Are You Gaslighting Your Customers?

  • The 2022 word of the year is gaslighting, or manipulating or deceiving someone.
  • Gaslighting is common in the customer experience when brands try to convince their customers of a different truth or ignore their problems.
  • The opposite of gaslighting is taking ownership, listening to customers, and building trust.

The Merriam-Webster word of the year for 2022 is gaslighting.

Searches for the term—which means mind manipulating, grossly misleading, or deceiving someone—skyrocketed this year as people find examples of gaslighting everywhere, including in their relationships, online interactions, and the media.

But are brands also gaslighting their customers?

Gaslighting in terms of the customer experience might not always be intentional, but it can seriously detract from a customer’s interaction with a brand.

Instead of mentally manipulating customers or trying to convince them of a false truth, brands should be supportive, empathetic, and understanding to customers.

Gaslighting in the Customer Experience

Gaslighting runs the gamut from brands being oblivious about tactics that make life more complicated and confusing to brands that deliberately deceive customers.

Gaslighting happens in the customer experience world more than most people notice. Consider these examples:

  • It’s gaslighting when a customer calls the contact center about a problem, and the brand ignores them or pretends the issue doesn’t exist.
  • Gaslighting occurs when brands make customers jump through hoops to contact them with any issues. Then the brand says they’re doing a great job because they haven’t received any customer complaints when really the brand has just made it too difficult for customers to give feedback.
  • Gaslighting happens when companies convince themselves that customers aren’t loyal because they are enticed by the competition. They say customers cared more about new, flashy products instead of being accountable for their own customer experience issues
  • Even more extreme, gaslighting occurs when brands manipulate customer requests to put words in their mouth or lie about how customers interact with them, often with issues surrounding billing or subscriptions.

In all these situations, brands have manipulated the truth around customers by convincing customers or themselves about a false reality.

Gaslighting has become so pervasive in our modern interactions that it’s often difficult for brands to realize they’re doing it. And it’s a slippery slope once brands start trying to skirt issues and avoid customer feedback. Instead of addressing the root problems, brands find it easier to convince themselves that customers are fickle or complaining.

How to Fight Gaslighting

So, what’s the anecdote to gaslighting? Taking ownership and building trust.

If customers call with a problem, listen to them and solve it. Take proactive steps to prevent other customers from experiencing the same issue.

If customers leave your brand for the competition, look at what areas of your customer experience could be improved. Ask for feedback, be honest about your weaknesses, and continually evolve and adjust your customer experience.

Taking ownership showcases empathy and builds trust, which is a significant driver of customer loyalty. Empathy and trust are the opposite of gaslighting. Instead of driving customers away with deceit, you use honesty and humility to strengthen customer relationships.

Today’s customers know brands’ tactics and can see through dishonesty, manipulation, and gaslighting. The key to a successful customer experience is being honest, listening, and continually improving. When customers know they can trust your brand, they’re much more likely to stick around.


Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist and the bestselling author of The Customer of the FutureFor regular updates on customer experience, sign up for her weekly newsletter here

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