6 Examples of Bad to Terrible Customer Service (& How Your Team Can Do Better!) (2023)

Most businesses would agree that customer service plays a key role in a company's growth and development. However, how the organization chooses to approach their customer service can significantly vary for each industry. There's no one-size-fits-all blueprint for delivering excellent customer service and sometimes brands fall short when trying to improve their customer's experience.

6 Examples of Bad to Terrible Customer Service (& How Your Team Can Do Better!) (1)

Some customer service blunders are easy to understand, others leave customers shaking their heads and wondering what the company was thinking in the first place. While these interactions are often worth a few good laughs, these extreme cases of bad customer service occur much more often than one may think. In fact, in the next section, we collected a list of some of the most common examples of bad customer service that businesses will want to be aware of.

Stories of Poor Customer Service

No company is perfect, and every business is going to make occasional mistakes when working with unhappy customers. It's no easy task to diffuse someone who's highly frustrated, leaving customer service reps very little room for error when dealing with an angry customer. Even the most successful brands can be susceptible to having a bad customer service moment if they aren't focused on the customer's success.

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Companies who want to prevent these instances from affecting their business will need to know what bad customer service looks like and how they can overcome it. Take a look at some of the most common bad customer service examples as well as the recommended steps for avoiding them.

1. Prioritizing company policy above the customer needs.

As companies grow, they often need to add more internal structure that helps manage and regulate the business. This often comes in the form of corporate policies or rules that are put in place to ensure a consistent customer experience. However, sometimes the rules that are designed to benefit the business can act as roadblocks to the customer's success.

For example, an article by Business Insider highlights a notable complaint made against a large retail brand. This customer found that a product was priced higher in the store than it was marked online. When he asked an employee to match the cheaper price, the employee denied his request due to the company's policies.

What's frustrating about this case is that the customer presented a clear opportunity for the business to provide above-and-beyond-customer service. Instead, this decision led to not only an unsatisfied customer but also a viral news story that influenced thousands of potential leads. Customers trust a company that's dedicated to fulfilling their needs, and sometimes bending the rules is a great way to build customer loyalty.

2. Mismanaging social media.

Social media is still a relatively new tool for businesses, and many companies have yet to master its constantly evolving nature. Customers, on the other hand, are pioneering social media trends and are expecting brands to keep up with their fast-moving pace.

Some companies have real trouble staying up-to-date on their social media channels, especially when it comes to addressing the customer service aspect. These businesses often provide inhumane or insincere responses to customer feedback and consistently miss opportunities to address negative comments or posts.

In one case, a major phone provider was asked by one of its Twitter followers if customer service reps could see user passwords. The company replied, "Yes" and went on to explain in detail how passwords were stored in their security system. While this may have been an act of transparency on their part, this created a major security issue for the company's users. Three days after the incident, the company took steps to change its policy to protect all of its customers' passwords. Here's one of the threads related to the incident:

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6 Examples of Bad to Terrible Customer Service (& How Your Team Can Do Better!) (3)

Source: PCMag.com

Businesses who haven't added customer service measures to their social media channels tend to be vulnerable to social media crises like these. Companies need to make a concerted investment into social media customer service as well as a gameplan for any potential mishaps. Customer service reps should constantly monitor social media channels and respond to customer feedback as quickly as possible. Customer service tools can help reps expand their bandwidth and better manage these channels without neglecting their phone and email queues. Having trained customer service and support employees working on this medium is a great way to avoid a major social media crisis.

3. Ignoring customer feedback.

Between the internet and social media, customers and brands are connected 24/7, opening more avenues for customers to offer their feedback. Since customers are aware that businesses are privy to their complaints, ignoring them is always worse than acknowledging them. A lack of response signals to customers that the company not only doesn't care about their opinion but, also doesn't value their contribution to the business.

Some airlines have a notorious reputation for mishandling customer feedback. In one case, a customer tweeted at the airline about lost luggage, and it took about eight hours for their social media team to respond. Additionally, their response was confusing and demonstrated a lack of competency for the social media site. The thread listed below was seen by over 76K users, and the story was even featured on multiple news websites.

6 Examples of Bad to Terrible Customer Service (& How Your Team Can Do Better!) (4)

Source: Userlike

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This case is an excellent example of why response time is so important in the tech-driven age. Customers can upload messages to public forums which can instantly influence thousands of potential leads. It's important to respond to these messages quickly because of the revenue impact it can make on a business. In fact, Twitter found that airlines that respond to tweets within 6 minutes are likely to make $20 more from the customer who wrote the tweet.

