Top tips for bad customer service

Many of the companies we deal with personally provide astoundingly bad customer service (phone, mobile and utility companies: we’re looking at you). Well, they say if a job’s worth doing badly, it’s worth doing really badly – so here are 5 top tips for companies who truly wish to excel at bad customer service.

1. Don’t provide the product/service you’re being paid for. This is really the basic foundation of all customer dissatisfaction. Any aspiring bad service market leader must go out of their way to ensure that deliveries don’t arrive and services are provided intermittently. Note that intermittent provision of a service (eg. broadband) is actually preferable to not providing it at all: it gives much more scope for nurturing customer irritation.

2. Make it really difficult for your customers to talk to you. For maximum impact here, you should first spend millions on branding and advertising to tell the world what a friendly and helpful company you are. Then, ensure that your paying customers are unable to speak to you in the event of a problem. There are two tried-and-tested techniques for this: the automated phone menu gambit, and the you-can-only-contact-us-by-email-which-we’ll-ignore stratagem. Both are proven to provide excellent motivation for customers to tell all their friends how very bad your service is.

3. Blame the customer. If you do have the misfortune to find yourself actually speaking to a customer, do all you can to insist that nothing is wrong. In doing so, it’s good practice to imply that the customer is lying, for example by stating that the delivery “definitely arrived last Friday”, or that mobile coverage is “excellent in your area”. If the query relates to a computer, always imply that the customer is at fault and then say: “have you tried re-installing Windows?”

4. Stitch up your support staff. Everyone knows that a company’s success comes down to its staff, so do ensure that support staff are fully untrained and have none of the information and tools they need to do their job. Your basic disempowering checklist should include ensuring that support staff cannot see customer account details, do not understand how your company’s processes work, and have no authority to change anything.

5. Spend all your money on billing systems. While much of the bad service rulebook is about striving for imperfection, there is one very important exception: your billing systems must be built and managed with all the IT resources of the Large Hadron Collider. Money must be removed from bank accounts with ruthless efficiency, and billing errors in the customer’s favour must never, ever occur. While lightning-quick transactions are crucial in this area, don’t forget to include the feature whereby refunds always take “up to 30 days” to be processed.

And so there you have it, aspiring providers of customer service awfulness: do your worst.

2 thoughts on “Top tips for bad customer service

  1. How very true. It’s funny how we are always brainwashed into believing how great the capitalist model is and that perfect competition produces the best products and service for the customer. The reality is, that many of the businesses in this country and elsewhere provide worse service and value for money than many of our old lumbering Nationalised industries of the past. Technology has moved on obviously, and that has provided improvements but customer service and industry quality has deteriorated significantly in the last 30 years.

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