March 10, 2004

Put customers first or risk losing them

User experience can be difficult to quantify. Clearly, people are drawn to companies that provide a good experience. And people run away when they're treated badly (assuming there is a place to run to). Peter Seebach, aka the "Cranky User," has some thoughts on the latter issue in his latest article, Businesses behaving badly: Put customers first or risk losing them (IBM DeveloperWorks). Seebach provides a number of examples, including:

Customer reactions are hard to predict. The problem generally comes from a lack of interest (or research funds) in learning what people need or want. Some companies that spam often don't test whether it works in the long run. But even when they do, it's difficult to determine how customers will react in real situations. A senior person at one company told me he had estimated that the returns from spamming their customer base without permission justified any harm that was done. However, just by hearing this, I decided to take my business elsewhere. As a result, they lost about $10,000 over three years from just one customer. I did let them know this, and perhaps by coincidence, they don't spam anymore.

Seebach doesn't attempt to quantify the impact of a bad experience. I'd love to see some literature that tried to do this.