As The People Skills Coach™, I use both positive and negative real life customer service stories to train Service Desk and Help Desk analysts, Customer Care teams, Customer Service Reps, and Contact Center agents.
The positive customer service stories define the model of great customer service behavior. The negative customer service stories address the emotional intelligence team members need to deliver memorable service.
Below are the 25 worst customer service stories of the 40 that I received in response to the question: What is the worst thing a customer service rep ever said to you?
If you own a business or are in a position of customer service leadership, ask yourself if any of your team members would act these ways?
The 25 Worst Customer Service Stories
- The foul language in this story is clearly wrong. Will your CSRs quickly identify the other critical error in this exchange? Here’s the story from Ron B: I had a problem with a new piece of electronic equipment and called for assistance. The first technician I talked with insisted that there was nothing wrong with his company’s equipment, that it must be my fault. When I explained that everything in the network had worked perfectly until I powered the new item up, he laughed at me. When I asked to talk to his supervisor, he responded with the infamous two letter expletive and hung up. I called back and spoke with a different tech who was able to resolve the problem in a matter of minutes and who then asked his supervisor to join us on the line. When I told the supervisor of my earlier experience, she asked me to give her one day so she could resolve the problem. She called back in less than fifteen minutes to tell me that she and the call center manager had reviewed the tape of the call, fired the original technician, and promoted the second one to a customer service training position. It went from being the worst customer service experience ever to one of the best in less than half an hour.
–Submitted by: Ron B.
- The story: I was trying to get some information from the local cable company, Comcast, about my bill. I couldn’t understand the different groupings of channels which had no explanation just names like Extended Package. She couldn’t explain it and kept getting the same channels in different groupings. I said, very politely, “I don’t understand your explanation, is there someone else who can explain it to me so I will understand it.” She replied: “You’re stupid.” Then she hung up.
–Submitted by: Elaine B.
- “You’re not following our process.” Sadly, this was said to a customer by one of my own CSRs. This was a wake-up call for sure.
–Submitted by: Drew J.
- “I’m sorry, but that’s our Policy and I’m not connecting you with my supervisor.”
This reply is anathema to the reason for customer service — to serve the customer (the person with the $$$ they want). I could care less about their policies. My policy is that I don’t do business with companies that don’t treat me with respect and give me value for my money. If something doesn’t work, then just fix it. If you don’t know – then say “I don’t know, but let me find out for you.” Companies are run by humans and humans make mistakes. I don’t judge them badly because they make a mistake. It’s how they resolve the mistake that matters.
–Submitted by: David G.
- Can you believe this interaction? Here’s the story: In our large grocery store, I asked about the cinnamon buns that were in the sample dome. The employee I asked said that they were very fattening and I could do with losing some weight!
–Submitted by: Andrew F.
- I explained to a computer company rep that I had 12 new laptops that would not power on no matter what I did. His answer to me was “What do you want me to do about it?” I said excuse me? He clarified by saying “if they don’t power on I can’t trouble shoot them and if they aren’t powering on, it has to be something you did to them that made them not work.” I still have nightmares.
–Submitted by: Liz M.
- “You will have to go online to and fix this.” I replied “Seriously? I am talking to customer service – a real live human being and you can’t do a thing for me? “Yes ma’am, you need to go online to do this.” So I asked her, “What, exactly, do you do?” Silence.
–Submitted by: Shelly S.
- It’s not our fault that you have this problem – it’s yours.” (Big Insurance Company in the UK)
–Submitted by: Ian T.
- I’m still fuming from my experience with an online site for booking airfares this morning.. Woke up sick as a dog, needing to catch a flight at 7:00. I’ve probably booked one hundred flights through this company’s site and I have always paid the $20.00 insurance if changes ever come up, including unexpected illness. I have never actually used this insurance but was happy to have it until I was told from ABC Airline: “I’m sorry, there’s nothing we can do for you.” And, then again from online booking site, “I’m sorry, there’s nothing we can do for you.” Lesson learned. Don’t buy insurance from an online booking site or better yet avoid this one altogether.
–Submitted by: Anonymous
- Is this stupidity or lack of caring? The story: A pharmacy rep refused to authorize one of my meds. When I told her I had been waiting 2 weeks and explained the effects of not having them, she said ”maybe you should see a doctor about these new symptoms.”
–Submitted by: Denise C.
- Are your reps so busy following scripts that they don’t listen? Here’s the story: My father passed away. I called a credit card company to cancel his account. I said, “My name is Debra. My father Pat passed away and I am the Executor of the Estate. I am calling to cancel his account.”
The rep replied, “Well, I need to talk to Pat.” I said, “Listen very carefully. He’s DEAD – now if you want to talk to him, you’ll have to figure out how to. GIVE ME YOUR SUPERVISOR!” The Supervisor got on the phone and I said, “Do you have a connection with God?” She cracked up laughing – she had heard about the conversation.
– Submitted by: Deborah B.
- I called computer printer company’s customer service about my new printer that wouldn’t interface with my computer even though the company swore it would easily work. After hours of being on hold and being told that I had obviously done something wrong or just couldn’t understand, the rep told me “Yeah, really not my problem, lady.” So I contacted the computer company. They figured out the problem – and were nice.
–Submitted by: Julie G.
- My favorite bad customer service response was “it is working as designed” after the support agent was able to duplicate an obvious bug/error in a popular word processing program.
–Submitted by: Tom M.
- “You should buy one of those bust reducing bras from (another company).” This was said by one of the stick thin pre-pubescent staff in the clothing store I was in. This is customer service? I don’t think so!
–Submitted by: Emma C.
