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How to Avoid Bad Customer Service

Updated on February 21, 2018
sholland10 profile image

Susan has been a high school teacher for 26 years. She has an BSEd in Elementary Education and a MSEd in Secondary Education and English.


“Whatever happened to customer service?” we hear ourselves asking over and over again.

It seems that some business owners either take their trade for granted or believe it is okay to allow employees to treat customers as if they are an inconvenience.

How many times have we gone to a restaurant and had a waiter or waitress who didn’t smile?

How many times have we gone into a retail store and had a clerk seem unconcerned that we have even entered?

How many times have we felt like the employee sees customers as an inconvenience, rather than their job and responsibility to serve?

There are many good employees out there with excellent people skills, but there are some who seem to have no personality.

It seems to be more common to see employees who do not care about the customer.

Is it that they don't care or that they do not know better? In today's society, it is hard to put a finger on that one.

Employers must take action to improve employee/customer relations, via customer service.

Is Bad Customer Service Really "This" Generation's Fault?

Can we really use the old cliché “kids these days” anymore? After all, isn’t it actually the adults who should be teaching the kids?

If I were a business owner I would be telling my employees exactly what I wanted them to do when it comes to the business and customer service.

I am a teacher, and I have seen surly kids, entitled kids, shy kids, and loners; but I have also seen many wonderful kids who have an awesome work ethic and who have wonderful personalities. When it comes down to it, almost all kids are willing to learn, even the ones who seem disinterested.

All of them need guidelines. Show them the expectations and see them and your business flourish.


Old-Fashion Customer Service

I love watching Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future. He lands in the 1950s and one of the first things he sees as he walks through his hometown are four men at a gas station running out to a car that just rolled into the gas station (or as my mother used to call it, the filling station). One fills the tank, one checks the oil, one cleans the windshield, and one checks the tires, then one of them stays to talk to the customer sitting in the car and receives the payment. All four of them are smiling and appear to love their job and the customer.

I show this movie at the end of the year as kids are working on their final reviews. They are all surprised to see this scene. "Did they really used to do that?" they ask in wonder. I tell them that was before my time, but I do remember going to the gas station and the service man would do all those things. He always had a joke for my mom and candy for me. He had a booming business and had the most popular gas station in town because of his great service.

Some states still require a full service station, but not in Missouri. My students have never experienced such service.

The point is that we need to teach our new and young employees the value of customer service because when my students see this movie scene, they can't fathom it.

A Personal Account of Learning the Value of Customer Service

When I was 18, I worked at the jewelry counter for the Service Merchandise chain. The first week consisted of watching videos on customer service. The videos showed a variety of scenarios, ranging from dealing with that sweet old lady to that grumpy old man to a kid who wasn’t sure what he needed. It also showed a plan of action if someone tried to steal the jewelry. Okay, so what?

I thought these videos were ridiculous at the time. I mean, who didn’t know that you were supposed to be nice to the customers? Who didn't know that you call security if a theft occurs? This is "easy" stuff. Then I thought, “Oh well, I am getting paid to be here even if it is a waste of time.” On the contrary...

Watching the actors deal with those situations shown in the video seemed like a breeze when I watched them, but actually dealing with them was a completely different ball game. One, I got my feelings hurt over and over by people who were rude. I was just a kid and took everything personally, and customers can be extremely rude. And, two, my training taught me that I should never respond rudely, but hold that smile and understand business is business, not personal. Without those videos to fall back on, I would have walked out the first week.

Customer Service Survey - Are You Training Your Employees?

What kind of training best reflects your business practices?

See results

How to Improve Customer Service

Whether running a small business or a large business it is “big business” to have a plan for your new employees.

  • Have a mission statement. Your mission statement should clearly outline the expectations of your company.
  • Make your vision for your business part of your employees’ vision, too.
  • Have training videos, if possible, to show new employees different scenarios.They might take them for granted as I did, but they will appreciate them later.
  • Teach employees about the different types of customers and how to handle each situation - the good, the bad, the ugly.
  • Make sure your employees know their actions, behaviors, and outer demeanor reflect your business. If there are violations in their behavior, you may lose a customer or several customers.
  • The customer is never wrong. In today’s society, it seems we want to always be right. Make sure you train your employees to politely handle a dissatisfied customer.You want your employee to jump through hoops to help that customer.
  • Do on-the-job-training.Be the example or delegate training to someone who is an exemplary example.All your employees should know how to do their job and how to behave on the job before they are ever turned loose on their own. It doesn’t matter what the age or experience level.If you want results for your business, each employee must know exactly how you want those results obtained.
  • Teach your employee the ins and outs of their job.If they run into a situation where they do not know the answer, make them feel comfortable in getting someone in the workplace who can help.
  • Treat your employees with respect so they will treat your business with respect.Their respect will overflow to the customers.
  • Show them what is inappropriate: rudeness, apathy, laziness, sloppy appearance, messy work area, and complete lack of knowledge of their job, to name a few.
  • Teach employees the Golden Rule. It is not a given that all people understand it.Explain to them that they should put themselves in the customers’ shoes and treat them the way they would want to be treated if under the same circumstances.
  • Teach “Service with a Smile.” A happy face and good attitude go a long way with customers walking through the door.It makes them feel welcome, which in turn makes them want to buy your product or service.

Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty

Business always has a bottom line, which is customer satisfaction and loyalty. In turn creating good customer service improves business, reputation, and profits. Word-of-mouth is a powerful advertising tool. If you have one employee who cannot work with one customer, it could turn into losing customers or potential customers and profit. It is your business and your responsibility to have a plan because each employee is an extension of your business. The best way to save business reputation is to create customer service training that extends employee job targets for attracting business into the future.

Funny with Elements of Truth


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    • sholland10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Holland 

      7 years ago from Southwest Missouri

      Hi cfin! It is disheartening to see some of the people who are in customer service. Companies need to take more time to train them. I agree with everything you said.

      Thanks for dropping by! :-)

    • cfin profile image


      7 years ago from The World we live in

      And here is something most companies need to hear. Customer service does not include speaking like a robot while they read the answer out of a booklet, or when they copy and paste you the answer in an email. Especially when these "generic" answers never actually equal an answer.

      Companies need to return to paying more and hiring worthwhile staff who they can train to actually serve. I can't remember the last time I spoke to someone with good grammar, who could actually answer my questions over the phone or chatting online.

    • sholland10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Holland 

      8 years ago from Southwest Missouri

      ALocsin, I think you are right. Just like a parent who wants their kids to be productive members of society and needs to work hard toward that end, employers should do the same to train their employees in order to keep customers coming back and profit coming in.

      I have heard that Delta does not have the best reputation for customer service. My husband was able to switch airlines for destinations that he used to take Delta. There is always a choice. That is what businesses need to remember. If they are not providing customers with a good experience, then customers will go elsewhere. I would rather drive than take a flight with the kind of customer service I have heard my husband complain about with Delta. I think he has shared some phone calls and e-mails in the past, too. Good Luck!!

      Thanks for dropping by and the votes!

    • alocsin profile image

      Aurelio Locsin 

      8 years ago from Orange County, CA

      I think one of the reasons that "kids" today don't offer good customer service is that they don't know what it's like, never having experienced it before. I'm going to forward this hub to Delta Airlines, with whom I am exchanging emails about their bad customer service for their rewards program. Voting this Up and Useful.

    • sholland10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Holland 

      8 years ago from Southwest Missouri

      Marlene, the video does strike a chord. I am wondering if our young people would "get it" as a customer service training tool. LOL I am glad you enjoyed the hub and liked the tips. :)

      Mts, I agree, the customer is not always right and can be down right rude, but businesses have to tolerate all types of personalities in order to be successful. Preparing employees to deal with those difficult customers will help the business overall. Maybe we should write about how to be a customer. LOL

      Thanks for dropping by! :-)

    • sholland10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Holland 

      8 years ago from Southwest Missouri

      Lipnancy, I also think experience is being thrown over for the less costly younger person, but I still do not believe that can be an excuse for an employer not training practical customer service skills. I do wish we could see a good mixture of both. In today's economy, employers want those who have experience already, but it is important to train those new, younger employees, too.

      Either way, employees need to have more of an attitude for serving in those businesses that are having customer service issues. :)

      Thanks for dropping by! :-)

    • sholland10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Holland 

      8 years ago from Southwest Missouri

      Denise, AlwaysE., and Teaches, thanks for your comments. I miss those full-service gas stations, too. Never have to worry about my tires or oil... LOL A friendly smile goes a long way with customers.

      Thanks for dropping by!! :-)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great tips on customer service and I love the gas station picture...I do not think the customer is always correct but I do think people need to pay attention, listen and help the customer...great job here...cheers

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 

      8 years ago from USA

      That video is HILARIOUS! But, it does strike a chord with regard to customer service - or lack of it in some of today's service clerks. By the way, I also enjoyed your hub. It gives excellent tips on what it takes to provide good customer service.

