September 3, 2021

The Common Culprits Behind Bad Customer Experiences

It’s well established that good customer experience is good for all aspects of your business—from brand reputation to internal culture, sales, and even long-term profitability.

Get it wrong, however, and customers will drop you for a competitor better equipped to solve their needs and delight them at every touchpoint. They’ll also warn their friends and followers to steer clear, and in this digital era, it won’t take long for word to spread.

What’s more, the impact of bad customer experience is devastating. You’re not just dealing with a short-term churn problem or running damage control on a few bad reviews. The ripple effects can be felt for years to come and severely harm a brand’s reputation—we’re talking stunted growth, revenue losses, poor sentiment, employee turnover, and much more.

Now that we’ve sufficiently scared you, let’s take a look at some of the common causes of bad customer experience—with examples—so that you can avoid serious problems down the line.

Poor Understanding of Customer Needs

Who is your customer? And what is their value to you over time? If you can’t answer these questions, everyone in your organization is essentially flying blind, and there’s not much you can do until that’s resolved. Customer insights inform everything from product strategy, service offerings, upgrades, and so on.

Poor understanding wastes money. Products need to generate revenue; otherwise, you can’t grow. Your advertising and marketing efforts need to attract and nurture the right people—and provide some indication you understand their problem and exactly how to fix it.

How to fix it:

  • Capturing/analyzing feedback: While it can be tempting to resort to workarounds like asking vague, impersonal questions, it’s critical to collect qualitative and quantitative feedback from all channels and touchpoints. Don’t just look at your analytics and guess. Instead, take the time to understand your consumers and prospects and learn their hopes, dreams, and frustrations.
  • Channeling feedback: Experiment with channels that work best for your business and ensure your insights make it to the right people and that they have what they need to quickly take action.
  • Continuous measurement/improvement: Customer expectations are constantly rising. And in order to sidestep any potential customer experience mistakes, it’s critical to track performance against business goals, monitor customer sentiment, identify friction points, and address them head-on.

Rude or Uniformed Employees

Unfriendly, unhelpful interactions are probably the biggest offenders on this list.

Employees who display a lack of empathy or are defensive or angry will aggravate customers, cause them to file complaints and air grievances on social media.

It could be that these representatives are overworked, underpaid, or insufficiently empowered by leadership. Or they lack the resources they need to do their job well.

One of the classic examples of bad customer experience is when a representative says, “I’m sorry I can’t remedy your issue. Please hold while I transfer you to someone else.”

No matter how empathetic, uninformed employees can’t solve the customer’s problem and can result in the same outcomes as interactions with rude representatives.

Having uninformed employees implies both a lack of knowledge about products, services, pricing, and messaging—a training/culture problem—and a lack of information about the customer, e.g., no record of past interactions/other relevant data. Customers have to keep repeating themselves each time they speak with someone new. This can result in negative customer experience and the opportunity to build meaningful relationships.

How to fix it:

  • Improve your culture: Part of the problem is that you’re not putting customers first. Everyone needs to buy into the customer-centric mentality and work together to create a positive experience. It starts at the top. A coordinated effort between C-level executives, front-line workers, product teams, and any external partners influence customer experience. Ensure your teams are trained to speak the same customer-first language.
  • The other part of the equation is enablement: Rude reps are probably burnt out from fielding complaints and/or inefficient workflows. Uninformed reps probably weren’t properly trained, can’t find the information they need, or there’s a lack of unified messaging between departments.
  • Invest in internal tools that delight employees: Have you ever noticed how happy the employees are at Starbucks? It’s not just because of their training, but also the intuitive, user-friendly application they use to fulfill mobile orders makes their jobs easier. The right tools, good data, training plan, and empowerment help create alignment across the organization. It also means empowering representatives to give refunds and make exceptions when reasonable, as they do at Starbucks—not holding firm until the customer “escalates” the call and maybe even helping them hone their soft skills.

Improper Use of AI/Automation

A major source of friction in customer experience comes from bad AI/automation like clunky chatbots, irrelevant retargeting ads, and support lines manned by robot gatekeepers. Think of the numerous occasions when you’ve accidentally summoned Alexa.

While most customers understand or expect that brands use automated tools for marketing and support, misusing them gives customers the impression the brand is passing the buck. For instance, “Why can I only get a robot on the phone?” or “Why does this brand keep suggesting products I’ve already purchased?”

Remember—brands that make people feel valuable have an exponentially higher chance of turning them into lifetime customers. If a company has automated a response, it immediately makes customers feel less valuable, and their loyalty decreases. Worse still, if that automated response doesn’t meet the customer’s expectations–they’ll move on quickly to a brand that can deliver what and how they want.

Moral of the story—if you can’t do AI/automation well, reconsider. If it is done poorly, the potential savings and efficiencies you gain may be negated by the cost of replacing lost customers who are fed up with your poor attempts.

How to fix it:

  • Gain a deep understanding of human vs. robot strengths: While AI is well on its way to developing new efficiencies and enhancing human capabilities, a machine cannot be made to simulate the entire spectrum of human emotion quite yet.
  • Get your processes in order: Be mindful not to automate error-prone tasks or add AI to bad data sets as it’ll only exacerbate the problem. It’s a good idea to give each user persona the ability to enable/disable the AI functionality to minimize nuisances.
  • Start small: Look at one task at a time. Identify areas with the most impact or are the easiest to implement. For example, you can automate data entry so that service representatives have more time to support customers. From there, automatically sending sales follow-ups can aid so that deals don’t fall through the cracks.
  • Always look at tech investments from the perspective of creating value for the customer: Weigh your options and determine why you are really building in AI/personalization for the end customer. Can you do it well? The cost of doing it poorly or even doing a mediocre job is too high. Ask yourself if automation provides a better service, improved personalization, higher quality products, or faster delivery times.

It’s Too Hard to Get Support

Whether they can’t find your number, spend too much time on hold, if customers can’t get the answers they need—on their preferred channel—you’re ultimately providing a bad customer experience.

How to fix it:

  • Don’t bury contact details: Make sure your phone, email, socials, and chat are easy to find on your website and any relevant 3rd party channels. Hide that information and customers can now see right through that. Luckily, there are so many tools out there to help manage inbound communication from customers, so there’s no reason to make it hard to reach you. Plus, it’s risky when they’re unable to contact you as they’ll often use what’s easy, which likely is going to be a social media channel. Do you really want that private complaint aired in public?
  • Provide more ways to get in touch: Which channels are your customers using? Which ones do they prefer and for what types of interactions? It’s vital for you to be wherever they are.
  • Make it easy to reach an actual person: Still provide self-service options so that customers can help themselves and solve smaller problems quickly independently.
  • Support channels need to work together: Your customer can be shopping online from a desktop or mobile device or by smartphone, and the experience needs to be equally seamless from start to finish on each channel and device.

Final Thoughts About Bad Customer Experience

When it comes to customer experience, prevention truly is the best medicine.
And while you can’t predict every bad customer experience that might emerge in the future, many issues are avoidable with some awareness, a strategic plan, and a team of experts armed with the right tools, information, and support.

To learn more about our services, contact an expert today.

Special thanks to these members of FORCE, 3Pillar’s expert network, for their contributions to this article.

FORCE is 3Pillar Global’s Thought Leadership Team comprised of technologists and industry experts offering their knowledge on important trends and topics in digital product development.