Sales & Marketing

5 great and 5 bad examples of customer service

14 min read

04 June 2014

Everyone has more than likely had at least one memorable customer service experience, whether that be good or bad. We've found some of the best and worst experiences that customers have encountered.

Best customer services…

1. …surprising their customers

While getting ready to board a flight after a gruelling day of traveling, author and business consultant Peter Shankman joked on Twitter that he would be starving by the time he landed. He tweeted restaurant favourite Morton’s Porterhouse, saying: “Hey, @Mortons – can you meet me at newark airport with a porterhouse when I land in two hours? K, thanks. :)” 

Bear in mind that it was no easy feat to track down his flight information, figure out where he was landing, and then drive 23.5 miles after making food. But imagine Shankman’s surprise when he got off the plane to find a tuxedoed gentleman holding a bag that contained a 24 oz, shrimp, potatoes, bread, napkins and silverware. 

2. …take advice

Three-year-old Lily Robinson, confused by one of Sainsbury’s products called tiger bread, wrote a letter to their customer service department. The letter exclaimed that the bread didn’t resemble a tiger at all, and in fact looked like a giraffe.

Customer support manager Chris King responded and explained the origins of the name: “I think renaming tiger bread giraffe bread is a brilliant idea – it looks much more like the blotches on a giraffe than the stripes on a tiger, doesn’t it? It is called tiger bread because the first baker who made it a loooong time ago thought it looked stripey like a tiger. Maybe they were a bit silly.”

Sainsbury’s then changed the name of the bread and put signs around their stores that give a humorous nod to Lily’s original idea. After all, the customer is always right!

3. …show some love when it’s needed

This is a tear-jerking story, where a grandfather could potentially see his grandson for the last time. The boy had been beaten into a coma by his mother’s boyfriend and would be taken off of life support so that his organs could be used to save someone else’s life. On the way from a trip in LA to Denver, where everything would be taking place after his wife called Southwest airlines to book a last-minute flight and explain the situation.

He was delayed in traffic and ended up arriving at the gate 12 minutes after the plane would have left. What waited for him at the gate, however, was the pilot himself. He said: “They can’t go anywhere without me, and I wasn’t going anywhere without you. Now relax. We’ll get you there. And again, I’m so sorry.”

4. …play along

From what’s been told, the Ritz-Carlton is known for it’s high standard of customer service. But the story of Joshie the giraffe is certainly a great example of how much they value their customers.

After a stay in the Ritz-Carlton, Chris Hurn’s son accidentally left stuffed toy Joshie the giraffe in their hotel room. Trying to calm his son, Hurn assured that Joshie was just taking an extra few days of vacation. He later the staff and explained what he had told his son. The staff did send Joshie back, but only after making sure that they captured Joshie’s many activities during his stay. This included pictures of him relaxing at the pool area, helping out the loss prevention department, visiting the spa and, of course, his very own staff card.

5. …give a unique service

Now known across the globe, Michael from Netflix was an instant success! Subscriber Norm contacted the company about a problem he was having with an episode of Parks and Rec. In the middle of the episode, the video player would get stuck and then continuously played the last three seconds in a loop. His chosen way of contacting the company: through the company’s chat service. Michael was the one that answered to his plight, beginning by introducing himself as “Captain Mike of the good ship Netflix” and then asking which member of the crew he was speaking with. “Lieutenant” Norm, obviously a Star Trek fan, responded as if he was a ranking Star Fleet officer.

With the exception of the first two lines, neither side broke character for the duration of the conversation.

A Zendesk survey found, however, that 95 per cent share bad customer experiences with others – eight per cent more than with good-experience stories. And if you think one bad experience won’t hurt business, you’re wrong.

Take it from previous customers… there are a few things that businesses should probably avoid.

1. Telling consumers they don’t know anything

Elaine B. explains that she was only trying to contact Comcast to find something out about her bill. “I couldn’t understand the different groupings of channels which had no explanation just names like Extended Package. She couldn’t explain it and kept getting the same channels in different groupings. I said, very politely, that I didn’t understand her explanation, and if there was someone else who can explain it to me so I would understand.”

