Most Epic Customer Service Fails and What Brands Should Learn From Them
Customer Trends

Most Epic Customer Service Fails and What Brands Should Learn From Them

Seven worst customer service failures and major learning for brands in 2022.

Sanjoli Jain


8 Min

A customer support representative has never, in the history of time, woken up in the morning, rubbed the sleep from their eyes, and said to themselves, “I commit that I’ll give terrible customer service at work today.” Yet inadequate customer support happens every day. Sometimes, in ways that are blindingly obvious and more often in subtle ways.

Leaders of the customer support teams should be able to correct these failures. But such corrections require language, concepts, and strategies. Just saying “you could’ve done better out there with that customer” isn’t super-helpful.

Here, I have compiled a list of major customer service fails and why they fail. I have also included some key takeaways that you can learn from to avoid similar customer service failures for your brand.

Before I begin sharing our findings, here is a quick psychology lesson about customers and their behavior in general:

  • They buy from you because they like your products.
  • They follow you on social media because they like the content you post.
  • They’ll reshare your content, whether funny, ridiculous, or newsworthy. But, it can get more personal than this.

And then there will be those rare occasions where they’ll actually compose a tweet about your company. This means that they’re probably feeling one of two things:

  • They’re pissed off with your services
  • They’re freaking furious! This means they’re on the verge of leaving.

If they’re extremely pissed, you could find yourself featured in a blog post that details all the horrible things your customers would prefer to do instead of buying from you again.

I could come up with a long-winded list of company-customer interactions gone wrong. But why take up any more of the time you’ve already wasted agonizing over customer service? Here are some common customer service fails and how to prevent them from happening:

1. Customer Empathy At Its Lowest

Customer Empathy At Its Lowest

Verizon continues to bill woman for her dead father’s account

As Cynthia Lacy’s father passed away in December 2009, she got in touch with Verizon to get his cell phone account canceled. Verizon refused to take any action because she could not supply his PIN number. She then tried showing her father’s death certificate. That didn’t work either. Furthermore, Verizon continued to bill her until March 2010, after which Lacy went to press with her story. It was only then that Verizon canceled the account and even refunded her.

This is probably a huge customer service fail, and I would not want to buy services from brands that treat their customers so ruthlessly.

Key Takeaway

Now I agree that you might say, “But what about the customer policies. If they require the PIN number to cancel the subscription, she should have just taken care of it.” I have one thing to say to you:

Read about customer empathy!

Customer empathy is a universal language that you, as a customer support manager, must understand! It is not about framing specific strategies. You cannot quantify it using a formula and then teach it to your support agents. Organizations that put customers at the center of everything and rely on human insights to inform will fundamentally thrive more than the ones that don’t.

2. The Perils of Automated Chatbots

Perils of Automated Chatbots

The Perils of Automated Chatbots by AT&T

Here goes the age-old debate: Whether automated chatbots are a lost cause or not. This is a classic customer service failure example that proves that automated chatbots, if not put to use correctly, maybe a lost cause.

I’m not asking you to not have automated responses as a part of your support team. But, you can make better use of it. Your chatbots are supposed to hold the conversation until your agents are available. They’re supposed to support the customers until you support reps are available. If not done appropriately, this is what happens.

Key Takeaway:

Chatbots are pretty trending these days. Chatbots make it easier for customers to get answers on the fly. This discourages the customers from raising issues on social media platforms, calls, or emails.

But, you need to pick the right chatbot. You need to be aware that your customers do not fall prey to too much automation. Even with your chatbots, you can keep the messages friendly and empathetic. Make sure your chatbots do not hold your customers for long and that the service agent can take over as soon as possible.

Avoid Customer Service Fails

Let DeskXpand’s features like self-service, live chats, SLAs, etc. take care of your customers while you and your team are away.

3. Lack of Customer-Focussed Service

Here are two different but similar customer service fails that should never happen! The bare minimum a customer expects from a brand is that they listen to them and provide timely services. Many brands are active and empathetic while pitching their products and services. But when it comes to things like refunds, they take gazillions of years to process that. Also, sometimes minor queries take longer to resolve, and priorities get messed up. But as a brand, you should be able to conquer this as soon as possible. Do not wait for the customer to get frustrated and leave you.

Key Takeaway

These issues only happen if you do not have the priorities managed at the customer end. Use appropriate tools for priority management. Enabling various SLAs (service level agreements) will help you prioritize issues and set certain rules and regulations. It’ll also help you make sure that those rules are followed.

4. Listening is Not Enough; You Must Take Actions

This is entirely my personal experience with Amazon. I keep trying new dog foods as my dog gets bored eating the same thing. So, I was looking for dog treats and saw this brand on Amazon. The food description seemed fine, and it was ranked first on Amazon’s list. The experience, however, turned out to be pathetic. My dog went sick and had a bad stomach for a week.

