How to avoid a customer service disaster (lessons and examples)

min read

The easiest way to lose your customers is through broken trust and bad customer service. Here’s how you can avoid it.


No company is perfect, and there will be some situations where businesses make the occasional mistake. Customer service falls prey to this often - it’s no easy task to diffuse a situation with someone who is frustrated, leaving customer service reps little room for error when dealing with an angry customer. 

Even the most successful brands can be vulnerable to poor customer service if they are not focused on customer success. As a company with an online presence, customer service failure can spread like wildfire, going viral within a day. You need to know how to deliver good customer service to avoid the potential for negative publicity that can sink your company. It is essential to know what poor customer service looks like and how they can overcome it to prevent these instances from happening. 

In this blog, we’ll go over some examples of terrible customer service and what you can do to learn from them. 

Examples of bad customer service (and the lessons that come with it)

Prioritizing company policy over customer needs 

As companies grow, they need to put internal structures that help them manage and regulate the business. This often comes in corporate policies to ensure consistent customer service. 

However, sometimes the rules designed for the benefit of the business can act as roadblocks to the customer's needs.

For example, we have a customer who complains about a product price marked higher in-store than it was online. When this was brought to customer service, the employee denied the customer’s request to match the lower price due to the business policies.

This is a frustrating situation because the customer presents customer service with the opportunity to apply above and beyond customer service. Instead, this decision led to an unsatisfied customer and a viral news story that affected thousands of possible leads. 

Customers tend to trust businesses that are dedicated to fulfilling their needs. Sometimes, bending the rules can be the answer to customer loyalty. 

Mismanaging social media 

Although social media has been around for a while, it is still a fairly new tool for businesses. On the other hand, customers have been using social media for a longer time, meaning they have power over dictating social media trends. With this, customers also expect businesses to keep up with the fast-paced world of social media. 

This can lead to bad customer service tactics. For example, there was a case where a major phone company explained, in detail, how customer passwords were stored in their security systems. While this may have had a good intention, this created massive issues for customers and their security. 

Companies need to make sure they have a concerted investment in social media management to avoid social media crises. What to post, what not to post, and most importantly, how to meaningfully connect with their customers. 

Ignoring customer feedback

Then, if they are able to reach you, the next mistake you could make is ignoring their feedback. Between the internet and social media, customers have access to your brand 24/7. Customers are aware that businesses are privy to their complaints and feedback, ignoring the problem is worse than acknowledging it. 

Lack of response signals to the customer that the company doesn’t care about their opinion and doesn’t value their unique contribution to the business. 

For example, there was a case a few years ago where a customer complained about lost luggage to an airline. It took their social media team eight hours to respond to the request. In addition, after taking so long, their response was also confusing and demonstrated a lack of efficiency from the side of the business. 

In a tech-driven age, quick and efficient response time is essential. Taking a long time to respond to requests can affect revenue and hurt prospective leads. Quick response time allows your business to fix small problems before they become big ones.

Waiting too long for service 

Being put on hold is one of the most frustrating experiences for customers, especially if their issues are time-sensitive. There is increased pressure on businesses right now to limit their hold times. 

There is a case where a customer put a business to the test. After being on hold for 2 hours, the customer decided to wait and see how long this would really take. 15 hours later, the call was finally put through - only for the customer to be notified that their request had been denied due to some kind of error. The customer was able to call back and solve the issue in the end, but the company - an airline company - claims to have no documentation of this call. 

This is a perfect example of pretty horrid customer service. Not only did the customer have to wait more than half a day to reach the company, but they couldn’t solve the issue on the first try. This creates feelings of distrust and will most likely result in the company losing loyalty because it doesn’t seem like they care at all about their customer’s needs. 

Incompetent chat support 

In another case of customers wanting to connect with a company, live chat can be useful for businesses. However, things can go awry if your support team isn’t up to speed on how to help your customers meaningfully. 

For example, there was a case of a customer who was concerned about a phishing scam in their inbox. The chat rep in question seemed to imply that instead of trying to resolve the issue, the customer should delete their inbox altogether. When the customer tried to clarify the steps the rep recommended, the chat was suspended before the rep sent another response. 

When reading the chat email, you can see that it doesn’t even feel like a fluid conversation between two people. In fact, the rep is unclear and doesn’t show concern for the issue the customer brought forward. Messages can easily be perceived differently by each customer, and reps need to be transparent in their roles and steps to make sure each customer is helped accordingly. 

Good customer service is success

The metrics in measuring your customer service allow you to pinpoint their challenges and make changes that address them. If a company stays stagnant in the ways they do things, it is likely that they are going to lose customer loyalty. 

Here are some metrics to take into consideration when measuring customer service quality:

  • Customer satisfaction score: This score tells you how satisfied customers are with your business. 
  • Average response time: This measures the time between the customer initiating a conversation and your agents responding. This is an essential metric, as it is one of the most prevalent customer complaints. 
  • First contact resolution: This measures the efficiency of your support team - do they fix the issue on the first call? It indicates the capability of your support team and if they are resolving issues at the first touchpoint. 
  • Number of touchpoints: This refers to the number of times the customer returns with the same complaint. 

In general, customers are looking to provide you with information that can help you improve your business. Fast and effective customer service that considers their needs will always put you forward as a leading brand in your industry. 

Deliver on your promises

Customer service is always based on trust between a customer with a problem, and their confidence in the company they’re dealing with. Once that trust is broken through bad customer service, you’ve lost them forever.

What does this teach us? Digital marketing and tools can have tremendous benefits for businesses of all sizes, but they depend on their use. Using ineffectively by incompetent people, digital marketing and customer service can hurt your brand more than help. On the other hand, it can bring in much value when handled correctly.

Getting the right partner is the first step toward effective digital communication and marketing. It saves you time, money and frustration and lets you find success even without deep knowledge in setting up online campaigns. We know how important digital tools are today for customer support, and how confusing it can be to those who don’t have the experience to apply it. As a small company, we’ve gone through this process ourselves and found a way to succeed. That’s why we’ve spent the last 12 years planning and implementing award-winning digital marketing and communication campaigns for B2B clients worldwide.

Contact us for a quick 30-minute meeting and we will present you with a digital marketing campaign plan with the right messages, channels, audience, and content to use, to assure your success online.