Customer Disappointment Experience (CDX): Is it the Next Frontier in CX Domain?

Life is like a tweet. Everyone has the opportunity to write 280 characters … but what you write is what makes the difference

The customer is the king. The words illuminate the centrality of customers in driving economic activities. As such, customer experience (CX) has become the most important consideration for new product and service development, and customer management efforts in general.

CX is defined as “customers’ internal and subjective response to their direct and indirect interaction with a firm’s touchpoints” (Quach et al., 2020). The definition points to the holistic nature of customer experience management i.e. considering the direct and indirect interactions with the customers.

The comprehensiveness of customer experience management means that organizations face an uphill task to ensure the customer experience is up to customers’ expectations. There are two factors that make things complicated: (1) customers being humans have feelings, needs, wants and behaviors that shape and re-shape dynamically and often are unpredictable, and (2) no system can be perfect at any given point in time leaving the door open for errors and mistakes. With that in mind, it is imperative that customer disappointment is always a possibility. However, the focus so far has been on enhancing CX. It raises the question; why not focus on Customer Disappointment Experience?

We define Customer Disappointment Experience (CDX) as the customers’ feelings or understanding of non-fulfillment of expectation in relation to “their direct or indirect interaction with a firm’s touchpoints” (Quach et al., 2020).

What causes CDX?

CDX manifests in various forms such as dis-satisfaction, bad feelings, and dis-engagement. A number of factors could cause CDX, and we discuss some of them below.

1) Lack of understanding of customer journey and CX

A lack of understanding of customer journey could contribute to CDX. Customer journey is defined as “the process the customer goes through, across all stages and touchpoints with an organization, comprising the customer experience” (Hamilton & Price, 2019).

Understanding customer journey means understanding the interaction that a customer could have at various instances with an organization’s touchpoints. If an organization is unable to map the customer journey over the lifecycle of the product or service that they offer, potentially quality and customer care problems could creep in leading to CDX. By understanding the customer journey, organizations will be more likely to ensure customer satisfaction is achieved and CDX is avoided. A lack of understanding of CX is regarded to contribute to digital disappointment (Falkow, 2017).

2) Unclear, confused, inaccurate, or conflicting message

Customers are becoming well informed as information is readily available from multiple sources. Therefore, the clarity and accuracy of the message about the product(s), service(s), and the organization itself are naturally very important. If the message is confused, inaccurate, unclear, or conflicting; the customer may feel betrayed and CDX could creep in.

The messages related issues could occur due to erroneous marketing material, unclear terms and conditions (T&Cs), hidden fees, misuse of terms, angel dusting, inaccurate advertisement, inaccurate functionalities description, unclear on inaccurate return policies information, and conflicting information in the online and offline message, just to mention a few (YourDictionary, n.d).

3) Product / Service design/functionality is not as promoted

One of the reasons that could lead to CDX is that the product or service does not have all the functionalities as promoted by the organization/seller. When customers find discrepancies in available functionalities compared to what was promoted or find that the product or service does not include all the functionalities that they understood or expected to be present, then it is likely that CDX will occur.

4) Customer service is not up to the scratch

Customer service is one of the areas that, in hindsight, leads to CDX. Since customer service predominantly involves human beings, so the variability in the way service is handled from person to person could lead to CDX.

Customer service issues can arise due to a variety of reasons including (but not limited) a lack of customer service culture within the organization, lack of customer service training to staff, lack of understanding of customer needs and empathy towards customers, lack of understanding of product/service and their functionalities/feature, unavailability of skilled people to provide support, lack of funds or resources to provide adequate customer service, lack of channels for customers to get customer support, and lack of top or senior management attention to customer service provision and the benefits of it.

5) Promises made for add-ons are not kept (like my vacuum cleaner)

Often organizations try to sell add-ons to the product being purchased by the customer. For example, nowadays, retail stores offer extended warranty beyond the manufacturer’s warranty for an additional cost. This creates an impression among the customers that they can actually get the product replaced or repaired for a longer period of time. However, if the organization selling add-ons is unable to keep their promise, CDX could creep in.

One of the issues with add-ons is the interpretation of what the seller means and what the customer understood. If there is a gap between these, then there is a greater chance that customers will not be able to have a good experience and feel disappointed.


Customers have become empowered and vulnerable at the same time as they are inundated with all sorts of information on an ongoing basis. This makes it difficult for customers to make choices and take smart decisions. The situation requires customers to understand as much as possible and filter the information to make choices on correct information. But that is not an easy thing to do.

Organizations, on the other hand, are also facing a dilemma as they have to process a large amount of information to understand their customers, their needs, and wants. The situation makes it difficult for organizations to understand what their CX should look like?

Given the above, customer disappointment is always on the cards. However, organizations so far have focused on enhancing CX and little attention has been paid to CDX.

Above, we have looked at some of the reasons that could cause CDX. However, the listed issues are just the tip of the iceberg of the sources and triggers of CDX and are meant to build initial knowledge on the subject.



Jiwat Ram
Jiwat Ram
Jiwat is currently working as a Professor in Project management at Excelia Business School France. He did his Ph.D. from the University of South Australia and MBA in International Business from AIT Thailand. Jiwat has over 20 years experience of working in industry across banking, construction, service, and education sectors in an international setting. For the last more than 10 years, Jiwat has worked in academia teaching at Executive Education, Master’s, and bachelor’s levels. His teaching includes courses on Artificial Intelligence, project management, management, and research methodology. Jiwat has published his research work in top-tier, high-impact factor journals including the International Journal of Production Economics, the International Journal of Project Management, Computers in Human Behaviour, the Journal of Global Information Management, and Enterprise Information Systems, among others. Combining academic and non-academic work, he has published over 100 articles in journals, conferences and industry outlets. His published work has been well received and four of his published papers have ranked in the Top 25 most downloaded papers from ScienceDirect. His two papers have been ranked in the Top 25 Most Cited articles as well. Jiwat’s research is focused on the impacts of technologies such as Social Media, Big Data, and Artificial Intelligence on businesses and society. Jiwat likes to understand how we can leverage upon the use of innovative technologies for business growth and productivity. Jiwat regularly contributes towards the development of new thought and ideas in business and technology management. As such, he has a growing portfolio of publications on some of the contemporary issues in the management of projects and organizations. Jiwat also publishes his work on social media platform Linkedin to connect and reach out to other industry professionals. His work has received a good following with a significant number of posts cited as reaching top 1% engagement on Linkedin. Jiwat’s content on LinkedIn can be accessed at: #ideannovation_jiwat Please feel free to connect with Jiwat on LinkedIn by clicking on the Icon above.

SOLD OUT! JOIN OUR WAITING LIST! It's not a virtual event. It's not a conference. It's not a seminar, a meeting, or a symposium. It's not about attracting a big crowd. It's not about making a profit, but rather about making a real difference. LEARN MORE HERE


salon 360°