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A Bad Customer Experience Won't Make Your Customers Leave


Customer Experience Strategy beyond the obvious

Yes, you read that correctly…there is a paradox when it comes to good and bad customer experience. I’m sure the story I’m about to tell you, isn’t uncommon. This seems to be happening on a daily basis to many of us and it makes me wonder – what’s the tipping point to cause customers to leave?

Bad Customer Experience

Last month, on a Saturday, we had some unexpected guests over, so instead of cooking, we decided to order some takeaway from the food delivery app Deliveroo. After placing the order, we waited the usual 45-50 minutes and then started to track the driver on the app as he was approaching the house. As we received a message that the driver had arrived, I went up and waited by the door to buzz him in. After waiting for about 5 minutes, I decided to give the driver a call since we hadn’t heard from him. Having had no response after 5 calls, suddenly a message popped up on my screen, saying – “Thank you for using Deliveroo, your order has now been delivered.” – but the order hadn’t arrived. Still optimistic, one of my friends offered to go downstairs and check if he had left the food at the entrance. But of course, there was nothing.

Looking at my guests’ hungry faces, I then proceeded to call the Deliveroo Customer Service, bringing about its own set of challenges. After spending 45 mins on the call, I hung up in frustration asking them to cancel the order altogether. I had been directed to the Customer service in another part of the world, where the staff barely spoke any English and kept misinterpreting what I was saying. There was no manager available and the support staff were unhelpful, clueless and all they could offer was a refund of the $6.30 delivery fee. They shrugged off the incident apologising that the driver hadn’t followed the protocol, seemingly to have disappeared with the order.

The hunger pains of everyone in the room were at different levels. We were tired, annoyed and shocked at how Deliveroo did not have any protocols in place and seemingly did not vet their drivers before taking them on board. After much swearing, everyone exclaimed how it was such a bad customer experience and poor customer service that they would never order from Deliveroo again!!

However, a few weeks later, at another friend’s place, we decided to order from a specific restaurant. And for unknown reasons the restaurant wasn’t showing up on Uber Eats but was on Deliveroo! So, what did we do? Obviously sheepishly ordered from Deliveroo! It fulfilled the need and objective at hand and apparently, our hunger was more important than our pride!

As I look back at this incident, I realised the difference between a good customer value proposition and good customer experience. How far would a business have to push a customer and just how bad would an experience have to be before a business loses its customer.


A value proposition answers ‘why’ a customer should use your product or service and differentiates you from a competitor. Customer experience, on the other hand, is ‘how’ the customer feels after interacting with the product or service and as a result, their perception of your value proposition. The best result for a business is first – the customer is attracted to the value proposition and decides to buy, and second – the customer makes a positive choice to re-buy, subscribe and renew.

Often customers, similar to me may go back to a business that had provided them with a bad customer experience, as ironic as that sounds. This is because they have a need and at that moment in time, it appears as though only that business can fulfil that need. This may lead to businesses becoming complacent, as there is no evidence to signify a decline of their customer satisfaction.

Imagine you had a bad customer experience with an internet provider or a cab service similar to my experience above. They did not deliver on their promises or your expectations, they pushed all the wrong buttons, have unapologetic customer service officers, are uninformed and didn’t actually fix your problem at all. You get flustered, frustrated and promise to never use their services again. Yet, somehow you go back.

On the other hand, imagine another scenario where your local gym offers a really good product, rolls out the VIP service and treats you like the royalty that you are, gives you perks and benefits and offers you free personal training on your birthday. But then, a better offer from the competition pops up next door and poof! You’re gone in a hot second.

This highlights the fact that when it comes to a business making strategic decisions that will help them thrive, a positive experience is not the only factor that will make customers stay with you, as believed in recent times. Likewise, bad customer experiences aren’t assurances that customers will leave. This may leave businesses feeling frustrated since they may not be able to explain why customers would leave even when they are satisfied, yet possibly stay even when they are unhappy.


We all know that business is driven by revenue, profit margins and ROI and the one thing that unquestionably drives the bottom line is the customer and their decision to purchase or not. The secret to profitability is understanding what truly motivates people to make the final decision to buy, and what drives them away. This appears to be a herculean task as different things matter to different people and their behaviours may not be the same. This changes from person to person and situation to situation, regardless of demographics, culture or status. There is no “one size fits all”.

The customer research we conduct for our clients is extremely revealing in terms of what tips the scales for them at the end of the day. It appears customers may have already weighed out the cost vs benefit of the purchase, and despite the negatives and positives, what truly matters to the customers is ultimately which offer provides the most ‘value’ for them. They make this assessment every single time they are faced with a decision. These “drivers” to purchase are in fact a series of emotional and irrational decisions of needs, wants and expectations, balanced out by rational realities of the brand, budget and benefit.

This suggests that it is now important for businesses to move away from ‘just’ improving their customer experience to having a compelling value proposition that is integrated into an overall customer strategy. Channelling efforts and resources into in-depth user research is imperative to a company’s success. Immersive qualitative research can help businesses have an open dialogue with their customers about their purchasing decisions and truly understand their individual perceptions, motivations and annoyances. Once these decision drivers are identified, businesses can boost the positive and stifle the negative.

In conclusion, given the current turbulent economy, where user needs are constantly changing, customers will buy from a business because of a good value proposition and may stay (although unhappily) even if they have a bad customer experience. The minute there is a competitor with the same or better value proposition, providing great customer service, the customers will move.

But in order for a business to sustain themselves long-term, they need to gain the customer’s attention through a compelling value proposition and get a seal of approval through an amazing customer experience which directly addresses their individual needs and not just the needs of the business. This is where an overall customer strategy comes into play and can help businesses build sales faster, gain profitability and not just retain their customers, but ensure they are loyal advocates, and help grow your business through repeat purchases and referrals.

Learn more about customer experience strategy, and how to design a delightful customer experience, here.


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