The woman apparently replied: “You’re stupid.” Then she hung up.

2. Taking too long to respond

Bernard Marr ordered a white BIRKELAND bed from IKEA for his eight-year old daughter.
The day after he took delivery of the boxes, the delivery company called saying that they failed to deliver one part of the bed and would deliver the missing piece in two days time. On that day the delivery company never turned up. They apologized and promised to deliver the next day. “I hired a decorator to decorate my daughter’s room, which included putting up the new bed,” Marr explained. “I then get a call from the decorator explaining to me that there seem to be parts that don’t belong to the bed. After some confusion we realized that the delivery company delivered some parts of a completely different bed and that the slats for the bed I originally ordered were still missing.”

After ringing customer service they apologised and said they would send a courier company to deliver the slats in two days time and pick up the wrong parts and once nobody turned up. He rang again, got another apology and an explanation that the store manager didn’t sign off the delivery. When the missing slats were finally delivered, they didn’t take the wrong bed parts with them – which got him calling customer service once more. Having to go through virtual assistants, email and submission forms, ut took them nine months to respond in full.

3. Due diligence!

This could possibly be the worst customer service experience of all time! Ikenna Njoku, was looking forward to paying off his car loan, tried to cash a tax rebate check of $8,463 at Chase Bank. The bank worker, however, immediately expressed doubts that the check was legit. He said: “She asked me what I did for a living. Asked me where I got the check from, looked me up and down–like ‘you just bought a house in Auburn, really?’ She didn’t believe that.”

The police arrested him for forgery the next day. He spent five nights in jail before bank investigators and police were able to clear him. By then, the car he had hoped to pay off had been towed and auctioned off and he also lost his job because he didn’t show up for work. Furthermore, Chase did nothing after the incident, not even an apology. Only a year later, after being contacted by an attorney and a local reporter did the bank an apology.

4. Not listening to the customer

Chris Williams was worried that someone named “Brittni” was phishing his email address and contacted Amazon’s customer support team through its live chat function, to ask Amazon to block an email address that appeared to be associated with his real address. The conversation didn’t go as planned. Here’s a sample of the transcript:

CW: Someone created an account using my gmail account but with a “.” in it. This is still associated with my email address and is not my account. How can I delete this account? My name is not brittni.. my name is chris williams. my actual account is this other account was created using
i believe it is some sort of phishing attempt but I don’t want this account associate with my email.

Farah: yah..Im just here..but before we proceed let me check your account for security purposes okay? mAY i KNOW THE ACCOUNT HOLDER PLEASE.

CW: ok. my real account is NOT – i had to password reset in order to get this account. Chris Williams.

Farah: May I know the account holder please..

CW: Account holder is Chris Williams.

Farah: your first and last name plese

CW: First = Chris
Last = Williams

Farah: okay let me check this out for you okay? one moment plese. ..this one is your account am I correct on this?

CW: yes… is my account.

Farah: okay..Il reset your password..just check the link on you can have your new password okay?

CW: no, i don’t need you to reset my password.

Farah: OH OKAY..I ask an apology for that one..

CW: i need you to delete this “” account because it is not mine. please don’t change my password.

Farah: ah yah sure..I’m not going to change your Password maam..

CW: maam? what is going on here?

5. Being unsympathetic and unwilling to work with the client

In a blog, RicemanFTW describes his latest interaction with American Express, explaining that he had made a decimal point mistake when making a payment from his iPhone. He discovered the error before AmEx, notifying both the bank and AmEx, whom were understanding and going so far as to say that they would cover an overdraft charges. 

“A few days later, I get a call from the wife saying that she can’t use the card…I check the account, no suspension notices or anything. I call AmEx up and I’m put through to their returned payments department. I end up on the phone with a very unsympathetic rep who basically accuses me of trying to defraud them so that I can make illegal purchases. When I inform that I had contacted AmEx a few days before to notify THEM of the mistake I had made he told me if that was the case then I should have stopped the payment.” In the end, the service rep said: “That’s what customer service does. They tell you what you want to hear.” And suspended his account.