The little things that destroy your customer experience

Little Things

As a way of celebrating International Darwin Day on Feb 12th, published an article: Making a Charlie of themselves: The Darwin Awards for customer service. The article is pretty tongue-in-cheek but aims to showcase, in a light-hearted way, some of the biggest customer service failures of our time.

Now, there is no doubt that some of the stories are funny and, I hope, we can all learn from our own failures and those of others. However, I do believe that we, as people, do have a tendency to focus on just the big things i.e. the big things to avoid, the next big thing, the big ways to win etc etc.

But, this focus on big things means that we often miss, or don’t focus on, the lots of little things that in themselves can have a significant, but not obvious, impact on our businesses. These little things if not addressed can add up and together pose serious problems for our businesses and the customer experiences that we are delivering.

I’ve written about something similar before in: Removing The ‘Grit’ From Your Customer Or Client Experience. But, today, I thought I’d take a different tack and share a list of some of the little things – my own personal gripes, or bits of ‘grit’, if you like – that I have come across lately that, I think, go a long away to destroying, or negatively affecting, the customer experience.

Here’s my list (in no particular order):

  • The time it takes to navigate an IVR;
  • The waiting time to speak to an agent or sales rep;
  • When an agent cannot answer my question;
  • When my question via email or social media doesn’t get a response, never mind an answer;
  • Not being able to find a number to call the customer service department;
  • But, I realise that different firms do things in different ways so if I can’t call you then say so and say why. I might be annoyed but I’ll get over it if service in your other channels delivers;
  • Calling your reception and the person on the other end of the phone sounds ‘flat’ or isn’t very helpful;
  • When new customers get better deals than existing customers;
  • When everyone in your shop is too busy doing ‘other’ stuff to serve customers, especially when they want to pay;
  • When you don’t do what you said you were going to do when you said you were going to do it;
  • When things are added to the overall bill that are either a surprise or weren’t explained;
  • When a delivery or service person turns up late and hasn’t phoned/texted/emailed ahead to explain that they are running late;
  • When you don’t say sorry if you make a mistake;
  • When I try to do something on your website and you point me to a broken link or a page that doesn’t exist;
  • When I leave a message for you to call me and then either a. you don’t call me back; or b. you send me an email in reply (are you afraid to talk to me?);
  • When you bombard me with surveys asking for feedback;
  • But, whenever I’ve ever given feedback, you’ve never told me what you’ve done with it;
  • When you use language that I don’t understand or makes me feel stupid;
  • When you automatically add me to your marketing email list;
  • When I try to unsubscribe from your marketing emails and you: a. either make it hard for me to do so; or b. you don’t remove me from your list immediately;
  • When you leave a message for me to call you, I call you back on the number you have given me and: a. You make me go through your IVR again; and b. You have no record or memory of leaving me a message or why you called in the first place;

I recognise that this list may be very personal and a bit random and some of these will and will not be relevant to you. However, I hope that you get the point and see that these are only some of the little things that could be affecting your own customer experience. I also hope that you recognise that finding and fixing your ‘little things’ could go a long way to helping you achieve those customer experience improvements that you want to make.

As the great basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar once said:

“I try to do the right thing at the right time. They may just be little things, but usually they make the difference between winning and losing.”

This post originally appeared on my Forbes column. Since then I have published it on a number of LinkedIn groups asking people to give their own examples of ‘little things’ and have received somewhere between 30-40 additional responses. In the near future, I will publish an updated version of this list to include these comments.

In the meantime, feel free to add your own little things to this list in the comments below.





Photo Credit: hughesjoseph via Compfight cc

5 comments On The little things that destroy your customer experience

  • Great article Adrian. I would say that ‘orrible, meaningless language really gets my goat. By this I mean ‘We value your feedback!’ (then why didn’t you ask me at the time?) and ‘Your call is important to us!’ (then why aren’t you picking up when I call you?). If I tweet a question and get told ‘You can find all the answers on our website here (link)’ I feel like replying, rather angrily, ‘Do you not think I tried that?’
    On a positive note, people at the end of phones or working in call centres who are paid well, treated well and care about their jobs make a massive difference to customers. I’m thinking about any time I’ve called HMRC Tax Office, any US call centre such as Go Daddy or Auto Europe. Human voices that sound robotic make me feel undervalued, human voices that sound warm, intelligent and unrushed save money in the long term as I get all my queries dealt with.

  • Oh Adrian, where do I start?

    The worst bit is I work on the inside and I am paid a reasonable wage to solve all these things. Yet it is like pulling teeth.

    So the question for me is what is at the root of all this irritation?

    Foolish people who focus on money above all else? That is my starter for 10. What do you think?


    • I think you might be right, James.

      However, beware that I may be in danger of rubbing salt into the wound as I have crowd-sourced a bigger list of ‘little’ things that will follow in an upcoming post 😉


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