The Spotify Fallout Teaches Us a Lesson on the Voice of the Customer

Following the recent Spotify controversy, during which the company was accused of hosting and promoting COVID-19 misinformation, several prominent artists (including Neil Young and Joni Mitchell) removed their music catalogs from the service, and numerous Spotify users decided to cancel their subscriptions. The matter has to date also reportedly sparked significant internal discussion at Spotify.

The controversy centers around controversial media personality Joe Rogan’s podcast (The Joe Rogan Experience). Rogan signed a $100M deal to exclusively publish his podcast on the platform. At the peak of the fallout, Spotify’s customer service was apparently “overwhelmed” with complaints and requests to cancel subscriptions. This was to the point where the company appears to have had to temporarily shut down its online customer service.

However, the Spotify controversy fallout has also created an incredible window of opportunity for its competitors. These include Tidal, Apple Music, and Amazon Music, among others.

The window of opportunity

While we don’t know how many Spotify customers have actually left the platform, data from Google Trends and social media indicates that a notable amount of users have been thinking about canceling their subscriptions.

According to Google Trends, Google searches for the phrase “cancel Spotify” (for example: “How do I cancel my Spotify Premium subscription?”) increased by 488% from the week of January 16, 2022 to the week of January 30, 2022.

Google searches for Tidal rose significantly, too. Google Trends indicates a 72% increase since the Spotify controversy began. There are no shortage of reasons for people abandoning Spotify to turn to Tidal: The latter offers better audio quality options than Spotify, it features more exclusive content, and its streaming library includes music videos and visual albums.

How UX got in the way

However, in my opinion, Tidal missed this incredible window of opportunity due to its failure to address a user experience (UX) issue: For example, consider the ongoing matter of poor integration of Amazon Echo within the Tidal app. Unlike Spotify, Tidal does not allow users to control the music playing on Alexa through the app! You can’t select a song, hit pause, or play a playlist directly from the mobile app.

Nowadays, multi-device connectivity is crucial.

If you only need a streaming service to listen to music on your phone and on the go, you might not think this is a big deal. However, a large number of US consumers have at least one Amazon Echo (also known as Alexa) in their homes. In some cases, people have several – up to one for each room, including the kitchen and the bathroom.

Given that 70% of US smart speaker owners use Amazon Echo devices, this issue represents a significant UX failure. Data suggests that 73.6% of smart speaker users use their devices to listen to music streaming services at least once a month; 39.8% said they did it on a daily basis. It’s safe to assume that this issue affects many users.

I predict that many users who left Spotify at the end of January and joined Tidal or other alternative platforms will return to Spotify once they realize how poor the Amazon Echo integration is. This should be a learning experience not just for our friends at Tidal, but for all of us who work in customer experience and user experience.

The importance of the Voice of the Customer

We often talk about the importance of listening to the Voice of the Customer (VoC). Yet, many large companies still fail at truly opening their ears and listening.

Discussion about the Tidal/Echo issue can be found in various forums (for example, on Reddit). If Tidal had been paying attention to what users have been saying online, the company would have been better prepared to embrace the window of opportunity offered by the Spotify controversy.

If we were to create a SWOT analysis of Tidal, this should have been considered a threat: It’s not a major issue, but in a battle of the brands, Spotify simply beats Tidal thanks to the better multi-device connectivity.

Windows of opportunity are very unpredictable, and companies must always be prepared for them. Listening to the Voice of the Customer and ensuring that the customer experience reflects what customers want and need is the best way to be prepared when these unpredictable events arise.

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