8 Customer Experience Fails that Companies Can Learn From

Nick Dimitriou
Nick Dimitriou



When you start a business, you typically focus on how to leverage your sales and marketing teams to reach and engage customers. If you don't, your business isn't going to grow very fast.

But, sales and marketing aren't the only resources you can use to ensure customers will invest their time and money into your company.

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Investing in customer success will help you boost customer retention rates and improve customer experience. Not only that but having an effective customer success team will also increase customer loyalty and help you carve out space in your competitive marketplace.

Looking at the graph below, growing companies now favor customer success more than ever, with 70% considering it be "very important."

However, adopting a customer success program isn't as easy as it sounds and businesses that have done it know that mistakes are bound to happen. In this post, we'll look at some of the common customer experience mistakes that brands have made and highlight what your team can learn from each one.

8 Customer Experience Fails

1. Forgetting That Customers Come First

Fulfilling customer needs and helping people achieve their goals should be your team's top priority. However, sometimes customer success managers (CSMs) prioritize their company's growth over customer success. This is one of the most common customer experience mistakes because your CSMs want to push customers down your sales funnel.

While doing so might be beneficial for your company, it doesn't promote customer success and will lead people away from your business. Instead, caring about your customers and showing them how to achieve their goals with your product or service is the best way to avoid this mistake.

Company Example: MoviePass

MoviePass was a subscription-based business that let customers see one movie a day for $10 a month. But, after receiving over 1,500 complaints to the Better Business Bureau, the company suspended its service and is "unable to predict if or when the MoviePass™ service will continue."

One of the complaints that went viral was from a San Francisco customer whose account was suddenly canceled without notice. After hunting to find a seemingly hidden customer support number, she was informed that her account was terminated due to a violation of terms and agreements. This customer had gone to see a "premium movie" which was against the subscription policy and resulted in cancellation without a refund.

This is a great example of putting the company's success before the customer's. MoviePass should have made its policies clear to customers when they signed up, and provided resources that explain what qualifies as a "premium movie."

And, if customers are still violating policies, MoviePass's support team should have contacted them directly to inform them that they were breaking rules. Instead of simply terminating the accounts, they could have cleared confusion surrounding their policies and kept the customer's long-term business.

2. Not Having a Dedicated CSM Leader

CSM leadership drives an efficient customer experience strategy. These employees regulate team performance and give CSMs all the tools they need to assist customers. If you want to grow your business, make sure to find the most suitable person to take charge.

Company Example: American Airlines

Airlines have notoriously bad reputations when it comes to customer service. After all, airline employees work in high-stress environments and have to be proficient problem solvers. With all of the protocols and policies that are enforced at airports, it's not surprising that some companies are bound to make mistakes.

That's exactly what happened to American Airlines when a flight attendant asked a passenger to get off a plane. The passenger was traveling with a $30,000 cello that was apparently "too big" for the aircraft. So, she was asked to board another plane leaving one hour later. But, that plane's crew wouldn't let her on, either, and soon she was surrounded by airport police because the staff thought she was "not understandable."

Turns out, the customer was right all along. The airline's policies did permit the instrument and she could have flown on her original plane.

This situation shows why it's so important to have a dedicated CSM leader. If your company has a lot of policies, protocols, and rules, your staff should know each one by heart. If not, you should have at least one manager who can act as an immediate resource whenever a dispute like this occurs.

3. Lacking Proactive Customer Service

Customer service and customer success often work in tandem to ensure your customers have the best experiences. However, customer support and success differ from one another on a fundamental level.

Customer support is all about reacting to customer inquiries and providing answers. Customer success, on the other hand, is a preemptive measure meant to track and solve problems before they occur. Compared to customer support, customer success can anticipate future roadblocks and offer faster solutions.

Proactivity is the foundation of a robust customer success strategy. If you want your customers to realize the real value of your company, you should communicate with them regularly. As one of the core tactics of growth marketing, investing in conversational marketing tools will allow you to answer your audience’s questions and build a solid relationship that goes beyond live chat and emails. Offering guidance and support throughout their customer journey is your secret weapon to making them feel valued.

