Top 5 Customer Service Fails

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Top 5 Customer Service Fails

Written By Mr.Savvy

Lets face it, we are a consumer culture and everyone spends more time than they’d like to in the customer service line. Customer service is also a fairly common practice and you probably know someone who shares their customer horror stories. I’ve had several CSR jobs, oddly enough they all have roughly the same pro-customer policies and procedures. So why is being a customer with a problem so darn difficult? Here are some glaring customer service fails that often cost companies repeat business and definitely sour customer relations. After reading up on top 5 customer service fails, you can also visit Trevino Injury Law to read the most dangerous consumer products of 2021 in the US.


  1. HOLD– I like how they ask if they can put you on hold. I never tried saying “no.” You just assume that the holding is a necessary part of the process to get you what you need. Instead you are often volleyed from one department to another and asked to repeat info you’ve already given several times. I always think when I get transferred that the person I am being connected to will have some sort of insight into my situation. I know it’s silly, but it is a turn off to have to give details several times to all the wrong people. Isn’t this conversation supposed to be recorded? Sometimes I’m on hold so long I just give up, or worse I get dropped. That happened to me at a Walmart when I was calling around to find a store that carried a type of exercise equipment. After holding and bouncing around departments (even “Electronics”) I eventually got hung up on. After I tried again and went through essentially the same confusion they turned out to not have what I needed.
  2. PHONE TREES– Listen for your issue and press that number. Sounds harmless enough unless they don’t account for the reason your calling. Most phone trees are like a multiple choice pop quiz by a cranky sadistic homeroom teacher. At some point as you climb the tree comes the inevitable conclusion that you will need to at some point talk to a real person and that person will need to be able to help you. Sometimes the person that finally takes your call will have to transfer you to the correct terminal. Whatever works, right? But what if you can’t get through to anyone? I had a banking experience with a credt union once where you couldn’t just press 0 to talk to an operator, you had to know some kind of code to cut through the red tape. It was great once I learned it, but to many hours of frustration had compiled to remedy the emotional scars. Oh, and lets not forget the voice activated ones, the only consolation with those is that when they fail to understand your commands, you can yell ruthlessly at the unfeeling contraption and it’s completely guilt free.
  3. SCRIPTED SERVICE– It’s so common that it is almost surprising how many people hate it, except that it is sooo annoying. Real people are almost as bad as the automated devices we are more and more often subjected to. I can’t say for sure why so many companies train their personnel this way, unless it is a theory that it will help maintain professional conduct from CSRs. What it actually does is annoy the people who are already unhappy with the companies product or service, or just need to take care of something with a minimum of hassle. The scripts are impersonal, impractical and encumbering; and they don’t fool anyone. Often a CSR will be so engrossed in the script that they fail to give the customer true individualized attention or even listen to what they say. I had a situation with a credit card account that ended in a scripted response that was unsatisfactory and inconsistent with information I had been given by my bank. When I went to the bank to speak with a human, face to face. They called on my behalf. The rep on the other end asked to speak with me and when I got the receiver, they dished out the same exact spiel. I handed the phone back and said “no.” I no longer have that account.
  4. INCOMPREHENSIBLE ENGLISH– aka foreign accents. Is it insensitive to complain? I don’t think so. After all of the other tie ups and setbacks, nobody wants their case in the hands of someone they can’t even understand. I once had a CSR whose english was so horrifically mangled it could have been a character out of Poe! The best I could do was politely decline service, hang up and try again. I lucked out and received very good service from the next rep. I guess you got to know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em.
  5. SARCASM– or rude behavior is the most common complaint, but I also think it is the most rare. Systems and policies build tension between the customer and the rep before they are thrown into the mix together. Customers have horror tories and they are entertaining to listen to, but CSRs have their share of nightmares. Though rudeness to a customer is never acceptible it is rarely unprovoked in my opinion. Some people hate their job and just don’t care, so a shockingly inappropriate scenario takes place occasionally and the internet is full of examples, but the most glaring customer service problem I face, is the inability to fix a problem. Even if a CSR is genuine and apologetic they will often stonewall you. Whether they mean to or not they are waiting for you to give up and walk away without added compensation. While most companies train in creating solutions for customers, CSRs will often put the pressure on the customer to create their own solution and ask to be compensated. If I’m not satisfied with a product and I bring it to somebodies attention, it’s nice for them to listen and apologize, but I want them to also find away to make me happy before I walk out the door and not just like I settled. They think they got away without giving more, but I will not be returning.

