Bad Customer Service Costs You More Than You Think

The intent of the old adage ‘the customer is always right’ is that one should always keep the customer’s needs in mind and do everything one can to make them happy.

Thankfully, most of our customer experiences are positive and uneventful but all of us have had a bad customer service experience.  Everyone has a story of their own or has heard one from someone else.  Searching the phrase “bad customer service” in Google’s News tab will serve up a list of over 60,500,000 articles about bad customer service, and there are another 36+ million videos on the subject.

Millions of people encounter bad service from all kinds of businesses every year.  It happens to everyone eventually.  Much of it can be blamed upon poorly trained employees, lack of oversight, non-customer-friendly policies, arduous-to-navigate telephone menus, and just plain old human stupidity and/or lack of critical thinking skills.

What constitutes bad service?

‘Bad Service’ can mean a plethora of things ranging from how long people have to wait on hold before connecting with someone, to how that person communicates with them, what tone they use or how they respond via email communications.

A client told me about his bad service experience recently.  He was referred to a company by a friend and purchased hundreds of dollars’ worth of product from them.  Unfortunately, being a first-time buyer, he accidentally omitted a critical component and only realized the error when things arrived.

The part in question was only $30 but now he’d have to pay $10 to ship it.  Had it been included in the original order it would have qualified for free shipping.  He wrote to the company explaining the error and asking if they’d waive the shipping fee.  Their reply made him so mad that he shared it with me.  The email from the company didn’t address him by name.  It was defensive, accusatory, and condescending.  It didn’t include the sender’s name, the company logo or any contact information, and essentially told him to buy it and pay the shipping or to go without.  Worst of all, they didn’t even thank him for his original order or his business.  Nor were they smart enough to offer him a coupon or a discount on future orders.

What a way to treat a first-time customer!  As you might guess, he’ll never do business with them again, all because of $10 and a thoughtlessly worded email.

What businesses don’t seem to ‘get’ is that poor service can undo everything else that you’re doing well.  If you have the best price in town but treat customers in a high-handed and dismissive fashion or make it difficult for them to contact you and solve their problems, it’s practically a guarantee that they’ll never buy from you again.

This is going to hurt – a lot!

Acquiring a new customer can cost five times more than retaining an existing customer and increasing customer retention by just 5% can increase profits from 25-95%.[i]

When people have a terrible service experience, they usually tell their friends, family, and colleagues about it.  Research has shown that  72% of customers will share a positive experience with 6 or more people, but 50% of angry customers tell at least 15 other people about their experience.[ii]  Just one bad customer interaction can keep more than a dozen people from ever doing business with you.  Add in the ability for customers to leave bad Google reviews and that number can increase exponentially.  Lost customers can translate into tens of thousands in lost revenue.

Why would anyone risk losing a customer due to poor service when it’s so easy to provide good service instead?

How do you fix it?

The easiest way to ensure good service is to ensure that you have well-skilled people delivering it.  More than 5.5 million job listings included “customer service” as a job requirement on jobsite ZipRecruiter in May this year.[iii]

Training them adequately and monitoring their performance also needs to happen but hiring people with ‘service aptitude’ will help to ensure success.  Good service comes from kind, thoughtful, motivated, proactive and empathetic people, and you can test them for those things.  People who deliver good service have all or most of the following traits:

  • Competitiveness
  • Initiative
  • Assertiveness
  • Extroversion
  • Cooperativeness
  • Relaxed Style
  • Sales Closing Ability
  • Motivation
  • Planning Skills
  • Team Orientation
  • Personal Diplomacy
  • Patience
  • Self-Confidence
  • Pressure Tolerance

Even if you think you have a stellar candidate, testing them will confirm (or deny) what you think that you already know about them.  Creative Organizational Design carries dozens of customer service skills assessments to help employers do exactly that.

If you’re hiring for service roles or are receiving more angry calls than you think that you should be, find yourself a good assessment tool and start testing your applicants and employees.

We can help you find the right solution for your needs and help you start to turn things around.  You can review our dozens of customer service tests here and we’ll be happy to help you resolve any problems that you’re encountering.

[i] Customer Retention Marketing vs. Customer Acquisition Marketing

[ii] Outcomes of Bad Customer Service

[iii] 6 million job listings asked for ‘communication skills’: Here’s how to include them on your resume


David Towler is President of Creative Organizational Design, a firm offering nearly 40 years of expertise specializing in employee assessments and which has over 2000 different product titles available. Creative Organizational Design has 100s of assessment tools designed to help employers screen out other people’s rejects, assess skills, aptitude, attitude and ‘fit’ within an organization. For more information about the options available and help selecting the best tools for your needs please contact us.  Please send comments about this article to

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