The big list of little things that destroy your customer experience


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In February, I published an article called The Little Things That Destroy Your Customer Experience. The article suggested that we often spend too much time focusing on ‘big’ things (technology advancements, business transformation etc etc) and tend to forget, or neglect, the myriad of ‘little’ things in our businesses that we could improve.

Individually, these little things do not threaten the success of the business but collectively hey can pose a serious, but not obvious, threat to our businesses and the customer experiences that we are aiming to deliver.

The original article proved to be very popular and, so, to build on that list, I shared the original article with a number of LinkedIn groups and invited them to share their own list of ‘little’ things.

To date, I’ve received around 90 different responses and, whilst the sample is nowhere near being statistically significant, the responses from an eclectic group of smart, knowledgeable and savvy professionals offer a great insight into the things that they believe damage their personal customer experience.

Below, is an edited summary of their responses. To help make sense of them I have roughly grouped them into three categories: People, Process and Technology.


  • Bad language or attitude….at any time. I’m not that interested in the kind of day that you’ve had.
  • Not remembering my name despite shopping there every month for 20 years!
  • An employee who chats with his/her colleague whilst helping/serving me.
  • Walking into a store that sells clothes size 6-14 or for ‘younger people’ and being looked up and down by the shop assistants as if to say you are too fat or old to wear our stuff. Maybe. But, I am also a customer and am buying for my family and friends. Don’t judge me by how I look.
  • Lack of loyalty to an organisation by it’s frontline employees.
  • Hearing the words ’bear with me’ and ‘is there anything else I can help you with?’ when you’ve failed to help me at all!
  • When the person on your reception desk is paying more attention to their computer than they are to me. Hotel receptions can be the worst culprits for this.
  • Not being introduced to the person I am being transferred to and not explaining to them what the issue is.
  • Incoming calls taking precedence over a face to face conversation.
  • When you write to me like you’re a robot, not a human being.
  • When someone doesn’t smile or make eye contact when serving me.
  • After I’ve bought something and am about to leave, you ignore me.
  • In a restaurant, when a waiter or waitress has to go and find out what the “Soup of the Day” is.
  • When staff don’t have the right knowledge or don’t know how to find out the right answer.
  • Having had a great experience this then gets shattered by the last encounter (e.g. waiting a long time to pay, not being thanked for my business, etc)
  • Getting different (and contradictory) information or advice from different people in the same business.
  • Asking the obvious e.g. ‘Are you checking in?’ …..when stood at reception with my suitcase in tow.
  • Being ignored by staff either talking to each other or busying themselves with other work rather than serving customers.
  • Going to the same gym for 14 years and still being asked every Saturday if I’m a member!


  • Constant emails reminding me to do something. I know! I’m busy and I’ll get to it.
  • When a company knows it has a problem but doesn’t proactively inform its customers.
  • When a representative continues to up-sell services after I’ve repeatedly said ‘No’.
  • Offering better terms to new customers than existing loyal customers.
  • Having to wait a long time to reach someone only to find out that that person can’t fix my problem.
  • When you receive a defective product and the company from where you purchased it expects you to pay to ship it back to them.
  • Receiving bad news by letter or email – a phone call would be much more effective.
  • Not being offered the best price until I say I am leaving.
  • Saying ‘We value your feedback!’ and then not acting on it.
  • When the customer journey doesn’t ‘flow’ and it’s evident that the business has no idea about what’s it’s like to be a customer.
  • The length of time it takes to post a duplicate letter.
  • When the Customer Service Representative does not have access to all the necessary information and is not able to solve the issue during the first point of contact.
  • Not displaying prices in a retail environment – how do they expect to sell stuff if I don’t know what it costs?!
  • Not keeping the promises you made e.g. if you say you’ll call back at 2 then make sure it happens!
  • Tweeting or emailing a question only to be told to check the website for answers.
  • Even if you can’t solve my problem straight away, I’d like regular updates so I know that it’s being attended to. If you don’t I start to worry and feel ignored.
  • When your agents don’t know about your latest marketing offers.
  • When the employee is more interested in up-selling than resolving my issue.
  • When you care about what I think and say and feel in the run up to a sale. Then, once you’ve got the sale, you are hard to reach.
  • Saying ’Your call is important to us!’ and then taking an age to answer the phone.


  • Starting a song whilst on hold and then interrupting it after a number of seconds to tell me “your call is very important to us, and will be answered in the order in which it was received.” Then, to have the song start again at the beginning and then the whole process repeats….ad infinitum.
  • When you can’t find my account or customer details using my name and address and require my account/customer number. This makes me feel like a number and not a person.
  • Having to listen to the same looped marketing material when I have been put on hold for a while, especially when it is telling me how great your customer service is.
  • Forcing me to use a social login to sign in, or sign up, for some or all of your services or perks (such as newsletters, coupons, early access to sales).
  • A website that is not user friendly, takes too long to load, contains too many pop-up ads, is hard to navigate or isn’t mobile friendly.

Whilst only some of the issues will apply to any one business, what’s interesting is how they are distributed: People and Process issues dominate.

This suggests that, with limited capital investment, significant improvements could be made to customers’ experience and the level of service that is delivered if businesses improved:

  1. How employees talk to, behave around and deal with customers; and
  2. How businesses set up and manage their interactions with customers.

The payoff? The 18th Century English poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer, Samuel Johnson, said it best when he said:

“There is nothing, Sir, too little for so little a creature as man. It is by studying little things that we attain the great art of having as little misery and as much happiness as possible.”

This post originally appeared on my Forbes column here.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adrian Swinscoe
Adrian Swinscoe brings over 25 years experience to focusing on helping companies large and small develop and implement customer focused, sustainable growth strategies.


  1. Well Adrian, you have certainly captured a “long list” for us to consider. So many of the practices we have implemented are a disservice to the customer and our service personnel behave like the “sales prevention” department.

    As a customer care and retention specialist, and author of “Soar2Success with Customer Care: 53 Tips to Giving Customers a Memorable Experience”, I whole heartedly agree that it is the apparently little things that make a big difference to customers.

    In my experience, the key to success largely it boils down to polite, considerate, civil behavior. Some might say, “common sense” but that is an oxymoron today.


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