By responding to customer feedback in a timely manner, your customer service team can satisfy frustrated customers by fixing small problems before they turn into bigger ones.

4. Waiting on hold for too long.

Nobody wants to be put on hold, and it can be the most frustrating roadblock for customers who have time-sensitive problems. In fact, studies show that 15% of customers hang up after being on hold for only 40 seconds. That doesn't give the customer service rep much time at all to look into a complicated case. Customers now expect to get their answers immediately, putting increasing pressure on businesses to minimize their hold times.

One persistent customer put a company's phone line to the test after being placed on a lengthy hold. After waiting on hold for two hours, the customer decided to wait and see how long the business would keep him on the line. 15 hours later, the call was finally pushed through and notified him that his original request (which put him on hold in the first place) had been denied due to an error. The customer was able to call back and correct his issue, but the company claims they have no documentation of this call.

Whether this was ignorance or a faulty phone system, it's still an example of bad customer service. In this case, the customer will need to be fully reimbursed for the time he spent waiting on the phone. The company should even thank him for pointing out a flaw in their customer support system. Next, the company should consider additional ways to help customers connect with the support team. They may want to consider implementing customer service tools, like HubSpot's Service Hub, that can help the team efficiently manage their different support queues. Whether it's a social media channel or an email inbox, offering multiple communication channels is an important component in making businesses more accessible to customers.

5. Compromising the customer's personal privacy.

Every customer defines privacy in their own way. Some customers are willing to share more, while others hold information closer to themselves. While it's valuable to know more about your target audience, brands should make their customers feel protected when they share their personal information. Gaining the trust of customers is the first step to improving customer loyalty.

A common example of companies compromising their customers' personal privacy is vocalizing a denied credit card. Cashiers and clerks will see that a credit card isn't being approved and will blurt out "Your card is declined," for the whole store to hear. That can be highly traumatic for a customer who may not be aware of the status of the card and is more than capable of paying for their items. Even if the customer has another card they can use, that type of outburst can dissuade people from returning to the same store.


In industries like retail and food service, this type of scenario happens every day and is always difficult to approach as a customer service rep. When it does, it's important for reps to remain calm and make a point to not draw other customers' attention to the interaction. Customer service reps should be mindful of their vernacular to avoid saying anything that may come off as an assumption or a judgment. Instead of saying "Your card was denied," try something subtler like "your card doesn't seem to be going through." It may take a few more awkward swipes, but more often than not the customer will either pay with a different card or politely step out of the line.

6. Providing incompetent chat support.

For many customer service teams, live chat can be a tricky medium for providing customer support and service. It's highly efficient and can reduce phone queues but contains built-in roadblocks that prevent the customer service rep from truly connecting with the customer. Sometimes it can be difficult for experienced phone reps to transition to a chat channel because of the differences in soft skills required to be successful. Chat support demands writing proficiency as well as the ability to multi-task on two or three problems at once.

One example of poor chat support is from a customer who was worried about a phishing scam sent to his personal inbox. The company's chat rep in return sent confusing responses that seemed to indicate that the customer should delete his inbox altogether. When the customer tries to clarify the steps recommended, the rep terminates the chat before sending another response. Below is the transcript that was taken from the interaction.

6 Examples of Bad to Terrible Customer Service (& How Your Team Can Do Better!) (5)

Source: Userlike

The biggest problem with this chat conversation is that at no point does it feel like a fluid conversation between two people. In fact, it's hard to even tell if the rep is a bot or a human. Since live chat can't portray a tone of voice, it's important that customer service reps focus on sounding like a human when working on chat. Messages in chat can easily be perceived differently by each customer, so reps need to work extra hard to provide clear and understandable answers. Reps should describe all of the steps being taken on their side, and then use tools like images and screen shares to clarify confusing issues.

To learn more about improving the customer experience, read about customer experience strategy next.

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Topics: Customer Support


6 Examples of Bad to Terrible Customer Service (& How Your Team Can Do Better!)? ›

Take a look at some of the most common bad customer service examples as well as the recommended steps for avoiding them.
  • Prioritizing company policy above the customer needs. ...
  • Mismanaging social media. ...
  • Ignoring customer feedback. ...
  • Waiting on hold for too long. ...
  • Compromising the customer's personal privacy.
Feb 22, 2019

How can you improve bad customer service? ›

1. Strengthen your customer service skills
  1. Empathy, patience and consistency. Some customers will be irate. ...
  2. Adaptability. Every customer is different, and some may even seem to change week-to-week. ...
  3. Clear communication. Ensure you convey to customers exactly what you mean. ...
  4. Work ethic. ...
  5. Knowledge. ...
  6. Thick skin.