- Is this the new version of customer self-service ? The story: I was checking out at WalMart, with my elderly Mom and small kids in tow. A pair of $8 shoes I was buying rang up for $10. I questioned the clerk on the price at which time she said “No they rang up for $10. “You can go back there and check it yourself”. I wasn’t about to do that, so I just settled up for the $10. grrrr. Got home and pulled the shoes out of the box and guess what. The actual price tag on the shoes said $8! Next day I went back to customer service and happened to be waited on by the same clerk at which time she said, ”That wasn’t my fault; it was the cash register. I can’t help you”. I had to find the store manager to get the issue resolved. He not only gave me all my money back, but he let me keep the shoes.
–Submitted by: Amanda K.
- I had spent well over 3 hours on the phone with customer service/tech. support, having been repeatedly put on hold, transferred, and disconnected. I called back after yet another disconnection after being on hold for several minutes. The person who answered started to go into their script, asking me for irrelevant information. I told the person that I just needed to be connected to XYZ because I had been disconnected after being on the phone with them for over three hours. The rep went to a very long speech about how he’d be happy to transfer me. I didn’t need a speech. I just needed him to transfer me. I told him this. He repeated the speech. His scripted, “inhuman courteousness” just made me angry and hate the company.
–Submitted by: Joe S.
- Have your reps ever said this? “There is nothing I can do for you.” I asked for a supervisor and they told me that the supervisor will tell me the same thing!
–Submitted by: Sahar A.
- This one is beyond belief — yet true. Here’s the story: I was hosting a party for 150 people and needed catering prices 7 weeks prior to the party to review bids, select caterer, or determine another venue. I had a drop-dead due date and explained that. When I contacted the caterer for prices because they hadn’t contacted me by the morning of the due date, my main contact was on vacation and left no information. I was fuming. Obviously, they did not get my business. When I finally reached the caterer to determine how they could have made such an error, he said “I decided you didn’t need it by your due date.” I was appalled. How could they decide my due date? I did contact the management office and heads did roll. This was not lost business from this one event, but there were 5 hosts involved (their friends) and word of mouth travels fast. While management appreciated my comments, they were foolish in not throwing me some type of bone to offset the situation. In a world where it’s tough to get business, this is not acceptable.
–Submitted by: Lisa R.
- “ya wesd rufj dimn uklod doodop” In other words, the worst customer service ever was delivered by someone who spoke no comprehensible English. I’ve heard it hundreds of times to lesser degrees, but in one case it was entirely incomprehensible. When will these companies learn that customer service agents need to actually be comprehensible in the language they are supposedly supporting?
–Submitted by: John B.
- How would your reps reply to this request? Here’s the story: I lost my cable service for 3 days. Apparently, it was a system wide failure and thousands of customers were affected. During the course of my conversation, I said something like “Please just credit me for 3 days worth of service.” The rep said, “We can’t do that. Do you know how much it would cost us if we credited everyone for the past three days?”
–Submitted by: Phil F.
- “I am sorry but that’s our policy”. Even if the rep says it politely, this is a statement that can tick anybody off. Such a statement exudes rigidity and inflexibility, which is the last thing a customer wants to hear when he/she calls customer service with a genuine problem. This statement, if used too many times by a customer service agent during a call, would generally lead to an escalation or loss of a customer which indicates the poor performance of the agent.
–Submitted by: Om D.
- Have you taught your reps the difference between professional and personal behavior? Here’s the story: I was speaking with a customer service representative about a problem I was having. I said, “I know it’s not your fault.” She said, “That’s right. It’s not my fault.” She is the representative of a company. She should accept responsibility even if it’s not her personal fault!
–Submitted by: Randi B.
- Here’s one of the recent nightmares I lived through. There was a charge on my Citibank Mastercard from a vendor who renewed my $400 membership without asking me. I spoke with the vendor and he agreed to send a credit into the credit card company for the charge. Since the credit card bill was due in 15 days, I called the credit card company to ensure that I wouldn’t have to pay $400 up front only to have it credited back later. The rep who answered the phone went into his long drawn out scripted answer. I asked to speak with a supervisor and after waiting on hold, the supervisor started another scripted answer. I said, “I am a busy person and I just need a simple direct answer instead of the script.” He replied: “I am sorry you called when you were busy. We are open 24 hours a day.” I stopped using that card. I will not give my money to a company whose representatives communicate sarcastically and blame me for their slow scripted service.
–Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™
- I had a credit card and somehow after a year the bank changed my zip code and I didn’t get the bill. When they called I explained I never got a bill. After we found the issue I asked for a refund of the late fee. Though I got it eventually I was initially told, ”You are responsible for your bill, we only send the statement as a convenience to you.”
–Submitted by: Shawn D.
- What would your reps say if they had difficulty communicating with a customer? Would they sound like this rep who acted as if she was the sergeant in charge. Here’s the story: A rep at a big box cable company in the Midwest said to me: “You’re not listening to me. “
–Submitted by: Linda L.
If you are a business owner, customer service leader, manager, or supervisor, consider using customer service stories during team meetings for continuous learning and improvement. As a customer service leader you may be surprised at what you hear from your teams.
If their discussion focuses primarily on the customer’s behavior, your reps and analysts may need additional training on their customer care attitude and emotional intelligence. If instead they quickly acknowledge that the service was far below par, ask them specifically how they would handle that same scenario. To punctuate the training, ask each team member to state one step they will take that day to give outstanding customer service.
The key training topics from these customer service stories include emotional intelligence, customer care attitude, listening skills, the perilous effects of procedur-itis, ownership, and clear communication. I would be pleased to work with you as you take your team members to the heights of customer service excellence.
From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™
21 Customer Service Tips to Make It Easy for Customers
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Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.
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