15 Customer Service Mistakes to Avoid


customer service

Customer service, something we as business people and also consumers encounter every day. From grabbing our first cup of coffee at our favorite store to our first phone call of the day, we take part in the consumer experience as well as have an impact on our on customers experience. While not every customer will be signing our praise there are so mistakes to avoid to enrich the consumer experience and create loyal customers.


15 Customer Service Mistakes to Avoid

1. Inattentiveness. Talking to other employees, talking on the phone or even texting when customers are waiting. If you are talking about something that is directly related to the customer is necessary. Think about checking out at the counter and being completely ignored throughout the entire process.

2. Automated Call Answering. In larger companies this keeps costs down as well as directs the caller to the proper department. Where this goes sour is when there are multiple levels of automation, no interaction with a human or when zero is pressed and the call is disconnected.

3. Multiple Transfers. Being transferred multiple times is frustrating as you tell each person your issue only to find out that they cannot help you and transferred are placed on hold again.

4. Failing to Listen. Many customers want to be heard and then their problem solved. Trying to solve the problem before listening to the customer is heard only adds to the problem.

5. Losing Control. Losing control and becoming angry is only one part of it. The other part is losing control of the situation at hand and having a irate customer on the floor of your store or on the phone who can reach out to friends and family rather quickly.

6. Over-promising/Under-delivering. Sell outs happen, delivery mishaps happen however overbooking deliveries or intentionally failing to have proper inventory is unacceptable.

7. Being Unreachable. Customers want answers and also want to be kept in the loop. Always being in a meeting or always being transferred to voice mail and not returning the call sends a message to the customer that you do not care whether this be the case or not.

8. Lying.  Telling a customer a lie to get rid of them or think you are appeasing them only shows that you are a liar.

9. Excessive Gum Chewing. Chomping on the gum takes the focus from the purchase and the experience to watching the jaw and listening the sound.

10. Lack of Communication. Customers wait for a response. This is their problem that they need solved and that is their focus.  Many times we do not have the answer they are looking for just yet but reaching out to keep them in the loop shows that you care about their issue and are on top of it.

11. Reprimanding Employees in Customer Presence. This not only humiliates the employee it places the customer in a situation they did not ask to be in.

12. Untrained Staff. Everyone is new to a position and deserves a chance to learn however when unsupervised or not fully trained can create frustration and anger with the customer.

13. Failing to Talk to Customers. Not fake.  A simple hi how are you, did you find everything ok or not responding back to customers when they try and engage in small talk.

14. Mispronunciation of Names. Not knowing is one thing, knowing and still mispronouncing is another. For example: Andrew is not always Andy or Drew.

15. Failing to Acknowledge Repeat Customers. Repeat customers are loyal customers and are your bread and butter. Knowing their name, their type of coffee, their favorite sports team, etc lets them know that you care and appreciate them. Rewarding them with discount or a freebie here and there keeps them coming back with a positive attitude.

Some of these are the obvious while others are observations while being a customer.  We all want to be appreciated and treated with respect. Customers have a louder voice with social media that can destroy your reputation in one click. Alternatively with social media as a business there are numerous ways to reach out to customers to solve their problems or let them know that there is a human behind the company.

What have you observed in poor customer service? How have you handled difficult situations whether as the business or the consumer?  What do you do to enhance the customer experience?

photo credit: roland

  • LOL…these are great. You left our “texting or talking on cell phone while I'm waiting in line for them to wait on me” love that one. Makes me feel all special and warm inside. 😉
    Posted @ Friday, November 20, 2009 6:42 AM by Tom Martin

    Susan… This is so awesome! I too am a customer service freak! The gum chewing must have been a personal experience…:)

    I totally agree with all your points. I think in society today customer service is too lax. I don't think people understand how bad they give customer service, but at the same time expect others to give exceptional customer service. My saying is “If you aren't taking care of your customers, someone else will”.

    I can't tell you how many times I have walked out of a Burger King….
    Posted @ Friday, November 20, 2009 10:36 AM by Kim Kolb

    I appreciate this post as it brings up many valid points. One that I always take note of is answering services…they need to be polite, knowledgeable, and friendly. So many times I will call into a company with an answering service to check up on a client and share progress we've made on their campaigns, and the answering service always thinks I am trying to sell something! Oftentimes I get an “I'm sorry ma'am, no sales calls,” and they hang up on me! Answering services are fine as long as they are polite and understand the nature of the business they are representing…even if it's just a basic understanding.
    Posted @ Friday, November 20, 2009 2:00 PM by Erika Lehman

    Point 14 – Mispronunciation of names is nothing at all, (IT doesnt matter how you call me) instead what matters to the customer is whether their problem got solved quick without much 'on the phone with customer sservice'. That is what makes it a rememberable experience. Solve the problem first, worry about names later. Its like 'Call me Drew, I dont care, but make sure you solve Andrew's problem (which is me)'
    Posted @ Friday, November 20, 2009 10:56 PM by WebDesignExpert.ME


    Not pronouncing a name properly when a customer is not happy is a big deal. I used Andrew/Drew as that is my son's name so I am partial however calling someone by a name that they do not use or butchering it when they are having a bad customer experience only adds fuel to the fire. That has been my experience.
    Posted @ Saturday, November 21, 2009 12:28 AM by Suzanne Vara


    Having spent time with me and me commenting on your blog that I love, you know that I talk to people and observe how they react. I can never tell you how many times the person at the counter is chewing gum or talking to another employee, on phone or even texting. It is unreal.

    Thank you so much for reading and commenting. Love your blog and articles for Ad Age!
    Posted @ Saturday, November 21, 2009 12:44 AM by Suzanne Vara

    Very interesting read, Susan. Thanks.

    What about outsourcing customer service all together to a country where English is the second language 🙂 ?
    Posted @ Monday, November 23, 2009 3:52 PM by Mark


    That is a tough one as we the first thing we hear about is a negative experience where the CSR did not speak English well or had a thick accent. I do not have answers for that one as when dealing with a customer who is not very pleased,in and of itself is difficult. I do know that culturally there are different ways that customers are treated or the expectations of treatment as compared to the US.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I appreciate.
    Posted @ Tuesday, November 24, 2009 8:56 PM by Suzanne Vara

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  • Mark Tale

    “Customers have a louder voice with social media that can destroy your reputation in one click.” I like this line. This should be a reminder for us companies to continually take excellent care on delivering customer experience. Be it online answering services, or even sales conducted over the phone, customer service providers should always work with and for their customers. RSVP services, for example, should always be attentive and courteous all the time when promoting events and seminars.

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