The telephone doctor: The seven lingering effects of bad customer serviceNancy Friedmancurstomer service, employees, bad service As background for the Telephone Doctor's book, "Customer Service Nightmares: 100 Tales of the Worst Experiences Possible and How They Could Have Been Fixed," we invited consumers to submit their terrible tales of customer service. In reviewing the many hundreds of responses, we found seven specific reactions to bad service by upset consumers. These applied to every type of incident and setting and in every field imaginable. Make no mistake about it. The effects are lingering and damaging. We refer to these as the seven lingering effects of bad customer service. Result #1 - They're grateful for the chance to vent In the "Customer Service Nightmares" series, we read letters and e-mails and listened to voicemail messages from hundreds of customers. Over and over again, those who responded thanked us for the opportunity to tell us how they were mistreated. They wanted to tell their stories to someone who would listen. They were pleased for the opportunity to get even. They seemed to regard this exercise as a form of non-violent revenge! In summary, they regarded this as the means to report their offenses in what we call "the Telephone Doctor Customer Service Court of Appeals." Result #2 - The new joke syndrome Not too long ago, people would tell each other such jokes as, "Did you hear the one about the traveling salesman and the farmer's daughter?" and, "Did you hear the one about the blonde who ... " Now, many joke tellers are venting their frustrations with their last bad customer service experiences, telling jokes to anyone who'll listen. Woe to businesses, government agencies and associations that offend their customers with poor service. These organizations become the butt of todays new era of jokes! They laugh at you, not with you. Result #3 - The memory of an elephant - Customers don't forget Lots of people in the responses we received quoted the extended time elapsed since the experience. For instance, we heard, "This happened three years ago," and, "Let me tell you what happened five years ago." One woman recounted dealing with a local bank 20 years ago - a bank that was absorbed by a bigger bank and no longer exists. But she's still angry from that long ago. If businesses are counting on customers to forget rudeness or ineptitude, dont bank on it! Result #4 - You're not going to believe this Over and over, parties who responded to the invitation to share their customer service nightmares used the phrase,"You're not going to believe this," and, "I can't believe how they treated me!" Those abused by poor customer service just can never seem to accept the fact that it happened. They remain shocked and continue to agonize! Result #5 - No return, no deposit In only a few cases did a complaining customer indicate that he went back to shop at an offending store. In one case, a customer (and his father before him) had been buying a certain brand of battery for years that had proven a true value. When the clerk wouldn't honor his $5 coupon on a $50 purchase for the $49.99 battery, the customer said he wouldn't buy at that store again, to which the clerk said, "Good riddance." On the way out of the store, the customer realized he wanted the battery, refused to be rebuffed by the rude, inept salesperson and went to see the manager, who worked out a satisfactory compromise. The other respondents, though, emphatically told us they'd never go back after their aggravation. No return means no deposit (of future sales). Result #6 - Free advertising - The kind you don't want Most of those who recounted their customer service nightmares assured us that they'd told their families, friends, coworkers and anyone else who'd listen about the bad service incidents. They seemed enthusiastic in denouncing the offending organizations and urged everyone not to patronize them! Result #7 - Hell hath no fury like a customer scorned All effects of bad customer service can be summed up with this phrase! Nancy Friedman is president of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training in St. Louis. For more information, call (314) 291-1012 or visit www.telephonedoctor.com.