Furthermore, when customers feel appreciated, they're more likely to become loyal supporters of your company and will contribute to customer acquisition through advocacy. According to Userlane, big SaaS companies, like HubSpot, generate 70-80% new customers through word-of-mouth marketing.

Company Example: Target

A few years ago, the retail brand, Target, experienced a situation where a Facebook user started a new page posing as Target's customer service team. The user would respond to posts on Target's page and mock customers who had complaints about the company's new, gender-neutral signage.


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While the anonymous crusader was defending the brand, the account wasn't sanctioned by Target and people were mistaking it for the company's actual customer service team. So, the Facebook user could potentially post statements, comments, and content that didn't reflect the brand's values.

In this case, Target could have been proactive by assigning customer service reps to monitor social media channels. Since the company was making changes to its branding, it should have anticipated that customers would have comments or opinions that would be voiced on social media. Even though Target might not have stopped this user from creating a fake account, they would have caught it sooner and could have prevented it from going viral and causing controversy.

4. Over-Engaging Your Customers

There'll be a time when you'll feel the need to communicate with customers more frequently. After all, customer success is all about talking to your customers and finding out what they want.

However, if you over-engage them, you might end up annoying them rather than helping them. Over-engagement stems from uncertainty, which means if a customer is silent about their experience, you'll try to contact them to discover whether they're having issues or not. Over-engaging with them out of fear of losing them, though, is a common mistake that you should avoid.

Being silent doesn't necessarily mean that your customer had a bad experience. Nevertheless, CSMs will sometimes send multiple messages to a customer to make sure that this isn't the case.

Spending time on such customers may also cause problems for your customer success operations. For instance, your CSMs might waste time contacting a customer who doesn't need assistance, thus neglecting someone else who does. Each customer is different and unique, so, try to find an engagement formula that will neither irritate your customers nor be time-consuming for your agents.

Company Example: Comcast

Customer success is about fulfilling customer needs, even if that need is canceling their account. So, if a customer wants to terminate their business, you can make your best pitch to convince them otherwise, but ultimately, you should provide the steps they need to accomplish their goal.

A Comcast rep did the opposite when they encountered a customer who wanted to disconnect their account. Instead of helping them through the cancellation steps, the rep tried to persuade them that Comcast would be better than any competitor that they tried. The rep's commitment to keeping the customer engaged resulted in a notably unpleasant experience that attracted a lot of negative media attention.

Here's the soundbite if you want to listen to that cringy customer service call.

5. Setting Inconsistent Expectations

Promising things that are impossible or unrealistic to deliver will cause customers to reconsider your trustworthiness. For instance, if you set a deadline and fail to meet it, customers will lose confidence in your ability to accomplish goals on time. Setting proper expectations for when and how tasks will be completed sets a standard for customers to judge you on. If you promise them one thing but fail to deliver it, they'll think you either forgot or don't value their needs.

A good rule of thumb is that customers will prefer a solution later than never at all. And, your team can soften the blow by reaching out to them immediately when they know a deadline or expectation can't be met. The more time you give a customer to prepare, the more likely they'll be understanding of the situation.

Company Example: Amazon

Amazon has a great track record of customer service. But, that doesn't it doesn't make mistakes every now and again.

For example, one loyal Amazon customer was buying toilet paper when she noticed that she accidentally purchased an $88 item with a shipping cost of $7,455. Unfortunately, by the time she caught the error it was too late to cancel the order and the package was delivered. So, she called Amazon customer service, hoping to resolve the issue.

Being a long-time Amazon customer, she expected to have things straightened out rather quickly. However, after complaining six times and writing a letter to the CEO, Jeff Bezos, she was told repeatedly that the company would not refund the purchase because it was delivered on-time and undamaged. It wasn't until two and a half months later when the customer got the story featured on television that Amazon decided to reimburse the purchase.

The lesson here is that good customer service isn't a one-time feat. It's something you should be constantly trying to provide no matter how long a customer has been with your business. Remember, studies show that it only takes one poor experience for a customer to churn.

6. Creating Customer Success Silos

If you're familiar with data silos, then you know that when your departments and teams don't share information and goals, you can't provide smooth experiences to your customers.

Having a customer success silo will not only affect your customer support but your entire organization. For example, if your sales, marketing, and customer success don't exchange information, then you won't be able to combine customer data. This combination will allow you to target specific customers and see how they benefit from your product.

