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What To Do When You Receive Bad Customer Service

Updated on July 4, 2013
Most people expect excellent customer service.
Most people expect excellent customer service. | Source

Most people have worked in the customer service industry at one point or another in their lives. Some thrive on doing a job well and making the customer happy, while others simply do their job to get by and couldn't really be bothered with how the customer feels.

My first job straight out of high school was working as a Counter Server at a Frozen Yoghurt store in the mall. My job consisted of preparing the machines (washing them took an hour and a half), making up the yoghurt flavours for the day, preparing the toppings, counting the money in the till, keeping the shop clean and of course - serving customers.

The Customer is Always Right....Mostly

There were some great customers who came in, always with a pleasant word and a smile. I even got to meet a few celebrities during my time working there. Those were the good days.

Then, there were the not so good days. The days when I felt sick or sad, and the last thing I wanted to do was plaster a smile on my face, be cheerful to everyone who walked in and take it as the complaints came.

Oh, and how the complaints and difficult customers came in! From customers demanding the impossible (you try dipping the top of a frozen yoghurt cone into a sauce - it does NOT work), to some customer who's had a bad day and decides to take it out on you - causing a scene in the shop and making you feel like the stupidest person in the world, to little boys coming in with their friends to get a free frozen yoghurt because the one they were eating (3/4 finished already) had a "hair" in it!

You name it, I had to deal with it - all the while smiling and reminding myself that the customer is always right, and is paying my wages.

Over the years, working in different jobs - I've come to realize that the customer is NOT always right - but, that in order to succeed in your job and in business, you need to make them believe that they are.

So, what's changed - why do we feel the need to put up with bad customer service, and how do we deal with it?

Complaining - The Right Way

Having worked in the service industry, I have a certain level of expectation when I go out. My husband hates it when I complain about bad service, but I feel that it's my right if I'm a paying customer.

Here's how to complain if you feel you're receiving inappropriate or bad customer service:

  1. Confront the staff member directly. I don't mean to tell them to take their attitude and shove it, I mean to politely bring to their attention the fact that they are being rude, unhelpful or unfair.
  2. If this doesn't work, request to speak with their direct Manager and explain the situation. In most cases, the Manager will apologize and offer something as a means to rectify the situation and promise more training for his or her staff.
  3. In some cases, the Manager is unfortunately just as incompetent as their staff. If this happens, and you really feel that other people should know about the level of service the establishment offers - make it public. You can do this by going online and writing a summary of the events that took place and the staff that you dealt with. I use It's a great website for both customer service complaints as well as compliments for good service. If the company you are complaining about is listed, you should receive almost immediate feedback.

Customer service
Customer service | Source

How do you deal with poor Customer Service?

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Before complaining...

It's important to realize that your complaint will cause a lot of bad publicity for the establishment. You need to be 100% sure of your facts, and have already tried both channels to make the complaint (points 1 and 2), before going online publicly.

What Is Bad Service?

Everyone has their off days, and sure - you can't expect everyone to have the same amount of energy and enthusiasm. But, you can expect good service with a smile. These are 10 examples of really bad service:

  1. The Depressed Cashier. You're the first one to greet, she barely even looks up at you and doesn't ask if you need a bag for your groceries. After paying she chucks your change on the counter, and you leave saying "thank you" while she's already ringing up the next customer's items.
  2. The Cocky Salesman. You're at work going about your day - trying to get your work done, when the phone rings. You pick it up only to be greeted by a very loud, slightly arrogant voice at the other end. It's someone trying to sell you insurance - great. You politely tell him you're busy and ask him to call back later. Does he do this? No. Instead, he proceeds to make you feel stupid for not being able to concentrate on what he's selling and that you'd be making the worst decision of your life for not choosing his insurance premium. There's selling, and then there's badgering.
  3. The Moody Hair Stylist. All you wanted was to get your hair done and have a bit of chit chat with your hair stylist - as you normally do. Only, today she's not in the mood. She ignores you, doesn't offer you coffee or magazines - and it seems as though she's trying to win some kind of record to getting your hair cut in the fastest time possible.
  4. The Disinterested Waiter.You're still waiting 10 minutes for a drinks menu after sitting down at your table. You eventually get your drinks, and later your food - all the while trying to perk up this sullen waiter with a smile and friendly word - this doesn't seem to work. When you've finished eating and can't wait to leave your waiter is nowhere to be found. You wait and wait for the bill, but it never comes. Maybe, he can read minds about the tip - or lack thereof.
  5. The Greedy Manager. The cashier has rung up your order, but overcharged you. You complain, but he say there's nothing they can do about it. You escalate the complaint to the Manager. He shrugs his shoulders and tells you that's the way it is and that you'd better pay.
  6. The Snotty Sales Lady. You walk into a nice looking boutique, only to be greeted by a pretentious looking Sales Lady. You're looked up and down, with anything but friendliness - and are either watched like a hawk, or ignored point blank when it's clear you're in desperate need of some assistance.
  7. The Shadow Sales Boys. All you want to do is take a stroll in the electronics store and check out the latest laptops. Instead, you're harassed from the moment you walk in the door. Your foot has literally just touched the entrance to the store - when you're greeted with "Hi! Can I help you?" Give me a chance to look around, will you! If that's not bad enough, you're followed around by this sales person and watched by all the other floor sales people. A little overeager for their sales commissions, are they?
  8. The Disinterested Pizza Guy. It's Friday night - time to celebrate the weekend with a pizza. You order, expecting your pizza in the usual 15 - 20 minutes. An hour later you're still waiting. So is an entire packed pizza store and the mood is not good. You can't leave because you've already paid. You complain but this doesn't help - the guy at the counter simply shrugs his shoulders and tells you that they're understaffed. So, why is this my problem?
  9. The Receptionist from Hell. Have you ever phoned a company only to be greeted by a very impatient, "Yes?" You ask to be put through to the right person, and get the response, "He's not in." You ask what time he's expected back. You receive the reply, "I don't know." Finally, realizing you're getting nowhere with this person you ask to leave a message. She makes a very obvious and loud sigh and you know the message is never going to be relayed. Who hired this woman?
  10. The Ice-Cold Nurse. After much putting off, you've finally forced yourself to go in for your annual gynae appointment. The nurse calls you - there's no hint of warmth at all. She wraps the blood pressure material around your arm and then proceeds to pump the life out of you. When she's done that she thrusts a cup in your hand and orders you to pee in it and leave it in the bathroom for her. Funny, I thought nurses were supposed to be caring and gentle.

