SaaS UX (User Experience) aka Why I Broke Up With Pandora

Pandora Logo SaaS UX

Every week for over 7 years I’ve gone to the same store and bought a cup of coffee. Over 364 times, same store, same cashier, same cup of coffee.

One day I reach into my pocket to grab my wallet like I’ve done 364 times before, and lo and behold my wallet was gone. At some point my pocket had been picked and now I came up empty handed.

Having the long relationship I’ve had with the store and cashier I thought maybe he’d give me a break and I could hit him back next week. I looked up at the cashier half pleading half expectant.

The cashier looked at me and without pause grabbed the cup of coffee and threw it in the trash.

And that was that. I walked out of the store and I never went back.

That story isn’t true, thank God. Imagine the reviews a business like that would get! But the digital equivalent happens all the time, and SaaS companies don’t bat an eye…

But that story sums up exactly how I felt when after 7 years of being a Pandora One subscriber, my account was cancelled because my CC on file had been compromised and subsequently deactivated.

I know it’s a bit insane to personify a piece of software, there is no person on the other end of the Pandora app running my transaction, getting to know me. But, as a user of the service for so long I began to feel quite an affinity for the brand.

I felt like I had a relationship with Pandora.

And so when my account was cancelled 2 days after my card was stolen it felt the same as the story above.

The rational part of my brain knows that it is an automated system and they happened to run my card 2 days after it was deactivated. My brain knows there wasn’t any malicious intent behind cancelling my account.

But the irrational part of my brain made it feel like this company is supported as a customer for years didn’t care about me at all. Despite my affinity for them, there was no affinity in return.

And so I started to dwell on my brief bout with insanity as I considered my, and our, relationships with software. Humans aren’t rational. Much of the joy we get out of any experience isn’t based on the rational output, but the emotion we feel from the experience.

The moral of this story is a lesson in SaaS UX; programmatic empathy. The Ritz Carlton thrives on seizing errors and transforming them into the most remarkable element of their customer experience.

SaaS companies can do the same with a simple set of rules. Rules which would have easily prevented this admittedly irrational emotional response from happening at all.

Using Pandora as an example;

IF user has been a member for more than 3 years


IF credit card on file is declined

Extend premium subscription by one month


Send payment lapsed - 3 year email (see below)

Hey there Chris,

We noticed your card was declined recently. Maybe it just expired and you forgot to update it, or it got cancelled or compromised. We know it can be a hassle and don’t want to add more stress to your life. In fact music is supposed to do just the opposite!

We’ve gone ahead and extended your subscription for this month so you have some time to listen to more *favorite artist or station* while you work through everything. And in a week or so when things settle down please update your credit card information *here*.

Keep on *rocking* (Or other word based on musical preference; rolling, jamming, grooving, etc.)
The Pandora One Team

If I got that email, I’d have kept my Pandora One subscription for another 7 years or more.

But I didn’t, and despite how irrational my reaction is I’m now trying out Spotify.


PS – I know I could have tried to find a support contact and emailed them to let them know about the issue. When your busy updating your card and 100 other accounts, spending another 10-15 minutes to whine to your streaming music service isn’t very high on the priority list. I see this as an opportunity to proactively help a customer rather than put the onus on them to try to fix it.

It’s significantly cheaper to keep a current customer than to earn a new one. I was also surprised to see that Pandora never contacted me after my subscription ended. If I had a client of 7 years just up and leave, I would certainly want to know why. Even if it were too late to save that relationship who knows how many other customers may be feeling something similar, but you can still save them.

I really love(d) Pandora, and perhaps one day I’ll go back. But not until I get over my ridiculous irrational feeling of being scorned.

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