Five examples of bad customer service

You don’t need a PhD in marketing to know that good customer service is essential. If people have got as far as handing over money in response to your offer then they should be made to feel as good about it as possible.

So why is it that on at least five occasions in the last month I have been left feeling like a dupe?

Here are 5 real life examples of bad customer service as experienced by me.

  1. First up the AA breakdown service. As I stood by the side of the M1 motorway with my entire family wrapped in blankets the telephone operator attempted to locate me. ‘So you’re on the M1, is that clockwise or anti clockwise?’ My problem? Ignorance. The M1 is the UK’s oldest north/south motorway. Upshot ? She sent the truck to the wrong place.
  2. In at number 2, Strada Pizza. They refused to take a two for one voucher at a restaurant in Center Parcs despite there being nothing on the voucher to say that this offer was restricted. When I wrote to their head office to complain I do not get a reply. Result? A very unhappy customer who has not been heard.
  3. Daniels Department store. In their favour I will say straight up that they did give me my money back. Thank you. However, the assistant argued with me for a long, long time about it. I was returning a £6 toy which was badly made and didn’t really work. They argued that this was simply how they were made and so it was my choice/my loss. Result? I decided to go to John Lewis next time because they are always nice to me when I take things back. (Note to self; fighting with  shop assistants is a skill. I think I did ok.)
  4. Tenpin Bowling. Booking an hours bowling with my family should be simple. It’s not. They have a website which I found personally to be so twistedly unusable that I was actually crying when I came off. I circled one particular task 3 times before getting it right. Despite the fact that it kept telling me that I was going to be saving money by booking online I felt that I was being offered no discount when then the final total came up and I had been made to do all the work. Complain? You can call our 10p a minute phone line. No thanks. So now they think I am a satisfied customer. I am not.
  5. Opticians Dollond and Aitchison. I once took my youngest daughter to get her eyes checked. She was  fine. We used D and A because they have a reputation for quality service and the service was indeed good. But for several years now they have been mailing me letters telling me that I must bring my daughter in for a check up. The more I do nothing the more irritating letters I seem to get. The message behind these mail shots is that by ignoring them I am risking my daughter’s health. I resent the suggestion. It may only be perceived on my part but it’s enough for me to know I won’t use them again. A friend has had exactly the same experience so, don’t do it D and A, you are losing customers.

Listening to customers is one of the most valuable things a business can do. For all I know every one of the companies above thinks they are doing a really great job. It is up to us to tell them that they are not.

Thanks for reading. If you found this content useful I would love to work on blog posts with you. Sharing useful content is one of the best ways to improve your customers’ experience. Together we could get your message out there. I use twitter and other social media to drasticaly improve your bottom line. One client has reported orders up 50% on last year since we started working together.

Click over to the About Me page or mail me Lucy.Thorpe@btconnect.com to find out more.

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5 responses to “Five examples of bad customer service

  1. One bad thing about treating your customers poorly is that they can make blog posts like this and share their frustrations with the world. Thank God for free communication and (hopefully) trying our best to keep these businesses in check!

    Great post!

    • I’ve had a call from Ten Pin Bowling offering to hear my concerns via a phoneline that doesn’t cost 10p a day. The call came within 24 hours of my complaint. So well done to them.
      (I still find their website confusing though.)

  2. I like the way you voiced your opinion very clearly on your blog. However I see myself as a customer to some companies yet in my work I have to provide customer service. I do agree that yes, some places do have employees who seem more worried about the end of the day than doing their job correctly, yet I still don’t think its the business fault in most instances. If a business hires someone who seems very skilled and perfect for that position and the person turns out to be a lazy and unpolite person well, the business has certain options at its disposal but they can’t just sack that person like that. Its unlawful. But customer’s seem to once again forget that.
    What customer’s seem to forget is that, nowadays people expect a lot more for a lot less. Where I live, a shop does not have to give refunds. And we get a lot of people complaining about that. We offer credit notes or exchanges. I just don’t see why someone would want to bring an item back that they chose themselves unless its faulty. You chose it, you took it home (i work in jewellers by the way), you probably wore it and yet you come back wanting a refund. Let’s look at examples of bad customers also… not just at bad customer service… A true story was that a customer at a shop in the US had requested to take a necklace home for her husband who was always too busy to be able to come into shop to see. This necklace was worth in the region of £7k. Because the lady was a regular customer of the shop (little bits here and there) for a few years the manager agreed as long as a small deposit was left. This was on a Saturday. On Monday, she returns the necklace, wanting her deposit back, because her husband really didn’t like it and so it was. 2 days later, there is a socialite column with pictures on the local paper… She was photgraphed at a party wearing the necklace…
    So, if we refuse to offer a refund, we are offering a bad service… yet can customer’s (like yourself) tell us (the customer service agent) on how you’d like us to tell you the reasons why shops have certain policies in place (like to avoid the example above – she could have bought the necklace and returned it for a refund afterwards) but in a way in which we won’t offend you?
    Many customer’s simply seem to enjoy the idea of complaining and complaining… and sometimes don’t see to realise that the sales assistant, for example, isn’t that dumb… If you broke a crystal ring (lets mention Swarovski rings)…then don’t just go back to the shop “it just came apart in my hand”… Its OBVIOUS you did something to the ring, either knocked it or dropped it or so… But when the sales assistant tries to explain that a crystal ring “doesn’t just come apart”, they are offering bad service…
    I just have to say…there are ALWAYS 2 sides to each story…

  3. Number 5 is hilarious because I can completely relate. My optician constantly overwhelms my mailbox with horror stories of how not getting eye exams will result in horrendous scenarios to my vision.

    Listen, I’m sure the scare tactics work for many people (after all, it IS marketing) but for someone like me who has anxiety, it’s just irritating and makes me harbor negative feelings about the sender.

    Nice post and yes – it’s all very true by example.

  4. Howdy! This is my 1st comment here so I just wanted
    to give a quick shout out and say I really enjoy reading your posts.

    Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that deal
    with the same subjects? Thank you!

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