How Not to Provide a Bad Customer service

How Not to Provide a Bad Customer service

logo The CX Insights
December 14, 2020 | 7 Min Read

Whether you like it or not, most customers have been privy to instances of bad customer service at the hands of one brand (or perhaps many). While having a one-off bad customer experience is acceptable, it shouldn't become a consistent phenomenon.


Data suggests that a staggering 91% of customers simply leave without complaining about a brand that they're unhappy with. So if your churn rate is unusually high, it's time to redirect your strategies to deliver a stellar customer experience.

Moreover, further research predicts that 4 in 10 customers will talk about their failing customer experience with others, creating negative word-of-mouth publicity. These critical statistics point towards one inevitable fact:

If your company becomes synonymous with a poor customer experience, it'll be difficult to bounce back and regain their trust. So, the real question then becomes:

What Causes A Bad Customer Service?   

At this point, it's only natural to wonder what makes your customer service go bad? Here are five possible reasons:

  1. You're not treating the customers with enough respect and courtesy--no matter how disgruntled the customer is.
  2. Your customer service team isn't going the extra mile to resolve your customer's queries and make them happy. Your employees might be unhappy because of a stressful work environment or maybe because they're not motivated or driven enough.
  3. You're continuously failing to live up to the customer's expectations. This can be counteracted by keeping the promises to be realistic and authentic.
  4. You're not empathetic to the customer's cause and are unable to convince them that you both are on the same page.
  5. The company is not customer-focused and is not driving positive customer experiences.

KEY TAKEAWAY: There are numerous reasons as to why there might be more-than-usual bad customer service experience examples within your own company that you might be coming across. The central idea is to go back to the drawing board and rethink your CX strategy solely from a customer-centric mindset and deliver on the promises you make, consistently and organically.

6 Strategies To Not Provide A Bad Customer Service 

Everywhere you look, bad customer service stories abound. In this section, we'll talk about the top-6 bad customer service stories (in our opinion) and what you can learn from them: 

1. Learning: Take ownership, unlike Amazon.

Though Amazon claims to be 'customer-obsessed,' this particular incident says otherwise. In a shopping transaction gone wrong, the company ended up charging a woman $7,000 for toilet paper. While mistakes do happen, this is where the brand failed the customer:

  • She had to call the CX team multiple times and even wrote a letter to the CEO, but it was of no help.
  • Most of her responses claimed that a refund was not possible as the toilet paper was shipped on time and wasn’t damaged.
  • She ultimately had to resort to approaching a local TV channel and get her story aired.
  • Once the story went viral and caught the media's attention, that's when Amazon refunded the money--but more than two months later.

Amazingly, despite being in the wrong, the company paid no heed to the customer and responded mostly with smirks and laughs. Amazon's unwillingness to take ownership turned into a big PR nightmare. Guess who had the last laugh? 

2. Learning: Acknowledge your customer's feedback instantly and effectively.

Truth be told, customers today don't shy away from voicing their complaints and concerns relating to a brand on social media. Any failure to not respond in a timely manner with the right solution can cost your company dearly.

Take the instance of the following customer who complained to an airline about lost baggage. The airline responded 8 hours later - a big mistake - with unclear and confusing responses:

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The result of mishandling the customer complaint and a complete lack of response?

  • The thread (shown above) was viewed by 76K users.
  • The story was featured on numerous news websites.

Basically, the brand ended up losing more customers by not responding to one tweet quickly and responsibly.

3. Learning: Don't serve a side-dish of swearing and scolding, as McDonald's combo did.

In another case of CX gone wrong, the McDonald's manager went ballistic on the customer when the latter asked for a refund after waiting for a hamburger for over 15 minutes. This whole episode was caught on video and went viral within minutes (understandably so).

Disrespecting the customer, and worse, yelling and abusing them can prove to be a fatal move for your company - whether you're a global brand like McDonald's or whether you're a startup just starting out. Treating your customers right takes precedence always!

4. Learning: Cultivate an empathetic culture towards your customers as well as your employees.

Get this. According to research, Comcast is America's most-hated company. In an unfortunate incident, its customer - Ricardo Brown - received the bill from the cable company, which was addressed to “A**hole Brown”! 

The company's employee had changed his account name when the customer opted out of renewing the cable contract. Even though the company did apologize and even paid a two-year refund, the damage was done.

One possible reason as to why the employee 'acted out' could have been that they were frustrated too - which is why cultivating an employee-first culture is as important as reinforcing a customer-centric mindset. 

5. Learning: Ensure that your online and offline prices are the same, or you'll end up in a pricing blunder, just like Walmart! 

You'd think that customers wouldn't check your product's online prices before entering a physical store, and you'd be wrong.

This is exactly what happened when a customer when to a Walmart store to buy a LEGO toy for his son only to notice that the store's prices were 35% higher than Walmart's own website! As expected, Walmart didn't match the price - a big mistake.

In instances such as these, it always helps to demonstrate kind and honest gestures. 

6. Learning: Train your employees regularly and in greater depth about your company's policies.

The airline booted a woman on a flight for placing a cello next to her seat - even though she had paid for both the seats. Though carrying this instrument wasn't against the airline policy, she was made to de-board and was assured to be on the next flight (but in vain).

It was only when her husband took to Facebook and aired the harassment that the airline looked into the matter, booked her on a flight the next day, and offered to cover the cost of the hotel room:

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How To Fix Bad Customer Service 

"One-third of consumers say they would consider switching companies after just one instance of bad customer service."

Let's be honest. Along with great customer service reviews, every company will have its fair share of bad customer service examples. But that doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing.

A lot of brands turn the tables in their favor by learning from the mistakes they made and enhancing their customer service the second time around. Consider the following real-life examples for serious inspiration:

  • Olark's Bill Thompson spearheads the Customer Happiness department and dishes out odd-pearls of wisdom. He recommends CX personnel to stay focused and calm while engaging in 'active' listening instead of blurting out a slew of corporate PR messages to the customer. Basically, you should allow the customer to vent and 'talk it out' instead of offering excuses or defense that they're not interested in.
  • Micah Bennett, the Support Lead at Zapier, talks about the importance of empathy and being a customer advocate. He says as a CX representative, you should acknowledge the customer's problem, reassure them that you're on their side, and never argue. More importantly, the CX rep should explain in detail why your company is unable to deliver on the immediate needs of the customer, which breeds trust and honesty in the relationship. Even a little bit of empathy allows you to part with customers on a happier, more positive note.
  • Kyle Racki, the CEO of Proposify, encourages brands to let go of the customer if their demands are unreasonable or impossible to fulfill. Here's an instance of a customer who continually kept complaining (and using abusive words in the process )about how subpar the product was. Here's what the CEO wrote to the customer:

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Surprisingly, here's how the customer responded:

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The lesson to be learned here is this: Sometimes, it's okay to let the customer go if they're unreasonable or if you think you won't be able to live up to their standards. All in all, as a brand, you too get to choose which customers to keep.

While your end-goal should always be to extend stellar support, sometimes it helps to be firm and not encourage 'bad behavior.' In the end, you'll notice a (positive) fundamental shift in the customer's behavior and actions.

Wrapping Up: In Today's Digital Era, It Is Critical That You Prevent Poor Customer Service

As per research, around 39% of customers will avoid a company for two years after a poor customer service experience.

In today's digital era, laser-focusing on delivering customer satisfaction and drivings positive customer service is the stepping stone to your company's success.

As long as you're real, consistent, and honest in your customer service interactions and experience, your brand will live up to the customer's expectations (even exceed them) and derive long-term benefits, both financial or otherwise. Thoughts?

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