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How to Use Dunning Emails to Reduce Involuntary Churn

There are two types of churn in the world of SaaS and subscription-based companies. The first and most prominent is voluntary churn, people that cancel their subscriptions knowingly. They want to end their subscription, so they take manual action to do so.

The second type of churn is involuntary churn. These customers have paid for a subscription and have let it run to the end without renewing. Involuntary churn is often overlooked and forgotten about, which is why dunning emails are needed.

What is a dunning email?

Dunning is the methodical communication process between a company and a customer to help ensure all accounts receivable are collected. In other words, it’s an automated targetted message or series of messages that let the customer know that payments weren’t received. 

Unpaid accounts can occur for a few reasons. This often happens when an account is due to be renewed, but there was an issue with the payment. Some of those reasons include:

  • Stolen credit cards
  • Expired credit cards
  • New billing information
  • New card information
  • Card limit has been reached

Whatever it is, dunning emails are designed to reach out and inform the customer that the payment wasn’t received in an effort to get them to try again. Sometimes, all it takes is a little reminder to reduce involuntary churn. This is called dinning.

What should you include in a dunning email?

Some might consider dunning and failed payments to be sensitive subjects. And for some people, they definitely are. This makes crafting a message that informs the customer of the situation a little tricky. That being said, it’s not impossible, and it doesn’t need to be complex. Follow these next few points when crafting your own dunning email.

Subject line

In the case of most emails, but especially dunning emails, your subject line has one job: Get the customer to open the email.

Keep in mind that this dunning email will most likely land in an inbox with dozens or even hundreds of other emails at any given time. Since this email is fairly important for both you and the customer, it’s a good idea to make it stand out with importance and a sense of urgency. 

For you, this could be missed revenue, the loss of a customer, and many other potential issues. For the customer, it could mean loss of access to important information within your platform. Needless to say, it’s vital that they open this email. 

Within the subject line, you should have 2 major points. 

1. Your brand name

There are a lot of spam emails out there. The easiest way to get them to open the email is to attach a familiar name to it. Your brand name immediately lets them know that the email is a little more official than the average email. 

Something as simple and vague as “Payment declined” might set off some red flags. If anything, it might get picked up or flagged as spam, never seeing the light of day again. Take a look at this subject line from CanIRank.

As you can see, the subject line is simple, leads with the brand’s name, and follows up with an actionable statement. It’s simple, clean, and gets straight to the point. This leads us to the next point.

2. Words that draw emotion

If you’ve ever had a card decline, it’s not exactly the most joyful moment. Even though there’s plenty of money on the account, many people subconsciously watch that card scanner with a tad bit of apprehension. 

With that said, the words “Payment declined” seem to draw a lot of emotion out of people. That emotion is what they act upon. They don’t want this impasse to hold them up and be an inconvenience. So right from the subject line, before they even click on the email, they are pushed to take action.

The body of the email

Let’s say that you’ve gotten the customer to click the email. Well, that’s just half the battle. Now you need to craft an email body that is both informative and provokes further action. That action is a successful renewal.

The key to writing a good dunning email that gets a good response is to keep it short and simple. The customer doesn’t need a 2,000-word article to prove why they need to renew. They’ve already done that research, went through the funnel, and made the purchase. They know the benefits and exactly what you can do for them. Now, they just need to be reminded to renew their account.

So with that in mind, there are two more points that need to be hit in the dunning email body.

1. What happened?

In order to get a renewal, you have to explain what happened. Many customers may not even be aware of any issues with their accounts, so this is a good time to let them know. If anything, it’s good customer service.

Here, a good idea is to be genuine, sincere and tell them what happened right off the bat. Don’t beat around the bush. Take a look at this dunning email example from StoreRocket.

StoreRocket doesn’t use any fluff in their messaging because it’s not necessary. They start the message by explaining what’s going on, giving some additional information letting them know that they are genuine, and then giving them something to take action with. And that is point number two.

2. What do they need to do?

It’s not enough to point out a problem if you’re not going to give a solution, too. Keep in mind that the whole point of a dunning email is to get them to figure out the issue and continue making payments. 

In the example above, right at the bottom of the email, there’s a nice, big, purple CTA that lets them know exactly what they need to do. With it, there’s no misunderstanding of what needs to be done. Furthermore, it’s a super simple reminder. It’s like saying, “Hey, don’t panic. All you need to do is update your information.”

And that’s all there is to creating a dunning email. There are only two points because it doesn’t need to be complicated. In most cases, customers will appreciate your straightforwardness and helpfulness in that regard. 

When to send dunning emails

Based on the nature of dunning emails, many people would assume that you simply send a single email once the payment has declined. This could be set as a triggered or behavior-based email, but it doesn’t end there.

Remember what we said before with your email potentially being lost within a sea of dozens or hundreds of emails? A single email is often not good enough for such an important task. Of course, if the customer takes action immediately, there’s no need to set up a series. But if they don’t take action right away, they must be reminded every so often. For that reason, here’s a simple breakdown of how you can do it.

Dunning email templates

Day 1:

Day 6:

Day 14:

Day 20:

Day 25:

Day 30:

The subscription is canceled, and the campaign comes to an end. At this point, you can send a cancellation email.

As you can see, the sense of urgency continues from email to email. As time goes on, the emails become a little more personalized from the customer support team, and the threat of cancelation hangs over the customer. But it’s not nagging. It is gradually letting them know, email-by-email, that their subscription will end unless they take action.

