The Best of the Worst Customer Service

There are so many examples of truly horrible call center experiences out there. Just Google ‘worst customer service stories’ and browse through some of the 13.8 million results. As you read about some of these customer service incidents, believe me – the outrage will build:

The rep called you a what?
You weren’t allowed to speak to a supervisor?
And then they hung up…! 

Some of the examples are so bad, it’s no wonder 85% of consumers will retaliate against a business with terrible customer service. (49% say they will no longer do business with the Company, but perhaps even more worrisome for firms with bad customer service are the millennials – reported to be 3X more likely to vent on social media in front of…you guessed it…the entire world.)

The thing is – I’m generally a happy, positive person. It’s a trait that makes me a good fit for helping companies identify and fix the weak spots in their call center customer service operations.

It’s also why I shy away from simply sharing ‘worst of the worst’ examples. They can be real downers!

What I do enjoy are stories that show how companies have used these “worst of” circumstances as teachable moments. It’s a post-event measure of call center quality assurance, to be sure, but it’s reassuring that firms can (and do) learn from mistakes. As someone who lives and breathes call center QA, that’s downright affirmational!

I read a few such examples recently at Kate Nasser’s blog. These stories stood out because of the companies’ responses to terrible customer service. These are worth sharing, in spite of the rather awful stories that led to them.

  1. A customer calls for technical assistance with a new piece of electronic equipment, only to be told the problem is his fault. Further explanations are met with laughter, and a request to speak with a supervisor is met with an expletive and a hang-up.When the customer called back, he spoke with a different tech who quickly resolved the problem and asked the supervisor to join them on the call. The supervisor asked for one day to resolve the issues with the first call center tech. But less than 15 minutes later, the supervisor called back to explain they had reviewed the tape, fired the original tech and promoted the tech who had resolved the problem to a customer service training position.
  2. At a big box store, an $8 pair of shoes rings up for $10 – and the clerk won’t do anything at all to help, pointing to the register as the culprit. The customer returned the following day, and spoke with a manager who refunded the entire payment and gave the customer the shoes – a great outcome for sure, but one that necessitated a second trip. In both of these cases, the companies in question totally dropped the customer service ball at first touch – no question about it. But they also rose to the occasion after the fact to address the issue and hopefully prevent future episodes.

It goes largely unreported but it’s a fact: despite customer service screw-ups, most companies eventually do the right thing, and sometimes go above and beyond. The point being, someone in a position of authority recognized the problem and was empowered to fix it.

From the customer’s perspective, that can make all the difference. Statistics aside, we humans tend to be forgiving – especially if the offender gets the wake-up call and makes an honest commitment and effort to do better. But nevertheless, achieving a positive customer service outcome shouldn’t need to involve lengthy, drawn-out battles.

Are there any teachable moments you’d like to share about the best of the worst of customer service?