Reasons for a Customer Service Debacle

Reasons for a Customer Service Debacle

Perhaps you heard about the major cable and Internet provider that made “headline” news last year when a customer recorded a call to the company’s customer service center.

The customer had simply called to terminate his service, but first, the representative he spoke to insisted upon asking him some questions. The agent asked why the customer wanted to disconnect since the company offered the best services and the best price.

The agent basically refused to accept the fact that the customer simply wanted to disconnect his service. After the customer listened for several minutes, he got the idea to record the call with his iPhone. The agent went on and on, for more than 15 minutes in total. The customer ultimately posted the disastrous call on social media and the incident went viral.

Now, I’m not here to bash a specific company; rather, I mention the incident as a learning opportunity. A customer service fiasco like this could happen to any company. It could happen in a phone call or a face-to-face interaction. So, let’s look at what we can learn from this unfortunate event and how to avoid a similar issues with our customer service.

I can think of three main problems that can lead to this type of poor customer service debacle:

Customer service is not well defined

In my books, articles and videos, I often discuss the need for everyone in an organization to be in alignment. And to do so, the company must have clear goals and objectives when it comes to customer service. It’s not enough to just instruct your employees to be nice—you must define your own brand of customer service and put it into simple terms that everyone can understand. For example, Ace Hardware—one of my favorites—promises to be the most helpful hardware stores on the planet. Employees are able to deliver helpful service because they know that is the goal.

Employees are not trained

It amazes me when companies put their employees in customer-facing positions without the proper training. Some companies balk at spending money on customer service training, but without it, there is a much greater risk that customers will be lost because of employees who do not deliver good service. Some of my client companies require weeks of training before their employees are permitted to work directly with the customer. I’m guessing from the outcome that that was not the case with the cable company’s call center representative.

Profits take precedence over customer service

There has to be a balance between making money and providing a positive experience. Poor customer service will eventually drive customers away, effectively driving profits down. Customers who have to deal with problematic service issues such as rudeness, pushiness or incompetence will soon seek out another company that is more customer friendly. It is likely that the cable company offered an incentive to employees who were able to retain defecting customers. But obviously, the employees also need to be taught that there comes a point to graciously let the customer go. Treat the customer with dignity and respect, even if he or she chooses not to do business with you. Finish strong!

What are some other reasons that customer service can fail? That would be a good topic for brainstorming and discussion with your team. I’d like to know what you come up with too—leave a comment or contact me through the website.

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Shep Hyken

Shep Hyken

Shep Hyken is the Lecturer of Customer Experience for the Tarkenton Certificate in Entrepreneurship and the Chief Amazement Officer of Shepard Presentations. He is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author and has been inducted into the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame for lifetime achievement in the speaking profession. Shep works with companies and organizations who want to build loyal relationships with their customers and employees. For more articles on customer service and business go to