More Hubs on Service and Careers

The Author

Melanie Chisnall is a freelance writer from Cape Town, South Africa.

Her first job out of high school was working in customer service at a Frozen Yoghurt shop. Since then she has worked in many other customer services industries including retail, IT and catering. She is a firm believer in providing excellent customer service, AND receiving it!


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    • MelChi profile image

      Melanie Chisnall 5 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Hi Bridgett, that sounds extremely frustrating! If I were you, I would check the guarantee on the phone. As you've only had it for a month, I would say that this is definitely a problem that either Pepstores or Vadacom will need to resolve for you. Do you still have your receipts, and box that it came in? Since you bought it at Pepstores, I would suggest going to them again and asking them to provide you with a reason why it is not being fixed. From there, I would go into a Vodacom store and ask them the same thing, explaining that you bought it a month ago and from where. Somewhere, someone needs to offer you an explanation and/or replacement, after they are able to determine the reason for the cell phone freezing in the first place. Good luck!

    • profile image

      bridgett mayeza 5 years ago

      hi i don't know whether i'm writing or talking to the right people,i bought a phone at pepstore in cape town,after a month it got freeze then i took it back ,at first they did not want to take it back i had to shout them ,i went to them four times and check how far are they,they told me right in front of my face they not going to fix it voda com sent it back telling them they are not fixing it,what can i do?

    • MelChi profile image

      Melanie Chisnall 5 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      @Rodric29 - Don't feel bad, I've been there as well. In fact, I was a little rude to someone on the phone the other day and rolled my eyes while speaking to him (it was a sales call and I happened to pick it up for the sales department, while in the middle of doing some concentration work with accounts). My Manager happened to notice - so that wasn't good at all. I think we're only human. Customers are rude to us on their off days, and sometimes we us customer service agents have our off days as well. I think as long as it's not an every day occurrence and we try not to let it happen again (or if it does, apologize and try to make amends as soon as it happens), we shouldn't beat ourselves up about it. Thanks for your comment! :)

    • Rodric29 profile image

      Rodric Johnson 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      I feel badly. I raised my voice at a customer yesterday and I told him he was being a jerk, and he was. I gave bad customer service. I said it before I realized it. Voted up even though you were talking about me, sniffle.

    • MelChi profile image

      Melanie Chisnall 5 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Hi Sandy, thanks for your comment. I do agree with you, there are those companies and businesses out there who are sadly only out to make a quick buck at the expense of their customers. I have to say, I've had nothing but good responses from the complaints I've lodged on Those suppliers listed, came back to me - apologised and offered solutions / freebies as a means to say sorry. Also - it's right out there for everyone to see and it affects the overall view of their enterprise or business. With so much competition out there, it's vital that businesses stay at the top of their game and put their customer first. Charmike4 has a great hub that illustrates a few companies that do just that without expecting anything back -

      Thanks for reading :)

    • Sandy Frost profile image

      Sandy Frost 5 years ago from India

      Service providers win over customers by providing them attractive saving schemes, cheap and under-budget offers or a handful of useful as well as useless freebies then they start cheating and letting customers bang their heads on walls as they come to know that what an actual thing, they have got, is only their bucks have been robbed for few bad services.

      Customer enquiry and complaint centres become a good point of hope in such cases but such kinds of shortcomings can be noticed in even a number of these centres too.

      Well, very nice and interesting hub. thanks for sharing, voted up.

    • MelChi profile image

      Melanie Chisnall 5 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Hi wolfshadow - you are so right. I usually end up walking out in frustration without even being able to look at what I wanted to in the first place. Luckily though, it seems to be in one specific shop - which I now avoid like the plague. Thanks for reading :)

    • wolfshadow profile image

      wolfshadow 5 years ago

      This was great. I'm also one of those people who want to tell the "shadow sales boys" to go away and leave me alone, but short of outright being rude they never listen. Anyway, thanks for the awesome hub.

    • MelChi profile image

      Melanie Chisnall 5 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Hi Michael, what an amazing compliment - thank you! :)

    • charmike4 profile image

      Michael Kromwyk 5 years ago from Adelaide, South Australia

      Really enjoyed your hub and the descriptions of each of the bad service personalities. I have printed this out & given it to my regional managers so that they can share it with their teams! Thanks!! Cheers Michael