Breaking down silos will increase cross-functional interaction that will help your company fulfill strategic goals. Cross-team collaboration is necessary to promote seamless customer experiences. So, if you have a customer success silo in your business, try to break it down as soon as possible.

Company Example: Spectrum

Spectrum is an internet provider that caters to both businesses and individual subscribers. It discovered a customer success silo when one customer called to schedule a maintenance visit to set up her internet.

After the maintenance employee failed to show up at the scheduled time, the customer called the support team to make sure the appointment had not been canceled. The support team assured her that the employee was on his way and would be there soon. Two hours later, the maintenance worker arrived, then left after finding the main entrance to the building was locked.

So, the customer called the support team again only to find that the next available appointment time wasn't for another 15 days. And, to make matters worse, Spectrum was still going to charge the customer even though she didn't have her internet working. Eventually, this led to the customer canceling her subscription and buying from another competitor.

If Spectrum had aligned its customer support and maintenance teams, it could have avoided this instance of customer churn. Service reps could have alerted the maintenance worker about the customer's complaint, and maintenance could have updated the service team that they were unable to get into the building. Sharing this information between teams helps employees make customer-centric decisions because they have more context regarding a situation.

7. Generalizing Individual Customer Outcomes

Creating a formula that fits everyone's needs can save you time. However, if you apply the same logic to customer success, you'll end up with dissatisfied customers who receive generic guidance.

Since personalization is a crucial element of meeting customer needs, offering generic experiences will defy the purpose of your strategy. Your CSMs need to treat every customer outcome separately, responding according to the needs and wants of each individual.

To avoid this error, make sure that your team has sufficient knowledge of the customer they're working with. Take into account their goals, and don't forget to set specific KPIs for every individual contact in your CRM. Doing so will help you respond to your customers faster and offer personalized guidance.

Company Example: Samsung

Below is a situation that unfolded between a Samsung customer and a company service rep. The customer is calling because, according to Samsung's policies, he needs to be home to sign for a package. But, the customer can't afford to skip work to wait for a package.

Samsun- Customer-Service

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In this case, the Samsung service rep should have reached out to a manager to see if there was any way to make an exception for this customer. Even though it's against company protocol, adjusting the shipping schedule to meet the customer's needs would have resolved the issue and showed genuine care for customer success. Instead, the company stuck to its policies which resulted in a viral Reddit thread.

8. Approaching Bad-Fit Customers

Your customer success team will strive to contact as many customers as possible and every prospect differs in terms of potential and profitability. Building relationships with bad-fit customers, though, will result in losing valuable time and money.

Bad-fit prospects can wreak havoc on your business, so the best course of action is to identify them early and cut them loose. What you need to combat the problem is to work closely with your sales and marketing teams. These teams can offer valuable information about your prospects, allow you to spot bad-fit leads, and prevent them from turning into costly customers.

Company Example: Proposify

We'll wrap our examples with one that has a happy ending. The CEO of the SaaS company, Proposify, noticed one customer was constantly complaining about the software. The CEO noted that the customer wasn't abusive, but rather sent complaints "that are impossible to fulfill."

After weeks of receiving continuous complaints, the CEO decided that the stress being put on his customer success team wasn't worth the return they were getting from the customer. So, he sent this email to the customer.


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While there aren't many times where you'll want to "fire" a customer, this is a perfect example of how you should do it. The CEO doesn't attack the customer, instead, he apologizes for his inability to meet the customer's needs. He accepts full responsibility for the situation and even provides a refund along with suggestions for competitors that the customer should try.

To his surprise, the CEO got this response.


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This is a perfect example showing why customer success is always good for a business. The CEO sent his message with the customer's best interest at heart, and the customer was delighted with his dedication to their needs. Instead of losing a customer, Proposify gained a loyal advocate and valuable testimonial.

Adopting a new customer success strategy isn't always an easy feat. However, if you want to succeed, you need to invest time and effort to predict what might go wrong before it does. While there are more mistakes to cover, you should never forget to prioritize your customers, be proactive, keep your promises, break down the customer success silos, and invest in the right leadership.

For more ways to enhance customer experience, read about customer lifecycle management.

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