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Worst Customer Service Examples

And the Award Goes To – The Worst Customer Service Examples

Uthaman Bakthikrishnan

Uthaman Bakthikrishnan

Executive Vice President

I read an article in The Guardian on the worst customer service examples of 2023, written by Anna Tims.

The article highlighted poor customer service from various companies, where customers faced difficulties ranging from frozen bank accounts to disrupted services.

In these instances, companies focused on inflating their balance sheets and disappointing loyal customers, showcasing a pattern of inadequate customer service.

Here is a summary of examples of poor customer service cited in the article.

Corporate Logic Award – Barclays

Barclays is singled out for its dubious approach of telling a 91-year-old customer she was deceased to avoid addressing her request to remove her late husband’s name from their joint account. 

Mighty Backbone Award – Santander

Santander receives recognition for insisting that a bedbound stroke patient physically visit a branch on a stretcher for security checks while attempting to make an online payment.

HMRC’s Fine and L&Q’s Treatment of a Tenant

It highlights HMRC fining a widow for a tax return lapse of her late husband and L&Q’s housing association failing to address repairs for a terminally ill tenant, resulting in her eventual eviction.

Cunning Stalling Tactics – Transport for London (TfL)

TfL is noted for implementing obstacles in a scheme to encourage drivers to replace polluting vehicles, including rejecting applications based on technicalities like paper licenses and name changes.

Thrift Award – NFU Mutual

NFU Mutual is called out for offering a minimal settlement to a customer facing a 25,000-pound repair bill for water buffaloes in their swimming pool, disregarding expert quotes obtained by the company.

Outstanding Outreach – E.ON

E.ON receives a special award for evicting a mother and daughter from their social housing flat by deducting prepayment meter top-ups, forcing them out due to a debt from a previous tenant.

The Crown – Amazon

When parcels arrive empty, or not at all, or when a root vegetable has been substituted for a smartphone, Amazon refuses a refund unless they submit a police report, which it then has to verify by phone. The piece de resistance is to declare that it has been unable to get through and close the case.

When such mistakes are made, imagine the potential repercussions on customer trust and loyalty.

How Do You Address Such Customer Service Issues?

Invest in Comprehensive Training

Barclays faced criticism for telling a 91-year-old customer she was dead to avoid dealing with her request.

Investing in comprehensive training for customer service representatives can prevent such insensitive responses. Train agents not only on product knowledge but also on empathy and understanding of unique customer situations.

Utilize Technology for Efficiency

Imagine using technology here and automating the request of the 91-year-old to remove her late husband’s name from the joint account. It would have been a routine query, which would have been handled easily by technology, letting Barclays avoid the dubious distinction of being called out for being insensitive.

Flexible Policies and Empowerment

Santander insisting that a bedbound stroke patient visit a branch for security checks highlights the importance of flexible policies.

Empower customer service representatives to make compassionate decisions within reasonable limits. For instance, allowing exceptions for unique situations, such as bereaved customers requesting account changes.

Besides, regularly review and update policies to ensure they align with customer needs and prevent situations that hinder customer satisfaction.

Proactive Issue Resolution

Anticipate potential problems using analytics and intelligence and address them before they escalate.

For instance, if there’s a known issue with a product, proactively reach out to affected customers, offering solutions and alternatives.

Create Customer Feedback Mechanisms

Instances of customer dissatisfaction highlight the need for effective feedback mechanisms. Implement surveys and social media monitoring to gather customer insights.

Use this feedback to identify areas for improvement and make necessary changes promptly.

Prioritize Vulnerable Customers

The mistreatment of vulnerable customers, as seen in housing association L&Q’s case, emphasizes the need for special attention.

Establish specific protocols for handling vulnerable customers and train representatives accordingly.

Transparent Dispute Resolution Processes

Instances of ineffective dispute resolution, such as demanding police reports for missing parcels, underscore the need for transparency.

Develop clear and transparent dispute resolution processes that are customer-friendly and easy to understand.

The stories shared in The Guardian serve as cautionary tales and guideposts for enhancing customer service.

The practical steps illustrated above can transform customer service from a transaction into a meaningful connection, ensuring customers feel heard and valued.

As you embark on this customer service journey, keep the lessons learned close and let them shape a customer-centric approach that sets your business apart.

Happy serving!

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