I know what you mean about feeling like a cop out. For me it’s the “show, don’t tell” of the product world.
Could also help if you set an explicit deprecation policy. This gives some of the boldness of removing unneeded features softened with chance to prove that’s the right thing to do. (Or discover you were wrong). I think the swiftness of “we don’t need that” and it is gone can spook people. After all, no one wants to be the person that allowed the largest customer to be upset enough to leave.