Take what you want from these mockup dunning emails, as these are rough examples. Use them as inspiration or as a template if you so choose. Either way, you can see that multiple emails are needed in order to justify canceling a subscription, but you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

Dunning email examples

As simple as dunning emails need to be, it never hurts to see some examples of how other businesses, big and small, are doing it. So with that said, here are some examples of dunning emails that work.

Spotify dunning email example

Being one of the largest subscription-based services on the market, you would assume that Spotify has its dunning email strategy nailed down. With that assumption, you would be correct.

Spotify deals with a lot of churned accounts on a daily basis. With 381 million active users, Spotify has to be on top of things when it comes to dunning emails. 

With the example above, you can see that it’s nothing extraordinary. It has their branding, a message letting them know that the payment was declined and will be tried again in a few days, and a nice, big CTA that takes the user to their account information, where they can update it. It is a very relaxed approach, which fits the narrative and tone of the Spotify brand perfectly.

Stitch Fix dunning email example

Stitch Fix is a clothing brand that takes sincerity very seriously in everything they do. This includes their dunning emails. Take a look at this example, and pay attention to the wording throughout. 

At first glance, it doesn’t look extraordinary. But remember, it doesn’t need to be. Looks don’t matter much in dunning emails. Wording does. They give a simple explanation up top and let their customers know that they can reach out if they have any issues. 

What makes the wording, so special here is how they close the interaction. “If you have any questions about your checkout, reply to this email or email [email protected] & we’ll get right back to you.” The sincerity in that final statement lets the user know that Stitch Fix is there to help solve any issues. It’s a simple gesture, but it really stands out.

Nifty dunning email example

In many cases, there will need to be some additional contact methods. Not everyone can jump straight to the issue and solve it; some might even need some advanced help. With this help comes a different level of service, which is why Nifty gives multiple ways for the customer to contact them.

With this dunning email example, you can see this simple message and CTA. In this case, it works fine for those who didn’t know or forgot they needed to update their card information. After all, we all need a little reminder every once in a while. 

But, as your eyes make your way to the bottom of the email, you can see that Nifty has provided 3 additional ways to contact them in case extra help is needed. For someone who might be hesitant to resolve the issue independently, this opens up more avenues to get the payment processed successfully. 

UXPressia dunning email example

Speaking of being helpful and providing multiple ways to contact, you don’t have to give out everyone’s email in the office. Sometimes, just one or two additional contact methods will do the job. Take a look at UXPressia.

Again, nothing new here. Simple messaging, great branding, and an explanation with a CTA. What UXPressia chooses to highlight, however, is a little unique. Instead of a big CTA at the bottom, it’s just some anchor text. Instead, what takes up the lower half of the email is an email for support.

If you want a very customer-centric approach to your dunning process, this could be a good solution. However, it does make it slightly more difficult for those customers that want a quick and simple fix. 

Skype dunning email example

Skype has been a staple of remote communication between businesses and individuals alike for years now. They remain a top competitor in the industry, and their dunning emails have probably contributed to that.

Being a subscription-based business, they must keep those renewals coming in month-to-month. Regardless of their efforts, involuntary churn will continue to happen for a number of reasons. The customer in question might not even be aware of some of those reasons. That’s why Skype lists a few reasons in their dunning email.

From top to bottom, they list some reasons that the account isn’t being renewed automatically, all leading to a simple CTA that allows the user to address them all. This lets the user know that Skype is trying to be helpful and that they value them as a customer. 

Help Scout dunning email example

Help Scout offers the customer all the information they could possibly need in a nice, compact email right from the start. There’s no second-guessing here, as the email is designed to grab the attention of the customer, let them know the situation, and give them a way to resolve it. 

Instead of a long, drawn-out dunning campaign, HelpScout lets the user know that they have two options a week before their account is scheduled to be deleted. The first option is that they can simply let the account be deleted. The second, they log in and activate the free version of their subscription.

Of course, they always have the option to renew their subscription, but it isn’t directly mentioned here. After 60 days of no payments, perhaps HelpScout is more focused on keeping them as a customer rather than pushing for renewal. After all, a free customer has to potential to convert later on down the road.

How to send dunning emails

Encharge can connect with your Stripe account directly and allow you to send dunning emails in just a couple of steps. Simply use the Stripe Past Due Subscription trigger and connect it to a Send Email step.


Like this:


If you want to add a series of dunning emails you simply need to separate them with a Wait step like this:

Last but not least, you want to end the flow for people that have paid to ensure that they don’t get any unnecessary dunning emails. To do this, use the New Stripe Payment trigger and connect it to an End Flow action step like this:

Conclusions and takeaway

What can we say about dunning emails other than you need to implement them? Churn, whether it’s voluntary or involuntary is bad. It negatively affects revenue, and with a simple dunning email, you can pick up some of the scraps instead of letting them fall away.

For dunning email campaigns such as the ones we mentioned today, you want to have a powerful tool that’s capable of sending out those triggered, time-based, and behavioral emails on time. That’s where Encharge comes into play.

With Encharge, you can set your emails to send out days, weeks, or months before the customer’s account is due to be downgraded or deleted. Set up a series of emails to send out at any given time apart from each other, giving your customer plenty of time to take action.

Try Encharge today and start recouping some of your revenue by reducing your churn rate with quick and effective dunning emails.

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