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SME Northamptonshire Business Awards 2019

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31 Oct 2019

Customer Service Horror Stories


Are you ready to be shocked and horrified?


While everyone knows what a difference excellent customer service makes to your business success, here are some really frightening examples that will give you bad dreams. Please don’t share this with anyone who has a ‘delicate’ disposition.


scary pumpkins

The joy of the journey or a nightmare

A bride-to-be in Australia, searching for bridesmaids’ dresses in a well-known store, wasn’t quite ready to make her choice. The sales assistant, clearly occupied by a sour spirit, said: “I knew you girls were a joke the minute you walked in!”


Understandably upset, the customer complained to Head Office. The really shocking part of this story is the response she received. She was told that the store focuses on “a very fashion forward customer” and that the sales assistant “knew you were not going to buy anything before you even left your house… and …there are plenty of shops that appease your taste”.


So, no Fairy Godmother in this tale. Reading customers’ minds isn’t a trick anyone should try.


The Twitter Twilight Zone

Twitter is a useful marketing tool for some businesses, who might even use it for customer service processes.


In New York, a community activist who was chased away from a bank by police decided to tweet a picture and mention the bank’s Twitter name. Unfortunately, the bank’s reply was automated, saying: “Thank you for contacting us. How can we help?”. This was shared widely, and people started sending all sorts of messages to the bank’s Twitter account to see what automatic response they would receive.


As a small business owner, you are lucky enough to personally know many of your customers. Don’t make them feel undervalued with irrelevant, unhelpful and obviously automated responses.


The darkest depths

One American ‘incredible technology’ company kept a customer who wanted to cancel their service on hold for three and a half hours. Another customer’s cancellation was refused by the representative, who demanded a reason for cancellation for eight minutes. Yet another cancelling customer posted a painful 30 minute extract of his fearsome four-hour cancellation call on You Tube.


It’s true that customer complaints can show you how to improve. This company has a long way to go.


Email jeopardy

A customer complaint resulted in a long exchange of internal emails and the boss became involved, sending a message that said: “Someone please tell her to **** off”. You don’t need a crystal ball to know what happened next; the customer was included in the email chain and posted the boss’s comment on Twitter.


Don’t underestimate the power of emails to cause offence and be sure who will be receiving yours.


The Overlook Hotel

Not quite ‘The Shining’, but one hotel tried to curse its guests with a $500 fine if they posted a bad review online. The story was spread far and wide on social media and their Facebook page received plenty of bad karma in return.


The hotel claimed it was a joke and spirited the policy away.


This really isn’t the way to say ‘we value your custom’ and nobody found it funny.


Enter the fifth dimension

Just like the Twilight Zone, you need imagination to deliver great customer service – not just to understand what works, but also to know what’s really bad.


Perfectly polished customer service is personal, so don’t leave it to automated phone messages or social media auto responses. If you have customer service policies, make sure they aren’t followed blindly.


To make your customer service exceptional talk to a Genie today. They know all the secret ingredients to make it an enchanting experience.


Jacqui Frost

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Jacqui Frost

Jacqui Frost

Chief Genie

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