Listening is Not Enough

I was so pissed at Amazon for ranking an absolutely horrible product that was life-endangering. What I found next was even more shocking. I checked the reviews of that product, and there were 3-4k+ negative reviews of that product. Everyone had the same issues; their dog felt sick after eating the product. So I talked to Amazon’s customer support team, and eventually, they offered me a complete refund. I asked them to report the issue at large and take it forward as well. The support agent assured me that they would take it further.

Six months hence, the product is still ranking at the first position, and the negative reviews keep adding. *Sigh*

Guess who’s never buying essentials from Amazon anymore!

They did try to retain me (as a customer) by providing a full refund. But, some things are above money. Some things are purely about the experience, after-effect, and the brand’s response towards that problem. And as far as I know, a brand should not be promoting any life-endangering products just for profit.

Key Takeaway

There are two takeaways from this:

Stay true to your brand. Your branding, marketing, etc., will not work if your products are not upto the mark (in this case, they’re edible and not a danger to health.)

The second lesson comes from the eCommerce site, i.e., Amazon. Sometimes certain things are more important than money. Sometimes you need to do so much more than just listen. You need to act and take stricter actions, too, if needed. You cannot let your website promote life-endangering products. Imagine what impression it will leave on your customers.

5. Longer Wait Time

Longer Wait Time


No customer wants to wait longer and definitely not on the call.

Look at this customer; they’re not just disappointed in a single brand. But, disappointed with the collective experience they have had with multiple brands. This shows that brands must change their standards of services because the customers ask for it!

Key Takeaway

Work on your response time policies. Be it first response, second response, or even feedback. The customers deserve quick and apt responses. They do not deserve to have to wait, worse, ignored. Even if your services take longer, it is a good idea to keep the customer in the loop and keep updating them with the truth.

Reduce Customer Wait Time by Streamlining Your Support

Use DeskXpand’s robust helpdesk features to simplify operation at the support end. Decide and set priorities and keep your customers happy.

6. Lesser Channels To Communicate

This customer service fail is the winner of all the customer service fails in the world. Your customer’s bad experience should never narrow down to this that they’re not able to contact you at all. And that too for ten days? Never!

Key Takeaway

The only takeaway from this incident can be providing as many mediums of communication as possible. Either you hire more customer support agents, or you streamline your support. The wise way to go about this would be to adopt an omnichannel approach. An omnichannel communication system will ensure that your team does not miss even a single query.

7. Lack of Proactive Customer Service

Proactivity is the foundation of an ideal customer service strategy. If you want your customers to know the actual value of your company, you should communicate with them regularly. Investing in the latest technology tools will allow you to answer your customers’ questions and build a solid relationship with them. Offering support throughout their customer journey is your secret weapon to making them feel valued.

Here’s a very bizarre customer service fail due to a lack of proactive customer service by the brand Target. A few years ago, Target, a retail brand, experienced a situation where a Facebook user started a new page posing as Target’s customer service team. They would respond to posts on Target’s page and mock customers who had complaints about the company’s new, gender-neutral signage.

Customer Support-Target

Customer Support – Target

The account was not sanctioned by Target, and people were mistaking it for the company’s actual customer service team. So, the Facebook user could post statements that did not reflect the brand’s values. In this scenario, Target could have been proactive to monitor their social media channels and find out this issue.

Even though they might not have stopped this user from creating a fake account, they would have caught it sooner and could have prevented it from going viral and causing controversy.

Actions Speak Louder Than Strategies On Paper

I hope these customer service failure examples were able to provide useful insights for you to prevent customer service fails for your brand. Good customer support can generate delightful customer experiences if done right. If your company can effectively support customers on all channels, you’ll generate positive engagement for your business. But, sometimes, customer support can also be unforgiving. If your reps are not equipped to handle customer demands or are not sure how to communicate on the platform, it can harm your customer experience and eventually revenue.

We live in the age of customer-centricity. So much so that the idea of a customer service snafu going viral is a nightmare for most brands. One bad experience can spread uncontrollably across social media. It can cause your brand a total erosion of trust and reputation if the damage control is not done frantically. This loss of brand trust and a damaged reputation are just the first few effects of viral customer service fails. Sometimes, even after the best efforts from the entire support team, it could lead to loss of revenue over time and can negatively impact the bottom line.

On the contrary, a delightful customer experience creates brand loyalty. Customers return to a brand when they recall having a great experience interacting with the brand. In the end, everything narrows down to how well things are at the support end. Let DeskXpand take care of that. Take a free trial.

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