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 

      8 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      I think it is hiring quality people. I think many businesses have fallen for hiring the younger generation because they work cheaper and are easier to control. There is a lot to be said for an experienced worker who does not need to be trained. Just a thought.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      8 years ago

      It all starts at the top in retail management. If the leaders demonstrate care, then the entire company will reflect the same to customers. Your suggestions are ones that will help a company to shine. I remember the days when gas stations would fill your tires, wipe your windshields, check the oil, etc. It was nice.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      8 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Susan, reading this piece made me yearn for the day when you could get full service at a gas station, i think i miss that more than anything. Thers is one lady who works at our local Walmart who greets you with a lovely smile, places all your bags in your cart and always says, " Have a wonderful day " Great tips..Voted up..

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      8 years ago from North Carolina

      Great points here. I get so frustrated with bad cashier and service people's attitudes!

    • sholland10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Holland 

      8 years ago from Southwest Missouri

      Hey Paula, I am going to tell you the same thing I told Kelly: don't send this hub out to your competitors. LOL

      With business, it is all about reputation. If you have excellent customer service, you are that much ahead of your competitors who don't train their employees properly.

      Thanks for dropping by!! :-)

    • sholland10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Holland 

      8 years ago from Southwest Missouri

      Thanks, Ruchira! You are right. I would travel miles to a business who has proven their reputation with their customer service, rather than going to one up the street with bad customer service.

      Thanks for dropping by and the votes! :-)

    • sholland10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Holland 

      8 years ago from Southwest Missouri

      Okay, Kelly, don't share this hub with your competitors. LOL

      Thanks for dropping by! :-)

    • fpherj48 profile image


      8 years ago from Carson City

      Susan....First, I need to mention that I absolutely love the bubble gum blowing CSR and the cartoon about "Larry." Funny and so real.

      You have done such a perfectly complete job, with vital do's and don'ts of customer TRAINING. ...there is little else to stress. Comments so far from fellow hubbers are excellent and reflect what we all seem to deal with and what we hope for, in terms of good customer service.

      I am with Just ask Susan when she makes the point that one would THINK businesses would make every effort to go above and beyond with the name of competition, during these economic down times. Doesn't it just make simple common sense?

      I also echo Kelly's comment about being just that much better in the CS dept. than your competitors. My husband and I have heard from our clients who tell us in no uncertain terms that they chose us because we are known for our dedication, helpfulness and availability.

      We know that our incredible ongoing success has a great deal to do with this.....and as Kelly says....let's hope the competition doesn't wake up from their snooze! I do wonder how such a simple rule seems so difficult for most businesses.....

      Superb hub, always

    • Ruchira profile image


      8 years ago from United States

      Customer Service sure involves as much dedication as opening a business. Customers need attention and respect and if that is given, they are ready to come from miles to shop there.

      That's how some local businesses are still thriving compared to the super chains.

      many votes, Susan :)

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 

      8 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Awesome Susan!

      So true - I know for a fact my business thrives because our customer service is excellent. I know I've gained clients because my competition has not figured this key bit of info out yet. Let's hope they stay stupid and in the dark:) lol

      Loved that video!!

    • sholland10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Holland 

      8 years ago from Southwest Missouri

      Thanks, Bill! Customer service seems to have gotten worse over the years, and I am afraid it is a reflection on the direction society is going. It is time employers step up and train their people. If we are turning into an entitled society, customer service needs to get even better because those who feel entitled will not tolerate bad behavior or tone from an employee in the work place. That will definitely create a loss of business. (Of course, I am speaking from the perspective of someone who works with young people and feel I see a glimpse of the future attitude.)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      8 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Great hub, great suggestions! I have talked about this many times and have worked retail many years. Good customer service begins with management, as you have pointed out. I will pay more money to shop somewhere where I know the customer service is good; it's worth it to me.

    • sholland10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Holland 

      8 years ago from Southwest Missouri

      I know, Susan. I do not understand why employers are not on top of customer service training from the beginning. They need to rethink their business practices.

      You brought up the phone. I should add something about employee tone of voice in person or on the phone. The mirror idea is a great idea. I have called a place when the person who answers has obviously had a bad day, or maybe they are constantly in bitch mode, but I will hang up and find another place to call for a service.

      Thanks for dropping by! I miss the full service gas stations too. I constantly have a dirty windshield. LOL

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 

      8 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I think people are getting really lazy when it comes to good customer service. I tend not to go places where I've been put off by poor service. You'd think with the economy the way it is that businesses would be bending over backwards to keep the customers that they have and to get obtain new business.

      I took a brush up course on customer service once that was related to phone use. The first day of class we were all handed a mirror that we had to look into every time we'd answer the phone. The point of the mirror was to remind us to smile every time before answering the phone to make sure we would sound pleasant.

      Excellent hub. Oh and by the way I really miss those full service gas stations :)


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