Will Women Come Back After a Bad Experience?

By Holly Buchanan

Google “worst customer service stories” and you’ll get 4,090,000 results.  

I was actually surprised the number wasn’t higher.  

We’ve all had horrible experiences with companies and products.  The question is, after a bad experience, would you do business with that company again?  And are women different from men?  Are women more likely to say “See ya” after a bad experience?

Women hold a grudge

Women actually remember bad experiences more vividly than men do.  It has to do with the greater number of connections to the emotional centers of the brain.

Bring up a big fight a couple had months ago, even years ago, and the man will barely remember it while the woman can recite every detail of what was said and how she felt.

So is this bad news for companies?   That all depends on how they handle the problem.  It all depends on who feels they have control.

A  bad experience set right can actually increase customer loyalty

Why customers don’t come back

United Airlines could send me a free ticket to Hawaii and I wouldn’t take it.  I will never fly that airline again.   I could share the whole sordid story with you, but two years later I still can’t talk about it without using expletives and spewing pieces of spittle.

United Airlines would still have my business today, but they committed the four cardinal sins of how you handle a problem.

You will lose a customer forever if you…

  1. Blame the customer for the problem
  2. Do not listen to and understand the customer
  3. Fail to take swift action
  4. Lie to a customer (AKA break a promise)

They blamed the customer.  They accused me of doing something I did not do, and I had the documentation to prove I was right, but they did not acknowledge it.

They did not listen to me and did not fully understand what had happened. 

They did take action, but not til several days after the incident.   I shared the situation with United corporate and heard back from them twice – once with a $100 voucher, then, a second time saying, “Wow, that really was bad – here’s another $100 voucher.”   I was eventually listened to and understood, but far too late to make a difference.

They lied to  me.  One agent said they would give me a hotel and meal voucher and re-book me the next day, but another agent refused to give me any voucher and also refused to re-book me.  Ever.   (I kid you not)

Bottom Line – Don’t take control away from your customers

Women (and men) get angry, frustrated, and even afraid when they feel they have no control.   When they feel there is nothing they can do to get a fair outcome, they will leave you, permanently.   AND, women will tell all of their friends about the bad experience.  (As noted above, women remember bad experiences more vividly and share those experiences over and over again.)

Here are good and bad examples of customer service.  Notice how  in the bad examples, the customer feels out of control, and in the good examples the customer feels in control (or the company/employee has taken responsibility to act).   

That’s why proper handling of a bad experience can actually build customer loyalty.  The money has already changed hands. It’s up to the company to make the situation right or not.  (The company is in control).  At the very point she is feeling disempowered, the company turns around and says, “Hey, you’re the customer, you’re in control.  We’re going to do what it takes to make you happy.”     She’s now back in the driver’s seat – and boy does it feel good. 

How you handle bad experiences can make or break your brand, especially with women. 

Holly Buchanan is the co-author of  The Soccer Mom Myth – Today’s Female Consumer: Who She Really Is, Why She Really Buys. You can read more at her blog Marketing to Women Online.



About Be Branded

Tony Fannin is of President of BE Branded, an integrated marketing firm who helps clients BE Somebody to their customers. If you aren't somebody, then you are commodity.

6 Responses to “Will Women Come Back After a Bad Experience?”

  1. This is so true! If they’re smart, companies will try to win back women customers after they’ve had a poor experience. Even if they don’t succeed, I suspect most women will at least acknowledge the effort and feel less compelled to tell others of the experience. If they do, they’re likely to mention in fairness that the company did try to correct the situation.

    That’s better than what it would have been otherwise… because women DO tell others about their experiences. There are various statistics out there, but according to the third annual Customer Experience Impact Report by Harris Interactive, 84% of consumers will tell others about a bad experience… and 22% of them will blog about it or post negative feedback online. As social media grows in popularity, I suspect that number will only grow.

    It always makes me shake my head to see companies spending fortunes on marketing and even social media management, only to be sabotaged by their own customer service agents.

  2. Tiffany– Thank you so much for your comment. You’re right, “negative word-of-mouth” travels fast. I appreciate your comment that a woman will acknowledge a good-faith effort to try to correct a mistake, but doing nothing or waiting too long (too little, too late) is commercial suicide. I appreciate your insights. –Tony


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