4 Examples of How a Bad Customer Experience Can Haunt Your Brand

Bad customer experiences are deadly. We mourn brands who made major CX mistakes and explain best practices for doing customer experience right.

skeleton texting

Nothing sends potential buyers running away in terror faster than a poor customer experience (CX). According to Acquia’s global customer experience survey, 76% of consumers will quit a brand due to a bad customer experience. Even a few negative reviews can severely harm a brand’s reputation. Here are a few ways brands miss the mark when it comes to customer experience and tips for how they can take their marketing from frightful to delightful.  

1. Overlooking Personalization Opportunities

Despite what M. Night Shyamalan films may tell you, ghosts aren’t real. So stop treating your customers like they’re invisible. Even with access to more data than ever before, many companies still overlook opportunities to individualize their interactions with users. Our CX research found that 68% of consumers said that brands “don’t make them feel like individuals” and 61% said that “brands who should know them well, don’t know them at all.” Displaying the same “Welcome!” content to someone who has been shopping on your site for years shows a lack of regard for your audience.

kia cat meme

Even worse than not individualizing your marketing at all, relying on demographic stereotypes is lazy and can turn off the real people you’re trying to reach. Back in 2012, the car company Kia was mocked for their hilariously out-of-touch “Seasons Memeing” campaign which imposed a Kia Sorento on popular memes. One of the best tactics to make a customer feel like a real live human being is personalization. By accessing user data in real time to learn about how your customers prefer to interact with your brand, you can offer them more meaningful content that you know they’ll be receptive to rather than the same old soulless copy. 

2. Being Creepy Instead of Convenient

Remember when you used a Ouija Board for the first time with your friends and got totally freaked out when the board somehow spelled out an answer to the exact question you asked? Today, that same eerie sense of “How did it know?” comes from scrolling through Facebook and seeing that one item you were just planning to buy on Amazon appear in your social media feed. As marketing automation and AI tools continue to advance, digital marketers are dedicating more time than ever to personalization campaigns that tailor content to an individual’s unique needs and interests. Personalization is a great asset for customers and marketers alike because, when done right, it simplifies the buyer’s journey and builds long-term brand loyalty. However, when brands don’t use consumer data responsibly and transparently, they risk losing consumers’ trust or damaging their overall impression with that brand. 

In one infamous personalization overstep, retailer Target used individual browsing data to determine if a shopper was likely to be pregnant in order to send them promotions for maternity items. This backfired when they emailed the father of a teenager and exposed her pregnancy to her parents before she had told them herself! 

Understanding when to take a step back and approach customers only when they’ve given express permission to do so is the key to offering individualized experiences that feel inviting rather than invasive. Acquia’s 2019 Consumer Privacy Survey found that 65% of consumers would stop using a brand that was dishonest about how it was using their data. People are willing to provide personal details to brand in exchange for better experiences; however, the majority of people want to have consent and control of what data they’re sharing, via administered surveys and other first-party declared data processes.

3. Being Unresponsive and Unhelpful

Advances in digital technology require brands to be more agile and faster-moving than ever to keep pace with customers who are used to immediate interactions on platforms like Twitter and live chat bots. Your customer service can’t be as slow and incomprehensible as a moaning zombie off the Walking Dead. Brands need to offer timely, relevant messaging across all channels. 

british airways twitter

If there’s any industry that should be accustomed to offering global, 24/7 customer support, it’s airlines. Flying is generally considered a stressful experience, and even more so when dealing with issues of lost bags and poor communication. That’s why one passenger took a stand against British Airways in 2013. Hasan Syed bought a promoted tweet reading, “Don’t fly @BritishAirways. Their customer service is horrendous,” after the company lost over $1,000 worth of his father’s luggage. Six hours after the tweet went up, it was viewed by thousands of people and gained widespread press coverage. Yet despite this public outcry, it took another 4 hours for the airline itself to reply. Rather than hastily resolve the complaint, their social media representative referred to their Twitter feed being “open” for a set number of hours and then further showed a lack of awareness and regard for the customer by requesting he follow their account...which he already was.

Unlike traditional customer service avenues such as a help desk, social media is widely regarded as an “always-on” channel. Customers expect brands on these platforms to respond within minutes and be proactive about solutions rather than just reciting their policies or redirecting users to a website FAQ. Earning and keeping customer trust requires everyone from events to social media to customer success to have a centralized view of the customer 24/7.

4. Ignoring Accessibility 

Today, having an inaccessible website is the digital equivalent of sticking a big KEEP OUT sign in front of your business. Perhaps the most fundamental component of doing CX right is making sure that the experiences you’re offering are available to everyone. Inclusivity means making websites easy to use for people with seeing or hearing impairments or other physical disabilities. There are currently over a billion people worldwide who identify as having some type of disability. By ignoring proper accommodations for things such as brightness, coloring and image descriptions, brands are essentially saying that they don’t care to meet a potential customer’s needs. A 2016 study by Essential Accessibility found that “more than 8 in 10 people with disabilities have chosen not to give their business to a service provider because of barriers [including] poor web accessibility.” 

glossier app

Beauty brand Glossier was slapped with a federal lawsuit in 2018 for violating the Americans With Disability Act (ADA). Kathleen Sypert, a woman who is legally blind, claims that she “encountered multiple access barriers” when visiting the brand’s website and was denied equal access to purchasing their products. 

Advances in technology have made it simpler than ever for organizations to do digital accessibility right and offer adaptive solutions such as voice tech and screen readers. Web content management systems like Drupal 8 are specifically designed with accessibility in mind. Drupal has a dedicated accessibility team that works to regularly optimize and improve its accessibility offerings. Additionally, a number of Drupal modules, such as Automatic Alternative Text and High Contrast help improve the accessibility of sites so they are available and valuable for all visitors. 

Bad customer experience can be deadly. To keep your brand from digging its own grave,  remember to activate your customer data to understand the needs of your specific audience, focus on sounding authentic rather than robotic and never disguise your true intentions when it comes to offering individualized messages. For more insights on creating exceptional customer experiences, check out Acquia’s Customer Experience Trends Report.  

Featured Resources

View More Resources