How Many Customers Are You Losing Because of Bad UX?

User experience and retention go hand in hand: the more you cater to the first, the less you need to worry about the second

Adam Fout
August 29 2017

User experience and customer retention go together like peanut butter and bananas. User experience (UX for my fancy friends out there) is the study of how to make things easy (and even fun) to use. Unfortunately for most people, few large firms in the modern era are aware of this acronym — and most could give a damn about the “User Experience” anyway. They’re more worried about customer service. Most small businesses have never even heard the term.

However, UX is something that everyone should be paying attention to, from the tiniest mom-and-pop-chop-shop to the biggest evil-giant-telecom…

At least, they should be paying attention if they want to retain their customers.

Customer Service Isn’t the Only Place Where Businesses Lose Customers

We know how important customer service is and we’ve known for a long time.

For example, we know that 60% of customers who’ve had a poor customer service experience are unlikely to return even if a trusted friend tells them service has improved.

Which means that any potential customer’s or actual customer’s first customer service interaction is critical for their retention.

In today’s digital world, it’s beyond foolish to assume that our first interaction with a customer is going to be with a human.

It’s much more likely that your customers are going to interact with you digitally before making a purchase — in fact, we know that 81% of shoppers are going to do online research before making a big buy.

While some of that is going to be through online reviews (which we know that a whopping 84% of people trust as much as a personal recommendation… geez, let that sink in for a second), once your shopper has passed the social-proof gatekeepers, they’re probably going to get on your website.

From there, depending on what your business does, they’re either going to give you a call or sign up for a free trial of your service.

If you’re the SaaS type, you’re going to lose about 50% of your leads right there — they’re going to open the software precisely one time, and then they’re never coming back.

If they give you a call and get lost in a call tree, they’re probably going to hate you forever — 83% of US consumers in 2010 said they wanted to speak to a live agent.

So, if your website, your free-trial version of your software, or your phone tree is your potential customer’s first impression of your business (setting reviews aside), that impression better be heckin’ good right?

Yer darn tootin’ it better.

So, ask yourself this question…

How Many Potential Customers Are You Losing Because of Bad UX?

First impressions matter.

Your first impression probably isn’t a human.

Your first impression is probably a website, your trial software, or your phone tree.

Are they awesome?

Here’s a hint — phone trees are, by definition, not awesome.

Automated help generally sucks.

There are entire apps that you can get on your phone whose sole purpose is to navigate a phone tree and get you to a human being.

Think about it — when a potential customer calls you for the first time, do you really think you’re making a good impression by introducing them to Nancy-the-Vapid-Robot?

Do you really want them to spend a bunch of time trying to navigate the overly complex phone system you’ve set up because you think that’s saving you operational costs?

Here’s something hilarious — maybe you’ve set up your phone tree so that new customers are told right away how to get a hold of someone to help them with their problems…

How do you think your existing customers feel about that as they slowly navigate the labyrinth that is your automated phone tree?

Do you think they mind this obvious slight? This clear indication that you care less about them than the new customer?

And stepping away from the dumpster fire that is the modern phone tree, what about your website?

Is it easy to navigate?

Is the information arranged on your website in a way that makes sense to customers? What about to new prospects?

Is it clear what your customers and leads need to do to contact you?

Do you have a million annoying pop ups?

Is your valuable content simple to access?

I can’t tell you how many confusing, disorienting websites I’ve come across in my lifetime, but they’re the rule, not the exception..

Some simple testing with a few users (30 or so if you can get ’em) can reveal all kinds of problems that you couldn’t foresee when you were putting your phone system or site together.

I promise you this — if your website has navigation problems, some people are going to put up with it and slog through to find what they need.

Some people are going to give up. A lot of people are going to be angry and impatient by the time they get to the phone tree at all. They will have no patience for your call tree bull hooey.

And, if it’s really bad, you’re doing a huge disservice to the sloggers — they’re going to keep slogging, only to get increasingly more frustrated as they hit wall after wall of ineptitude.

Most new prospects aren’t even going to bother. They’re going to give up, they’re going to walk away, and you’ll never even know.

The same is true for SaaS companies who are seeing people log into that fancy trial software once, only to disappear into the ether and never return.

If your software isn’t beautifully streamlined, no one wants to play with that mess.

And even if it is streamlined, even if you have applied some UX principles, you’re still going to run up against the problem of complexity — if software is complex, if it has tons of functionality, it’s going to overwhelm users, even users who are used to similar software.

This is where UX and CX start to cross over — there are myriad ways you can support the good UX decisions you make with documentation, wizards, walkthroughs, videos, webinars, live help, onboarding, and other CX-oriented techniques that can ensure your trial folks actually become paying folks.

But there are more than a few SaaS firms out there who spend almost no time on UX (or none at all), and then wonder why their users bail.

That’s why I always recommend you do some UX testing, even if it’s just 5 random people trying to accomplish specific tasks on your website. Watch people use your website. Watch people navigate your phone tree. Watch them use your free trial software.

