8 ways companies disappoint customers (and how to avoid it)

Key takeaways:

  • Broken promises, like exaggerated marketing claims, cause disappointment when reality falls short.
  • Friction-filled interactions, such as confusing interfaces and long wait times, frustrate customers.
  • Lack of personalization in communication and recommendations makes customers feel undervalued.
  • Invisibility during crises exacerbates issues, leaving customers feeling ignored.
  • Inconsistent brand identity across touchpoints creates confusion and erodes trust.

A single negative customer experience can reverberate, echoing through online reviews, social media rants, and lost loyalty. While most companies strive to delight their customers, the path to satisfaction is often riddled with unexpected potholes. Here are eight common ways companies unintentionally disappoint their customers, leaving them feeling frustrated and unlikely to return:

1. Broken promises

Flashy marketing campaigns promising “unbeatable features” and “exceptional service” can lure customers in, only to disappoint when reality doesn’t match the hype. Imagine wading through pages of legalese to find hidden asterisks and disclaimers contradicting the grand claims. This disconnect between promise and reality breeds immense disappointment. Companies should prioritize setting realistic expectations by accurately reflecting the deliverable experience in their marketing. Overselling features or boasting service levels they can’t consistently uphold erodes trust.

2. Friction-filled interactions

Navigating a company’s website, app, or customer service channels can feel like an obstacle course designed by a sadist. Confusing interfaces with menus buried in subfolders, unclear instructions, and endless hold times create frustration and abandonment. Companies should prioritize user experience (UX) design by streamlining processes, eliminating unnecessary steps, and making information readily accessible. They should remember, their critical touchpoints (activities) and make them intuitive and efficient, not sources of aggravation.

3. Lack of personalization

Treating every customer like a number, a faceless transaction, breeds indifference. Imagine receiving generic marketing emails touting irrelevant products or birthday greetings addressed to the wrong name. It feels impersonal, even robotic. Companies should leverage data insights to personalize communication, recommendations, and offers. They have to show a genuine understanding of individual needs and preferences by recommending products based on past purchases, tailoring marketing messages to specific demographics, and addressing customers by name. In a world craving connection, personalization fosters a sense of value and appreciation.

4. Invisibility when things go wrong

We all make mistakes, but burying the head in the sand when things go wrong only amplifies the negative impact. Imagine facing a faulty product, only to encounter automated replies, endless hold times, and robotic interactions when seeking help. It’s infuriating! Companies should respond promptly and empathetically to customer complaints and concerns. Acknowledge the issue, offer proactive solutions, and demonstrate a genuine desire to rectify the situation. Owning up to mistakes and taking action to resolve them rebuilds trust and fosters loyalty.

5. Inconsistent brand identity

Imagine visiting a company’s social media page plastered with vibrant, youthful branding, only to be met with a stodgy, outdated website and grumpy customer service representatives. This jarring inconsistency creates confusion and erodes trust. Companies should ensure their brand identity is consistent across all touchpoints – online presence, marketing messages, and in-person interactions. Every touchpoint should paint a cohesive picture of what the company is and what it stands for. Consistency builds trust and recognition, making the brand memorable for the right reasons.

6. Siloed departments

Have you ever been bounced around from department to department, repeating your issue to different representatives, each seemingly unaware of the previous interactions? This is the result of siloed departments operating independently, leaving customers frustrated and unheard. Companies should foster collaboration, break down departmental walls, and implement internal systems that provide a holistic view of the customer journey. In the end, disappointed customers don’t care about the company’s internal structure; they just want their issues resolved efficiently.

7. Failing to adapt to change

The world is dynamic, and customer expectations evolve rapidly. Imagine clinging to outdated practices while your competitors embrace innovation. Imagine offering the same clunky app experience while others roll out intuitive, AI-powered tools. This stagnation leads to irrelevance and disappointment. Companies should embrace innovation by gathering customer feedback regularly, staying abreast of industry trends, and adapting their offerings to remain relevant. Customers appreciate companies that evolve alongside their needs and expectations.

8. Forgetting the power of appreciation

A simple “thank you” can go a long way. Imagine being a loyal customer for years, yet never receiving any recognition or appreciation. It feels like your business is taken for granted. Companies should acknowledge loyal customers by celebrating milestones, offering exclusive perks, and expressing gratitude for their continued patronage. This especially applies to B2B businesses where the interactions are usually very personal. Loyal customers are the most valuable asset – nurturing them through small gestures of appreciation fosters a sense of community and strengthens the brand’s reputation.


These are just eight ways companies inadvertently disappoint their customers. It’s important to remember, that disappointment is often the result of unmet expectations. Understanding these potential pitfalls and focusing on creating a seamless, personalized, and responsive customer journey is key to building trust, fostering loyalty, and ultimately, achieving success.

Do you want to create an interactive and easy-to-use customer journey map with powerful touchpoints, personas, automatic KPI import & monitoring, and much more?

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