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
In the "Customer Service Nightmares" series, we read letters and
e-mails and listened to voicemail messages from hundreds of
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
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
Result #3 - The memory of an elephant - Customers don't
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
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
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
The other respondents, though, emphatically told us they'd never
go back after their aggravation. No return means no deposit (of
Result #6 - Free advertising - The kind you don't
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
All effects of bad customer service can be summed up with this
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.