Watch what trips them up.

Then fix it.

But it’s not just the new people you should be worrying about — your existing customers are even more important to hold on to, and they’re likely bailing like lemmings off a cliff because of your bad UX.

(P.S. Turns out lemmings don’t actually do this — that was Disney driving them off for a film. Yikes!)

How Many Existing Customers Are You Losing Because of Bad UX?

According to this study, out of every 26 customers who leave your business, 25 of them leave silently, without giving you any reason why.

I have a theory that a not-exactly-small percentage of these folks are leaving not because of bad customer service, but because of bad user experience.

Think about it like this — let’s say you have a customer.

Let’s name him Jim-Bob.

So ole’ Jim-Bob is using your product, the XYZ-a-nator, and it breaks.

And ole’ Jim-Bob is mad, ’cause the XYZ-a-nator wasn’t supposed to break for at least 87 years, according to the XYZ-a-nator manual (which he read in full, despite its poor grammar).

So he goes online to see if he can find an answer because the troubleshooting section of his XYZ-a-nator manual is getting him nowhere fast.

He finds a lot of poorly made videos by users of XYZ-a-nators that answer some problems, but not his.

He’s starting to get annoyed — ole’ Jim-Bob just loves his XYZ-a-nator, and he’s none too pleased to be out of pocket with this situation thanks to his XYZ-a-nator-less current life.

So, he finally goes to your website.

He types his problem into search, “Dang ole’ XYZ-a-nator broke” and gets nothing.

He doesn’t know how the dern thing broke, he just knows it broke.

He looks through the menu for some sort of FAQ, but he sees nothing obvious, so he goes to the phone.

Little does he know that you actually do have an FAQ page, but it’s inexplicably buried three menu levels down — and the top menu just says “content,” and Jim-Bob doesn’t know what the heckfire that means, so he didn’t bother to look at the submenu items.

Now Jim-Bob has spent 45 minutes trying to fix his XYZ-a-nator, and he’s ornery because he keeps coming up against walls and half answers.

He’s ornery, he’s on the phone, and he’s calling for you.

Except he doesn’t get you.

First, he has to listen to a stupid message about how to use the stupid phone tree in another stupid language that he doesn’t speak because it’s stupid.

Then the robot lady on the phone starts talking about what to do if you want to buy an ABC-a-nator, a DEF-a-nator, a GHI-a-nator… ole’ Jim-Bob waits through the whole alphabet, getting progressively angrier. He starts to tap noisily in the background. He starts to grind his teeth.

But wait! The pain is done! Now the robot lady is asking him to just talk to her. She says she can understand complete sentences!

He tells her that his XYZ-a-nator done broke.

She says “I’m sorry, I don’t understand — can you repeat that?”

After Jim-Bob retrieves his phone from the other side of the room and stops fuming, he repeats his question.

The robot lady finally understands. She starts asking him all kinds of information — name, address, phone number, social security, password, account number, number of living relatives, real-or-imagined birth defects, where he went to school for 4th grade.

And then, finally, an hour and five minutes after his beautiful XYZ-a-nator broke, he gets a human on the phone.

The first thing this guy asks ole’ Jim-Bob?

“Sir, I’m going to need your name, address, phone number, social security…”

And That’s When Jim Bob Hangs Up, Burns His XYZ-a-nator, and Makes a Purchase From a New Company

And the poor rep sits around bewildered, wondering what could have possibly made this guy so mad…

After all, the rep was just following procedure.

The guy had barely been on the phone for 10 seconds.

He was probably just crazy.

Little did the rep know, Jim-Bob had been on the odyssey from hell.

This is what bad UX does for your existing customers.

Many customers don’t even read manuals like ole’ Jim-Bob did.

Your UX needs to be so good that Jim-Bob and his ilk never have to call you in the first place.

We know, of course, that this is a nice goal, but not very practical. Instead, UX should be optimized as best as possible, documentation should be perfect with the understanding that it will probably be ignored, and there should be a huge push to help customers understand and use their product.

Part of that means streamlining (or, better yet, eliminating) your call trees.

If you’re the SaaS type, that means doing the exact same thing — constantly striving to make your software and your support as usable and straightforward as possible.

Because, if these things are out of alignment, if your customers constantly struggle to use your product or service, to get help with said product or service, or to get a dang human on the phone when their product isn’t working, they’re likely going to be one of the 25 who just disappears without ever telling you why.

Don’t hemorrhage customers for no reason — make your stuff awesome.

And then, start tracking your actual retention rates, find out where you’re failing, and adjust.

The incredible Aaron Orendorff will show you how — read more about measuring customer retention here.

Adam Fout

Adam Fout, resident content and brand sorcerer at BlueSteelSolutions, guides brands through the mystical process of creating website and blog content that enchants customers and entices leads. He also writes fiction in his free time at My Website

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