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  • laura v

    well recently i experienced such bad customer service on the phone these people did not want to give me my money back eventhough their product missed after 4 months but i was persitant, i usually be in retail sales when i was 18 and worked for years till i became burned out in that profession, i am going to look for my little recorder and tell the next jerk that i am recording them as proof if they screw up. thanks for letting me vent, hope your feeling better.

  • kristen o

    I think there should be a medal for some of the rude customers that customer service people have to deal with. I had to do call center work for a year before getting a job in my field and I was always nice and professional and tried to help to the best of my abilities but some people are just plain impatient and RUDE. I was almost brought to tears once by a “gentleman” (I use that term VERY loosely) who was the CEO of a company no less! I tried to help him for almost an entire day (it required lots of research and me looking into other departments and I called him back with updates hourly)…the last call where I had fixed everything for him and thought he would appreciative my level of customer service he instead proceeded to mock me like a parrot or a kindergartener!…I tried saying, “I’m sorry sir, for the inconvenience.” And he replied, “I’m sorry sir. I’m sorry sir.” So it goes both ways. Be nice to customer service and they appreciate it SO much.

    • Gail Potter

      I agree with Kristen 100%, I’ve been on both ends of the phone, working in a call center for a number of years. On the flip side, because of that, I have a certain level of service that I expect when I have to call and complain about a product or service.

      • Aisha

        I completely agree with Kristen and Gail! I was a CSR for years. There are some very nice people who call in and some very horrible people. Likewise, there are nice CSR’s and some horrible ones. Often times CSR’s are not trained properly. I was trained on 11 different computer programs, the inner workings of the company, etc. in 4 weeks! Most of what I learned was on the job and it was hellish. Customer service via telephone also has a high turnover rate, so you most likely are getting someone who’s only been on the job a week or a few months (maybe even a few days!) and they can’t say, “Well, it’s my first day.” Most of the times we CSR’s were confused because the company didn’t give us good or even correct information to work with. But, like Gail said, because I went to lengths to help my customers, I expect that of CSR’s I speak to (always trying to keep in mind that maybe their last customer was horrible to them or they’re having one of those days where every customer has been horrible to them).

        I’ve also been on the sales side (out of desperate need rather than actually wanting to be in sales – I hate sales). If we didn’t follow the script verbatim we were written up and could lose our jobs. And, of course, if we didn’t make the numbers, we could definitely lose our jobs. There are certain things we can and cannot say. Also, by the time the computer has called you on a sales call and we’re connected, I’ve probably read the same script about 60x and I’m reading it again. We get tired of hearing ourselves talk (especially saying the same thing over and over, day after day), too. AND…the most successful sales people I witnessed were always more like robots rather than caring humans (treating their callers like sales rather than people – which is one of the reasons I couldn’t continue on in sales and a reason I have little patience for sales reps). However, I did come to appreciate the customers that just hung up on me because they didn’t waste my time having me go through my script.

        Calls are recorded also because we as CSR’s and sales reps must meet expectations and quality control (we are evaluated weekly if not daily).

        You can most certainly say “no,” you don’t want to be put on hold. We have no choice but to not put you on hold then.

        Sidenote: I hate calling Walmart for anything. They must have horrible CSR training….