How do you respond to terrible customer service? ›

10 Effective Ways to Respond to Poor Customer Service
  1. Talk to someone on the phone.
  2. Send an email if you can't get someone on the phone.
  3. Call the company out on social media.
  4. Be kind and respectful.
  5. Ask to speak to a supervisor.
  6. Work toward a resolution.
  7. Ask for a refund.

How can you turn a bad customer experience into a good one? ›

Nine Ways to Turn Negative Customers into Positive Ones
  1. Be accessible.
  2. Fix it fast.
  3. Train staff to truly listen, and analyze the customer's complaint.
  4. Understand the true nature of the problem.
  5. Show true customer support.
  6. Offer a free replacement.
  7. Get creative.
  8. No excuses. Solutions.

What is a bad customer? ›

Bad customers are still customers after all, and they've willingly agreed to give you their money. As profitable and valuable as loyal customers are, bad customers can be equally as damaging. They're costly to service in both dollars and hours, and in the end they're likely to damage your brand and reputation.

Who has bad customer service? ›

Comcast, the television provdider, was voted as the worst rated company for customer service in the United States in 2020, receiving the largest share of negative responses (44 percent). Second in the list came Well Fargo and DIRECTV, with 41 percent of respondents to the survey complaining about poor customer service.

How can you improve customer service in the workplace? ›

5 Great Ways to Improve Customer Service in the Workplace
  1. Keep Company Communication Transparent. First and foremost, it is important to keep team communication consistent and clear. ...
  2. Make Customer Conversations Personal. ...
  3. Provide Timely Customer Service. ...
  4. Encourage Customer Feedback. ...
  5. Automate Customer Service Solutions.
Dec 10, 2019

How can employees improve customer service? ›

Here are eight tips to guide you.
  1. Hire problem-solvers. ...
  2. Empower employees to solve problems on their own. ...
  3. Encourage active listening. ...
  4. Invest in training and development. ...
  5. Support wide-ranging company knowledge. ...
  6. Talk to your employees. ...
  7. Model patience and empathy. ...
  8. Make customer service everybody's job.

How can we avoid bad service? ›

Ways To Fix Bad Customer Service
  1. Do not mislead with wrong information: ...
  2. Show utmost respect to your clients: ...
  3. Return messages as soon as possible. ...
  4. Listen to what they have to say. ...
  5. Don't suffocate them. ...
  6. Exude Self-Assuredness. ...
  7. Always remember that the customer is always right. ...
  8. Loads of money.
Sep 15, 2021

How do you deal with rude customer service staff? ›

Apologize for the mistake or problem and offer to fix it. Don't take insults personally. Don't go on the defensive, don't argue – stay calm and professional to try to de-escalate the incident. Call manager for help if you can't resolve the situation or if the customer continues to be rude.

What do you say when a customer has a bad experience? ›

Thank you for your review. I'm sorry to hear you had a frustrating experience, but I really appreciate you bringing this issue to my attention.” “Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We're sorry you had a bad experience.

Why customer service is so bad? ›

Despite promises companies make to treat people well, customers don't seem to be buying it. There's some evidence that customer queues may be unavoidable at times. Caller complaints tend to arrive randomly, making it impossible to staff agents to handle unpredictable fluctuations in call volume.

Why working in customer service is bad? ›

1. There's a lot of pressure on customer service representatives. Pavlic and Curtis say the reason customer service representatives have such bad experiences is that it's one of the worst jobs in the world. They say it's no surprise that some overworked and lowly paid representatives lash out at their own customers.

How does bad customer service affect a business? ›

Poor customer service will often reduce the number of customers interacting with a business. Fewer customers will cause a loss in profit for any business. Loss of business may also force a company to attempt to save money.

