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The Top Five Reasons Customers Don’t Come Back

Whatever you sell, be it a product or service, your customers expect that it will do what it’s supposed to do. If you sell a car, the car should work. If you sell a service, the outcome should meet expectations. That’s table stakes.

So, let’s assume that whatever your customers are buying from you will meet their expectations. However, that’s not always why the customer buys from you in the first place, let alone comes back to buy more. It’s the customer experience that drives that.

In our 2022 Achieving Customer Amazement research, more than 1,000 American consumers were asked, “How likely would you be to switch companies or leave a brand after experiencing any of the following bad customer service experiences?” They were asked to rate several reasons using a scale that ranged from “not likely” to “very likely.” Here are the top five reasons customers would leave:

1. Rudeness or apathy from a company or brand employee — This was the No. 1 reason, coming in at 75%. What’s interesting is that in the late 1970s a study was commissioned by the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, and the top reason for customers leaving (over 70%) was the same. It’s hard to believe that the numbers haven’t changed for 40 years, but this continues to be the No. 1 reason customers don’t come back.

2. Inconsistent information — There is no excuse for inconsistent information. Obviously, this is very frustrating to customers, with 72% saying this would drive them to find someplace else to do business. Have you ever called a company’s customer support number with a question and didn’t like the answer? If you truly believed the answer was incorrect, you may have called back to ask someone else the same question, hoping for a different answer. And it’s amazing how many times you get a different answer.

3. Inability to connect with someone from customer support — Self-service or digital support is becoming more popular. Customers are learning that it’s often quicker and easier to visit a website, read the frequently asked questions or interact with an AI-fueled chatbot. However, there are times when you want to talk to a human. It should be an easy, seamless transition, but some companies hide behind a wall of digital support and make it difficult for a customer to connect to a live agent. Furthermore, some companies bury their customer support number on their website, making it difficult, if not impossible, to find. This third reason customers leave comes in at 71%, just four percentage points off the No. 1 reason.

4. A bad customer service experience — I would think this would be at the top of the list, but at 68%, it takes fourth place. A bad customer service experience is exactly that. It’s just bad. But survey participants considered dealing with a rude or apathetic employee worse than an overall bad experience. My interpretation is that you might get a second chance following an overall bad experience. However, if customers are treated with disrespect (rudeness and apathy), it’s more than likely you won’t see them again.

5. Inconsistent experience — You can’t be great one day, not so great the next day, average another day, etc. Inconsistency erodes confidence. Fifty-nine percent of the customers we surveyed would walk if they didn’t know what to expect. Customers want a consistent and predictable experience. That gives them confidence that they know what to expect every time they do business with you.

As you look at this list, you might think, “I knew that.” Of course, you did. You’re a customer. You don’t want to deal with employees who are rude or apathetic. It bothers you to get inconsistent information, and it’s upsetting when you want to talk with someone from a company but can’t. You get frustrated when you have a bad customer service experience. And you get irritated with an inconsistent experience. Who wouldn’t?