  • Sara D

    How about taking my van in for a 4 hour service (which I knew ahead of time it would take this long and made plans). Drop of van at 9:15 am (appt was for 9:30) and tell the guy that I will have my husband drop me off at about 1pm. At 12:40pm ..luckily husband walks in with me to see what is happening. B/c I am told that they have not even started working on it (husband thought they were joking at first). That because I did not wait in the waiting room (which is very small) the van was pretty much put at the bottom of the priority list. We were told that those that are waiting in the waiting area are first priority and those that leave are after that. Hmmm what happened to me saying I would be back by 1…the answer was they had no notation of that. I had to then rearrange my whole afternoon/evening.

  • annie

    #4 irks me the most. i just don’t understand companies hiring these people whom i can’t understand a word they are saying.
    i’ll never forget when i had to call lexmark customer service. i had just purchased this printer and for the life of me, i couldn’t get it to work.
    so i called customer service, i get this guy with the worst english, i for the life of me couldn’t understand a word he was saying. it was so, frustrating…
    long story short i was talking to some rep in mumbai india.
    several months ago there was a story about this on one of those news outlets. apparently, our american companies hire third world countries, because they pay them $3.00 an hr. and these people are so happy to have a job. but we the customers suffer…

  • Casey

    I am a tech support agent for a telecommunications company, and yes there are a lot of bad agents out there, but sometimes you never understand how…ignorant? people can be. There are people who call support or customer service just to talk. I’ve had to describe in detail what the color blue looks like, I’ve also been screamed at, had death threats, I’ve been called names in about 20 different languages. I’m extremely nice on the phone, because I know how it is to have something not work or find out your bill is double what it is supposed to. Scripting, however, comes from the higher ups, we don’t have a say in that, there are certain things we HAVE to say, when we ask you if we can put you on hold it’s because we have to ask, we aren’t allowed to say I will place you on hold as I work the issue, no we have to ask your permission first so that you feel you have some control over the call.

    No about the international agents, typically those agents are either in the Phillipines or India, and what happens is several of those agents will “share” an aprt, so you have a three bedroom apt and six people live there, the agents who work first shift arent there so the third shift agents sleep and vice versa. They also only make about $4-$6 an hour.

  • Jane

    Unfortunately, not all the “incomprehensible English” is from those with foreign accents. I’ve talked to a great number of CSRs with various American accents who are also incomprehensible.

  • anonymous

    I have worked at a call center, and one thing people don’t typically know is that in most cases, there is a call time to adhere to. If the crs you are speaking with goes over call time they most often face dicsiplinary action. Big business at its worst. The reason for this is most times so that the customer does not have to hold long…still it makes it very hard to give the service customers need. Next time you call and speak with someone it is best if you have all the necessary information, pen, and paper ready. It is very surprising how many times a rep will be put on hold by a consumer for over a minute while they are looking for information or something to write with. Also to get the most information out of a csr you need to be specific and brief, this allows them time to give you all of the onformation you need. Most times call times aree between 4-5 1/2 minutes only. Just thought I would share the other side of the coin, as these people are stressed and not allowed to tell you this. 🙂

    you all of the information you need.

  • laura

    Time warner is the absolute worst customer service forget going through the toll free number what a joke, i’ve had to go up to the office 6 times since last november over their screw ups and not being able to get through to their customer service???????

  • Pam

    A couple of years ago I made a bank to bank transfer to my fiance. My bank accidentally sent it through twice, which caused checks to bounce etc… The local branch was very good about calling my new landlord and explaining that it was their fault, but… It took the bank almost 2 weeks to return the money to me, even after they admitted it was their mistake! I spent approximately 8-10 hours on the phone with various people in various departments. I tired to be patient and polite until I could no longer deal with it. I finally told the CSR that the bank had stolen my money and may have eventually cursed. It was so frustrating. Finally I got a CSR in some random department who said very simply “Oh I will fix that right now!” I would have closed my account immediately but due to direct deposit issues I could not until recently. I will never deal with them again.

  • Alicia

    I said no once to being out on hold. It’s so powerful they are so surprised at your gaul they have no defenses. It was an urgent matter and I got results!