10 Tips for Ticking Off Customers

It never fails to amaze (and annoy) me how many marketers—in person and on the web—do not put themselves in the place of the customer. Here are 10 ways that marketers tick customers off—and lose them (and me) as customers.

1. Assume I am a captive audience. Take up lots of my time showing off how cool you are and/or being patronizing, insulting or silly. I am not a captive audience. I can always turn off the TV, click on another web browser tab, or walk away. So do not be rude or boring, or I’m gone. You do not own your customers, even after they buy from you.

2. On websites, use self-starting videos or music. Especially, create sales pages that have no text, only an obnoxious video. How many times do I have to say this? When I hit a self-running video, I generally close the tab and move on, never to return. Self-running videos are rude. Period. 

3. Be misogynist. Address the audience as if all are male. Worse. make demeaning references to women, using a woman to represent the stupidest possible person: ”So simple even my girlfriend’s mom can do it.” Make sexist jokes.

4. Talk down to me. Assume that even if you never heard of the topic till yesterday, you must know ten times more than any customer could possibly know.

5. Treat me as a stupid user. Yes, I plugged in the computer. Yes, I double-clicked on the program to start it. Yes, I have been doing this for 20 years. If you do not know the customer’s level of knowledge, for heaven’s sake, ask questions!

6. Act like your company’s mistake (or your mistake) is my fault. Even if you are not sure you are wrong, do not get defensive. I am the customer. I may not be right, but I deserve curtesy, and you need to be polite if you want me to buy—and especially if I already have. If it is your fault, apologize promptly and sincerely!

7. Treat me like a technical dummy who does not want details. Your website, product literature, user guides, and/or sales pitch should either answer the questions of a sophisticated user or tell me where to find them. Not everyone is a novice. Some people want—and understand—technical data. Make it easily available.

8. Lie to me and/or put me off when I ask questions. You do not have to know everything yourself, but you do need to be able to help customers (current and potential) find it. Do not fake it. And do not say to the customer the equivalent of “Just trust me,” or worse the tech equivalent of “Don’t worry your pretty little head.” We will hate you!

9. Misrepresent your product. Tell me your product is the be-all and end-all, the last whatever that I’ll ever need. Then after I have paid, give yourself away by revealing that I need to buy your up-sell or one-time offer to actually use the “all-inclusive” product or plan you just sold me.

10. Provide surly and/or incompetent support for your product or service:

  • Do not answer the phone (or do not even provide a phone number).
  • Put me on endless hold.
  • Make it nearly impossible to find the right person, department, or whatever to communicate with.
  • Use online “chat” for “support” or offer only email support.
  • Make it all my fault.
  • Claim no one has ever complained before (as if that proves nothing could be wrong now).
  • Force me to repeat my problem endlessly.  
  • Employ people who neither speak nor understand my language fluently.
  • Refuse to let me speak to a supervisor. Or pretend to be one, when you are not. (I will know, because you will give yourself away.)

That should do it for now. I could go on all day about incompetent marketing efforts—and very nearly have. But I will be back with more some other time.

By the way, if you do not understand what support after the sale has to do with marketing, you are in the wrong business.

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