Ever had a bad customer experience?  What emotional stages did you go through?  An article about the stages of grief made me think of similarities between grief and the emotional cycle customers encounter when they have bad experiences.

Interactions with our customers are indeed relationships so it should come as no surprise when customers react with so much emotion.  In fact, if customers don’t react strongly to disappointment it is a sure sign that we are on the path to losing them.

  1. Denial – “This can’t be happening to me.”  Maybe we’re imagining the experience… we hope anyway.
  2. Anger – “Why me?”  Customers experience feelings of wanting to get even or make the supplier feel pain.
  3. Bargaining – “If you fix my problem, then I will remain a customer.”  We often wish and beg for a change in circumstances to avoid the bad situation.
  4. Depression – “What will I do now?”  This feeling of hopelessness occurs after customers realize bargaining will yield no results.  Lacking a feeling of control, customers begin to figure out how to regain control.
  5. Acceptance – “Oh well.”  The most dangerous of all the stages, acceptance is the stage immediately before defection. When customers realize the only way to regain control is by finding another supplier they move on.

One critical difference in customer experience management is that, unlike grief, the stages can be stopped.  Companies decide through their actions whether to allow a customer to move to anger, for example.  Equally true, companies that take no action are destined to enter their own stages of grief.

The twist and the pivot point is that companies who fail to: break the cycle, stop the stages, or minimize the damage soon find themselves in their own grief at having lost a customer.  If your company  does nothing, the rest of us thank you.  (Your loss is our opportunity.)

Customer Grief is an Opportunity
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