Customer Service Advice

Bad Customer Service Examples

Bad customer service examples offer great lessons on how to improve customer service. These customer service horror stories will give you a laugh...and a lesson.

Real-world examples are a great tool for training your customer service staff.

Some of the best examples are negative examples - case studies of what not to do in response to a customer request or complaint. To help get the ball rolling, we've provided several examples of actual customer service scenarios, reported by customers themselves.

Case Study #1: Mice are Normal

The Story: A group of friends gathered at a local restaurant franchise for dinner. Midway through their meal, they noticed a mouse dart out between two booths and called the furry patron to the attention of their waiter. The waiter said, "That's cool," and asked what they would like done about it. Eventually, the manager entered the picture and told the diners, "All restaurants have mice whether you see them or not. I can take care of your bill, but there's nothing else I can do about it." Not surprisingly, the patrons left the restaurant in a hurry, never to return again.

The Lesson: Customers take health and safety issues very seriously. The diners wanted more than a refund. They want to know that the business was taking every possible precaution to prevent infestations and unsanitary conditions. The employees' ambivalent attitude toward a possible rodent problem communicated that hygiene was not high the restaurant's list of priorities.

Case Study #2: Leaky Planes

The Story: A passenger on a flight with a major airline was getting dripped on by moisture leaking from overhead vents. He reported the incident to the stewardess who pointed out that the last ten rows of the aircraft had paper towels stuffed into the side vents of the last two rows. The passenger asked the stewardess if she would report the incident, and she refused to do so, saying there was a condensation problem with the entire fleet and her report wouldn't make any difference. Aside from being annoyed, the passenger began to question the mechanical quality and safety of every plane in the airline.

The Lesson: The stewardess' response was problematic for a lot of reasons. Worst of all, her response implied that the airline ignored the needs of their customers and refused to confront problems, even when they were reported by their own staff. A better response would have been to acknowledge there was a problem and agree to file a report with the airline's main office as soon as possible.

Case Study #3: Cell Phone Runaround

The Story: A customer purchased a new mobile phone from a reputable cell phone provider. Several months later, the phone started to malfunction and the customer sent the phone back to the company for service. The company stated that they would not replace the phone because it showed signs of corrosion on the battery. The phone had not been exposed to water, and subsequent calls to customer service were met with the ridiculous excuse that the corrosion was the result of normal exposure to air - but that the company still would not replace it or fix the problem free of charge.

The Lesson: The lesson here is obvious. Customer satisfaction requires a willingness to stop making excuses and get to the root of the problem, if it means the company has to assume responsibility for the cost of the fix.

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We greatly appreciate any advice you can provide on this topic. Please contribute your insights on this topic so others can benefit.

  • Rose Jones posted on 12/31/2009
    Rose Jones
    While waiting to pay for the items I had placed on the counter,the phone rings and the cashier answers it immediately. Instead of asking the caller to wait while she finished helping the customer at hand, she spends a considerable amount of time researching product information for the caller. After a couple of minutes of being ignored, I left the store and made my purchase elsewhere. That store lost a sure purchase to serve a non paying customer.
  • Howard posted on 2/26/2010
    I'm sorry Rose, the world does not revolve around you. It is not her fault that she provided excellent customer service for a potential customer that needed help. If she was the only one on staff, most organizations require answering the phone on a timely basis, to cater to people like you - the impatient. Your problem is that you were not patient. How would you feel if you were the phone caller and the phone was not answered? Don't answer - we already know. As far as Case Study #3... Toyota could have learned this and saved them years of embarrassment.
  • Business Owner posted on 3/4/2010
    Business Owner
    Sorry Howard, that's when you are wrong, the cashier just lost a customer because of bad judgement. She can answer the phone and ask if the caller can hold or ask for a call back number if what the callers request is going to take sometime. If the call is important, she could of called a co-worker or even multi-task by charging and talking on the phone. Your choice, Lose a sale or help a customer that might not even go to the store and buy something.
  • karen posted on 3/5/2010
    Howard you are totally out of line. the person should have asked the customer who was infront of her if she could answer the phone. Then answered it and took a quick message and phoned her back once the customer had left. The customer in front of you is your immediate need and the one on the line is secoundary as they phoned after you were dealing with the first customer. This is sound retail etiquette.
  • SABA posted on 3/6/2010
    Im totally with Rose. !! The assistant should have taken the number and called that person back! Perhaps Howard is a Gen Y person who doesnt understand the simplicity of commercial etiquette!
  • Debbie posted on 3/9/2010
    Rose is absolutely correct. I have been in Customer Service of some sort my whole life. She just described one of my biggest problems with people prioritizing. You have a customer in front of you the phone rings, of course you have to answer, find out what they need, ask them to hold, find someone to help or just finish with your immediate customer. Every customer is important and should feel so. We need to train out employee's better to make those split second decisions and not be reactive.
  • Todd posted on 3/10/2010
    The logical thing to do would have been " Thank you for calling--- please hold and someone will be with you as soon as possible." Customer service is all about making the customer(s) happy while keeping your business's ideals in mind. Rose, I would have been equally as aggravated and would have left as well. It's a matter of respect. The obvious thing here is that "Howard" IS the guy that stops what he's doing to answer the phone and help someone else while ignoring what he's doing. We call that, rude.
  • Pat posted on 3/31/2010
    I have a question. How would you handle this customer service scenario? Steve takes classes at a local small business. He has complained to the manager that since the class times have changed he can't attend any more. He has paid up for six months membership and feels angry that he has paid money and the service has changed. There was no guarantee regarding class times always staying the same. Would you refund Steve's membership fees or not? How would you handle it? Thanks for helping me on this.
  • Ken Gaebler posted on 3/31/2010
    Ken Gaebler
    Pat, if the business wants to stay in business, I would recommend a full refund to Steve. The sooner you do it, the less likely he is to take revenge on the business by trash talking it to everyone he knows, writing letters to the local newspaper, etc. An angry customer can cost a business a lot of money, so the faster you resolve the issue, the less damage there will be to the company. Legally, you don't have to give a refund, but based on what you've written I think it's the right thing to do in this scenario.
  • Russ posted on 5/10/2010
    I hate web sites, such as Pay Trust and True Credit, that do not give you any way to close your account with them online. They let you open an account without ever requiring a phone call or a personal contact, but to close your account, you must call their number. They say it is to secure your account, but if my credential submission online is secure enough for me to use the site and the data of mine that they hold, then it is secure enough to allow me to close the account without having to call. Of course, the requirement to call is to give them one last chance to pressure me into staying with their service.

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