Top Ways to Turn Off Customers

“Customers don’t care about your solution. They care about their problems.” – Dave McClure

One of the top ways to turn off customers is for a company to do the opposite of what is mentioned in the quote – that is focusing on the solutions it provides rather than the problems of the customers. As a customer, you must have been annoyed when a service provider called or showed up at your door, at a time other than you expressly requested. Were you frustrated when a company said they would send your order or some information requested at a certain time, and this never happened? Did a company’s sales staff offer several promises and ‘incentives’ when trying to make a sale, only for you as the customer to discover later that the customer service team was not even aware of such ‘offers’? All these examples are enough reasons and sure-shot ways to turn off customers for good, and ensure that they vociferously spread the negative word of mouth to others.

When companies knowingly or unknowingly do things to turn off customers, they simultaneously cause a dent in their reputation by eroding a lot of trust and goodwill that customers may have in them. The worst part of all this is that a company may have taken several years to build its reputation and trust with customers, and a single poor instance could detract from all of that significantly. The best way to retain customers and ensure that they remain happy and engaged with a company, is by doing things to please them in everyday dealings, and consciously avoiding things that could turn off customers. Is your company aware of its dealings with customers, and would you know whether there are things you could be doing to turn off customers? We will look at some of the things that could possibly be weakening the relationship companies have with their customers.

We have said this often in varying contexts, but in the list of ways to turn off customers it is possibly amongst the top – not keeping the promises made to customers. In today’s business world, an essential element of a successful company and brand would be to carry a promise. Something that makes customers believe they would be treated well and that the association would be beneficial for them and their business. This promise would lead to high expectations on the part of the customers and when a company breaks the promise, customers are left disillusioned. The disillusionment leads to an erosion of trust and destruction in the faith they may have had in the brand. The easiest way to turn off customers is to make promises and not keep them. Not only would a company turn away their existing customers, but many of their prospective ones too, while damaging its reputation in the market.

In addition, to not keeping promises, a company can turn off customers by failing to follow up post providing a service, and not remaining indifferent to customers once they buy from the company. Customers buy from a company that they like and trust – this goes beyond just buying products and services from a company. Customers build relationships with people within an organization – hence, any company is only as good and trustworthy as its employees and their willingness to serve customers. Companies may have good intentions towards their customers, but good intentions are not sufficient since customers want to see value and results since they are not mind readers and cannot judge a company based on their ‘assumed’ intentions.

Customers love surprises. However, the kind of surprises that companies often serve up only help to turn off customers – you know the kind where they disappoint customers on every count, and fail to make it better. Some companies make an effort only up to the point of attracting and gaining customers – once a person becomes a buying customer, they move onto gaining more customers, while completely ignoring the promises of care and service they made to the newly acquired ones. Such companies do not have a system to record the ‘conversations’ and interactions with each customer, which in turn leads to broken promises. The reason for a lack of systems is possibly because, companies do not attach enough importance to keeping its promises to customers, and hence do not allocate resources and a budge to ensure that customers get what the company promised at the start, and more. Companies do not make promise keeping a habit or a commitment – there seems to be no clear focus on keeping promises or mending broken ones.

Another way to turn off customers is trying to do things that your company is either not equipped to handle or will not be able to sustain long-term. It would be prudent for a company to accept both its strengths and weaknesses, and let its customers know of these too. Being honest and transparent from the start is a great way to keep customers – the converse would help to turn off customers rapidly, and lead them to spread negativity about the company too. Companies must begin with honesty and transparency internally – being honest with employees would ensure that their employees remain truthful and trustworthy with the company’s customers too. Customer service and experiences are delivered by the employees of a company, and they would mete out to customers the same kind of treatment they receive from their company. Therefore, a great way to turn off customers is by treating the company’s employees poorly.

While customers may understand that the company and its employees may have their own problems, they do not exactly want to hear about them. Instead, they care about their own problems, want to know how the company can help them save money, how the offerings of the company would bring them success, and other such things directly related to them. Customers do not want to deal with irritated and sullen company representatives – it is a sure shot way to turn them away from the company. Customers can perceive genuine enthusiasm on the part of employees towards the company and its products, and the converse is true. They can detect when employees lack a true sense of commitment and dedication towards them, and would much rather deal with a company whose employees would be glad to serve them. Another aspect that serves to turn off customers is ill informed and poorly skilled staff. Lack of training and knowledge becomes extremely evident to customers when they may have problems that would be ‘seemingly’ out of the ordinary – the staff would probably be perplexed and incapable of handling such ‘challenges’.

There is a popular saying that ‘customers are always right’ – and this may be true, and even if they may not be right, a sure shot way to turn off customers is by telling them they are wrong, and trying to win an argument with them. Customers hate such behaviour, and it would be impossible to keep them much less gain their loyalty and affinity. Most companies do not empower their employees to take spot decisions in favour of the customers, owing to rigid policies and too much bureaucracy. Customers find it extremely tough to deal with companies that seem inflexible and unable to adapt to their needs and expectations, and are sure to leave for a company that would be more accommodating and welcoming.

Companies can turn off customers in several ways – from ignoring the basics of politeness and service, to making them wait incessantly, from making it difficult to get resolutions to complicated paying processes, and several other such ways. Apathy and a failure to listen to customers are two of the worst mistakes, and are sure to turn off customers for good. In today’s uncertain, inconsistent, and tech-dependent world of business, customers are increasingly searching for companies with a human side, a personal touch, and one that would consistently try to win their hearts and loyalty.

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