How can you improve your work performance? ›

13 ways to improve performance at work
  1. Limit distractions. This is a tip many people know but rarely follow: limit your potential distractions. ...
  2. Set milestones. ...
  3. Set clear and achievable goals. ...
  4. Avoid multitasking. ...
  5. Improve your time management. ...
  6. Do important tasks first. ...
  7. Delegate tasks whenever possible. ...
  8. Clear your workspace.
May 26, 2022

What are the 7 steps of customer service? ›

Seven Steps to Improving Your Customer Service
  • Understand Your Customers. ...
  • Don't Offer Silos of Communication Choices. ...
  • Empower Agents With Good Information. ...
  • Focus on the Agent Experience. ...
  • Pay Attention to Your Knowledge Strategy. ...
  • Harness Your Customer Community. ...
  • Listen to Your Customers.
Mar 19, 2013

What are 3 causes of customer service failure? ›

The 5 main causes of poor customer service include hiring the wrong people, lack of training, employee burnout, misunderstanding customer expectations, and lack of employee engagement.

What should you avoid to prevent bad customer service? ›

How to avoid it: Be empathetic with your customers, regardless of fault. Don't point fingers or place blame. Instead, train your agents to listen to your customer's issue and find a resolution that benefits both the customer and your company.

What are the disadvantages of bad customer service? ›

5 Ways Bad Customer Service Affects Your Business
  • Reputation Damage. ...
  • Leads That Don't Convert. ...
  • Loss of Your Best Employees. ...
  • Loss of Customers (Both Current and Future) ...
  • Loss of Profits. ...
  • Don't Let Bad Customer Service Break Your Business.

Why is customer service so bad now 2022? ›

"Continued changes in 2022, including macro-economic pressures, supply chain problems, and a labor shortage threaten to deal a wallop to vulnerable companies as customers switch providers in a quest to find better service."

What causes poor customer service? ›

The 5 main causes of poor customer service include hiring the wrong people, lack of training, employee burnout, misunderstanding customer expectations, and lack of employee engagement.

What are the 3 most important things in customer service? ›

Essentially, the 3 important qualities of customer service center around three “p”s: professionalism, patience, and a “people-first” attitude. Although customer service varies from customer to customer, as long as you're following these guidelines, you're on the right track.

How do you know a bad client? ›

5 Signs of Bad Clients & How To Deal With Them
  1. Bad clients request special treatment. You've just landed a new client, and they're already asking for special treatment. ...
  2. Bad talk about other service providers. ...
  3. You don't see eye to eye on anything. ...
  4. Boundaries are never respected. ...
  5. The relationship becomes too personal.

Why is customer service important? ›

Customer service is important to your business because it retains customers and extracts more value from them. By providing top-notch customer service, businesses recoup customer acquisition costs and cultivate a loyal following that refers customers, serves as case studies, and provides testimonials and reviews.

Why is customer service so bad in India? ›

Taking too long to resolve problems (21 per cent) and unknowledgeable staff that cannot help (20 per cent) were two main reasons cited for poor consumer service experience. Also, nearly half of the Indian respondents said that customer service is more important than price for buying a product.

What's new in customer service? ›

Machine learning, emerging customer service trends 2022 can help organizations in improving overall customer experience. Chat applications powered by artificial intelligence are trending. Large organizations, as well as startups, are leveraging this to reduce costs and improve support for customers.

How can poor customer service affect staff? ›

Poor customer service typically results in fewer customers, which translates into lower sales and profits for your business. This can initiate a vicious cycle in which a company tries to save money on staffing or customer service training, which makes service levels spiral downward even further.

What are the 7 qualities of good customer service? ›

7 Must-Have Qualities of a Stellar Customer Service Rep
  • Problem-Solving Skills. The number one skill you need to excel in for good customer service is problem-solving. ...
  • Clear Communication. ...
  • Friendly Attitude. ...
  • Empathy. ...
  • Business Acumen. ...
  • Product/Service Knowledge. ...
  • Strong Time Management.

How can you improve service? ›

How to Improve Customer Service
  1. Understand customer needs. ...
  2. Seek and promote customer feedback. ...
  3. Set and communicate clear service standards. ...
  4. Delight your customers by exceeding their expectations. ...
  5. Capture and share examples of great service. ...
  6. Create easy and effortless customer service. ...
  7. Personalise your customer service.

What are the 5 qualities of customer service? ›

What are the most important customer service qualities?
  • They are loyal. ...
  • Good employee traits. ...
  • They are natural problem-solvers. ...
  • They are highly conscientious. ...
  • They are persuasive.
Sep 9, 2018

How do you get rid of bad customers? ›

Tips on How to Politely Get Rid of a Client
  1. Identify the client you want to get rid of and why.
  2. Try to Provide a Solution or Remedy First.
  3. Check your Agreement and Contracts with the Client.
  4. Inform the Client of your Decision.
  5. Apologize for any Wrongdoings.
  6. Refer or Recommend other Businesses to Them.


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