Otherwise, you turn folks who may have been indifferent into folks who actively dislike you (what will that do to your Net Promoter Score?) You turn customers who might have otherwise returned at a later date into people who actively tell (or blog!) to their friends to avoid you.

The exit funnel should be nearly as critical as the entrance one. Also, you should actually test that workflow. Again, I’m going to give the benefit of the doubt to Microsoft here. Maybe they didn’t really try to test this workflow like a “normal” person, but given the number of people that work in this area, that really isn’t an excuse.

For those that came across this post by Googling (or Binging) a solution to the un-subbing problem, here is a link to the actual developer support forms so that you can unsub yourself: