Are You Ignoring Customers? Customers May Forgive, but They Don’t Forget


[Updated 11/5/2021]

Whether they realize it or not, a staggering number of companies ignore their customers. No matter the channel—social media, live chat, or in-person—an ignored customer is bad news for business.

We’ve all done it. We’re on a conference call making an important point full of logic, reason, and even facts. But everyone is ignoring us. Then we realize we’re on mute. We scramble for the unmute button and try to pick up where we started. Apologies all around. 

But for customers, there is no unmute button.

They reach out to a company by sending email, calling customer service, filling out a web form on the business website, or leaving a comment on social media and get nothing.

They wait. Still nothing. From the perspective of an end-user, this is a start of a bad experience. After all, a customer doesn’t reach out to waste someone’s time, but more often than not, to bring up a complaint or a problem that needs a solution.

Time goes by and, potentially, they could vow never to do business with that company again. If that company is lucky. 

Often, customers see this lack of response from the company as a personal slight. Especially NOW Customers, who expect rapid-fire responses. All they wanted was to be heard. And now they will. They launch a campaign of negative comments on the company’s social media channels like Twitter, Facebook, or even LinkedIn. They flood review sites with single stars and detailed information of their harrowing experience. And through casual conversation with others, they can mention  how bad the company is.

This is not a random anecdote. 

I said there might be facts

We can speculate all day on what a fuming customer (or a silent customer) may or may not do in the wake of customer neglect. However, research points to what we’ve all been thinking: ignoring customers has major implications for the business:

  • 89% of consumers began doing business with a competitor following a poor customer experience (Oracle)
  • One-third of consumers surveyed said they have experienced being ignored or “left hanging” by a retailer when they have had a request or inquiry. (Simplr)
  • Bad experiences make a longer impression. 46% remember bad experiences from two or more years ago. Only 21% remember good experiences. (Zendesk)

“Americans tell an average of 15 people about a poor service experience, versus the 11 people they’ll tell about a good experience.”

American Express Customer Service Barometer

Why are companies ignoring their customers?

There are a few reasons why a company is ignoring its customers. One of them is  because they’re experiencing massive demand and can’t get to every inquiry. Another is because they aren’t prioritizing customer service at all. Believe it or not, some companies are more focused on revenue improvement, profit generation, or increasing sales rather than customer satisfaction.

What these companies are missing is that failure to address customer complaints and listen to feedback leads to poor customer retention. Considering the fact that experience is the new battleground or business, I doubt these companies will last much longer with that mentality.

At a time when customers value service above every other brand attribute and expect a better customer experience year-over-year, some companies believe it doesn’t matter how they treat their customers. 

This is particularly unbelievable when you consider the reality:

According to the American Express Customer Service Barometer, U.S. consumers are willing to spend 17% more to do business with companies that deliver excellent service, up from 14% in 2014.

That’s right. Not only do customers value great service, they will give you more of their hard-earned dollars if you listen to them, help solve their problems, and value their opinion about your product, services, or customer support . Customer insights, if used well, can result in a significant improvement in your call centre and business process.

Some companies don’t value negative feedback

Some companies can get defensive about negative feedback or, worse, actively choose to ignore it. They may point to solid CSAT or NPS ratings, but those metrics only tell half the story. For every 1 person that fills out an NPS, 10 do not. In addition to customers that leave a negative review, how many are quietly seething? Companies cannot simply hope that it just goes away. But as we know, a bad customer experience often won’t die. 

The existence of mobile phones has made it easy for customers nowadays to make online transactions. By simply downloading a mobile app, they can place an order or leave a review that can make or break the reputation of a business. 

When companies ignore negative feedback, they are ignoring a valuable asset they could use to improve the quality of their customer service operations. In fact, they could use the experience to apologize and get back in the good graces of the customer. This quote by Kristin Smaby from her book “Being Human is Good Business” perfectly sums up the opportunity companies are missing:

“When customers share their story, they’re not just sharing pain points. They’re actually teaching you how to make your product, service, and business better.”

Companies are too understaffed to manage customer feedback

Recruiting, hiring, training and retaining a crack squad of customer service agents (or a BPO) is costly and hard to scale. The proliferation of digital channels and pressure to be “omnichannel” adds to the strain of these already hard-working teams, and contributes to even more customer neglect.

However, there are ways to relieve the pressure on CX teams to ensure that no customer is ignored:

  • On-demand staffing with Human Cloud technology
  • Automated responses that let the customer has been heard and offer transparency into wait times and expectations
  • Follow-up messages that are empathetic and apologetic for the hurt the customer may feel

It’s very easy to ignore a customer, but almost impossible to win them back

Do not ignore the next time a customer sends you a scathing review, or a long and detailed description of an issue. It’s a perfect opportunity to turn the situation around and get a customer for life. 

Introducing loyalty and incentive programs, launching a weekly newsletter, and utilizing strong marketing strategies are all effective in attracting customers and in promoting a competitive price. But valuing their feedback and extending excellent pre to post-sales support is what will keep them coming back.