Three Reasons Customers Defect

Defection. That’s when customers leave. It’s when they find greener pastures. It’s when they ask for a divorce. 

Generally, it’s because customers have an unsuccessful, unsatisfactory experience. Think of that like having a roommate who is regularly late with their part of the rent and is a drag to be around. You start looking for a new place to live. 

If you’ve got customers defecting, you just might be a bad roommate. This post will give you three big reasons your defecting customers see you this way. From there, it will be up to you to work out what to change to end it. 

Here we go. Reason one.


Consider a mid-life-crisis dad who wants a car, a sporty car that harkens back to his teenage years. However, regardless of these youthful yearnings, he is also a soccer dad with kids and gear to ferry on the weekends. A sporty little thing is not what he needs, but some sports utility thing just might be.

Add to this the fact that mid-life-crisis dad likes to walk around car lots without being bothered. He likes to look in windows, kick a few tires, and read over the features on price tags. Only after he’s gotten his fill of this is he ready to speak to someone. 

Now, imagine the dealership. Dad arrives and starts looking at sports cars. A salesperson spots him and begins following. Now dad, slightly annoyed, lets the salesperson know he is just looking and will ask if he needs help. The salesperson takes the hint and backs off, however, even though they are allowing a little more space, they just can’t help themselves from periodically interjecting things like “that’s a great model, you’ll love it, very sporty” or “that one’s popular, it’s a great value.” I think you get the picture. 

Then, after dad has managed to stomach all of that, comes the long, difficult dance around features and price, and all for a sports car that isn’t the right thing for the job. 

This is a great example of not taking time to know the customer. No empathy, no understanding, only concern for making a sale. This is what I call anti-service, it’s the opposite of being helpful. 

If this sounds like your business, even if only a little bit, don’t get too upset, you are not alone. There are a lot of companies who approach customers with this old-school mindset. Just sell what people want and provide a high level of touch in everyone’s experience. 

The problem is that what people want may not be what they need, and when it comes to the level of touch, what is required by some is not required for all. An experience that doesn’t recognize these things is a sign that a company does not know—and, unfortunately, may not care to know—their customers. 

As the theme song of the old TV show Cheers made clear, people want to be where everyone knows their name, and when you don’t, they leave.

Let’s move on to reason for defection number two.


The customer gets your product and within a few days, it breaks. Or maybe, they get it and there’s some assembly required but a part is missing so they have to contact you to get a replacement. Or worse, the product works, just not well, and it has gotten to the point where using it is more of a pain than not having it at all. 

Frankly, I don’t know how any business can go on when their product is subpar. A product is table stakes. Having one that works is what gets you in the game. Having one that works well and reduces effort keeps you in the game.

Showing up to the poker table without the money to ante up and asking your buddies to loan you funds is a surefire way to never get invited back. It’s no different when it comes to a poor product.

Moving on. Customer defection reason number three.


Maybe you have a great product. Maybe it has a stellar record. It is reliable. It is easy to use. It gets great reviews by experts and customers alike. 

However, no one and no thing is perfect. After years of service, the product wears down and begins to falter. The customer needs to get it serviced. They go to your website and are met with a tangled web of options, policies, and necessary boxes to fill in. And then, once complete, they click SUBMIT only to find out the system has a glitch that forces them to have to start over. 

You see, having a good product is only half the battle. Even the best products can be marred by processes, systems, and people who are a pain to work with. 

If your website is difficult to navigate or has poor instructions that result in confusion, it’s a hassle. If you have policies that are inflexible, it’s a hassle. If you have people who have no grace, it’s a hassle. If returning a product means standing in a line, filling out a form, and waiting for a manager, guess what, it’s a hassle. 

And what’s the result of hassle? Defection. 

There are many customers who will take a lesser product in exchange for less hassle. So, don’t get too cocky about your product. The hassle factor is an ever-present gremlin waiting to ruin all the work you put in perfecting every dial, gear, and line of code that makes that product so great.

If you have not picked it up yet, here’s your lesson…


You read that right, defection is not a problem, it is a symptom. 

Whether it is not knowing your customers, a crappy product, or being a pain to work with, one or any combination of these is the real disease in your business. And no amount of journey mapping, training, or marketing will fix it until you do at least these two things.

First, you have to get everyone in the organization aligned around making doing what’s best for customers a higher priority than doing what’s best for the organization. In other words, creating value must trump creating profit. 

Second, you need to go out and walk in the shoes of your customers. You must experience your product, your processes, your people, and the environments your customers must work in. You must feel their pain in order to alleviate it.

Until you truly make what you give to customers more important than what you get, and endeavor to know first hand what your customers lives feel like, defection will continue. That’s it.

Now, go do something about it.

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