3 Customer Care Horror Stories That Hold Important Business Lessons

3 Customer Care Horror Stories That Hold Important Business Lessons

customer care

Disgruntled customers are like five-year olds with credit cards. They throw tantrums. They tell all their friends how terrible you are. And then they go to the store next door to buy stuff with that credit card they have. That is nearly $6 trillion of business according to a report by Accenture.

Imagine you have a blog that is extremely popular among its readers. Tomorrow you decide to cash in on your blog’ success and turn it into an ecommerce site. Suddenly, you’re starting from square one. No matter how well-loved your blog was, your ecommerce site needs to earn its own stripes with exceptional customer care.

We all agree that providing splendid customer care is the ideal that every business works towards. You know, no one sets out wanting to be terrible at customer service. However, the pressures of running a business more often than not triumph and the good intentions are left behind by the wayside.

Each customer care gaffe holds a special warning uniquely its own. Since we admit that we’re not perfect and nor is our customer service, we can at the very least learn from these lessons and aim at eliminating these situations.

  1. Comcast Tells a Customer They’re Stupid

I had no choice. This list had to begin with Comcast. The telecom giant that is universally criticized for its customer care manages to hit new customer care lows with every passing day.


Kate Nasser highlights an interesting case where not only did Comcast offer no help to a customer who had queries about the billing, but instead insulted her. Elaine B., a paying customer, was confused about the brand jargon that Comcast used to differentiate cable TV plans and packages, and called customer care to clarify. She wanted to learn what the names of different channel groupings on her bills meant. However instead of explaining which channels belonged under which plan in a patient manner, the customer care rep, snapped at her, called her stupid and then hung up.

This sort of indifference and impatience in customer care is what you must avoid at all means, however large or small your company maybe.

The Lessons:

  • First, Comcast did a terrible job at explaining their products upfront. Don’t make this rookie error. You know your products inside out. Your customers don’t. Make sure your users understand exactly what they’re buying instead of keeping them guessing.
  • Worse than not having clear product guidelines, is having customer care reps who have a short fuse and a colorful tongue. Train your customer care staff to be friendly, patient, friendly and patient (yes, again) with your customers who call in, and to know how to hold their tongues when a customer needs some extra help.
  1. Baseball Express Does an Ostrich

Baseball Express is a baseball equipment supplier that was upgrading its order processing system in spring time this year. Its timing could not have been worse. Spring is peak season for ordering sporting equipment and with an order processing system that was in limbo, the company left a lot of customers extremely disgruntled. These customers took to Facebook to express their anger at being left in the lurch, but surprisingly, Baseball Express stuck its head in the sand and chose to completely ignore them.



After the negative sentiment snowballed into a raft of seething customer fury, Baseball Express put up an explanation about its order processing system overhaul and requested some patience from their affected customers. They even promised to fix all issues before the end of the week and offered customers alternate ways of checking their order status.

This should have been the end of the problem.

Unfortunately for Baseball Express (and their unhappy customers) it wasn’t. The problem was not fixed as per promised timelines, the alternate URL for checking order status didn’t work and Baseball Express decided to play hooky with their social media complaints all over again. What it did instead was repost the original statement about the order processing system overhaul 3 more times. Bad move, Baseball Express.

The Lessons:

  • Any information is usually better than no information. So when Baseball Express first decided to upgrade their order processing system, they should have set expectations right by disclosing this on the website and on social media loud and clear.
  • Ignoring negative sentiment on social media is a surefire way of attracting more (and more intense) negative sentiment. Deal with the first negative comment swiftly and honestly. Do not delete negative comments from your social media profiles. It only makes your image worse as a brand that is callous about what its existing customers think about it.
  • When problems persist beyond their expected time period, apologize (and mean it) and make amends with affected customers. Avoid templated responses to avoid coming across as an automaton and instead paint yourself as a business that truly cares.
  1. Union Street Guest House Glitters Like Fool’s Gold

The New York Post’s Page Six wrote about the unique way Union Guest House in New York tried to ensure they only received positive reviews online. As a way of keeping its social reputation squeaky clean, they warned guests that they would be fined $500 each for any negative reviews about the hotel. In their own words, they claimed:

“There will be a $500 dollar fine that will be deducted from your deposit for every negative review of USGH place on any internet site by anyone in your party and/or attending your wedding even if you stay here to attend a wedding anywhere in the area and leave us a negative review on any internet site you agree to a $500 fine for each negative review.”

Expectedly, this unleashed a furor of negative comments about Union Street Guest House on social media. What they set out to prevent with this policy actually happened because of it.



The passage was eventually scrapped from their website and Union Guest House tried to get out of the tight spot they put themselves in by claiming that it was a joke.

The Lessons:

  • A spotless reputation has to be earned with great service. Coercion and threats to get good customer reviews is not just unacceptable, it is downright illegal.
  • When you’re caught doing something wrong, it’s always a better idea to own up to your mistake, apologize sincerely and move on. Claiming anything else makes customers lose trust in your brand and damages your reputation beyond repair.

In Closing
Customer service is the final piece of the puzzle when you’re building the picture of a loyal customer. As we wrap up, I’ll leave you with this interesting tidbit about loyal customers: According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, the lifetime value of the average loyal customer is up to 10 times the value of their first purchase.

Still think it’s forgivable to chase customers away with bad service?

About The Author

Tracy Vides – Digital Content Strategist
Tracy is a content strategist and serial blogger who gives small businesses and entrepreneurs online marketing advice. Hit her up any time on Google+ for a chat. You can also find her on Twitter.

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