Why Do Businesses Still Provide Terrible Customer Service?

Why Businesses Still Provide Terrible Customer Service
Why Businesses Still Provide Terrible Customer Service

As most business owners already know, it’s all too easy to lose valuable customers in today’s competitive, accelerated, consumer-powered marketplace. And providing terrible customer service is one of the fastest ways to make it happen. So why do we still see so many examples of companies offering awful customer service? There might be 6 major reasons for that:

Failing to realize the cost of bad customer service

Some businesses simply fail to realize and acknowledge the importance of customer service and, particularly, the financial impact of poor customer service on their organizations. Here’s some curious statistics to get you rethinking your customer service strategy:

  • 89% of consumers have stopped doing business with a company after experiencing poor customer service (RightNow Customer Experience Impact Report).
  • 86% of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience (CEI Survey).
  • 45% of US consumers will abandon an online transaction if their questions or concerns are not addressed quickly (Forrester research).

Not building a customer centric culture

What does it really mean to be customer centric? Customer centricity actually goes further beyond just offering outstanding customer service. Customer centric strategy is based on putting your customers first, at the core of your business. It’s about measuring what matters to your customers, designing processes and policies from the customer’s point of view, engaging with customers from the get go and being committed to customer success. Ultimately, building a customer-centric culture is a forward-looking and profitable strategy for any business.

Not having a dedicated customer service team

Who’s responsible for customer service at your business? Do they have enough time for customer support in their daily workflow? Do they possess the needed skills for providing a really great customer service? Are they equipped with the right tools to serve your customers effectively? No matter how small or big your business, having a customer service team totally dedicated to supporting your customers (and trained to do it right) is a ‘must-have’ aspect of any successful business.

Hiring the wrong employees

When it comes to customer service, in most cases it’s the people who make all the difference. Are you sure you’re hiring the right people to do the customer service job? It’s not only about having the needed skill-set, being a great listener and an effective communicator. It’s more about having passion for this kind of job and really enjoy doing it. Some people are just not cut out for customer service work, and hiring them for customer service positions might just do more harm than good for your business.

Not empowering your customer service frontline

Customer service is more than answering simple questions about your products or services. When dealing with complicated issues and complaining customers, your customer service agents have to be real decision makers and problem solvers. Are they empowered to take responsibility and make it right to the end when things go wrong? To ensure customer satisfaction, your customer service team needs to be authorized to make decisions on their own and act quickly, responsibly and effectively in difficult situations.

Refusing to invest in customer service training

True professionals in any field are lifelong learners. The same pertains to customer service which is a hard and challenging job. So no matter how good you think your customer service reps are, there’s always room for improvement, and investing in it would pay off in a number of ways such as:

  • Higher employee engagement
  • Improved customer service skills
  • Enhanced customer satisfaction
  • Increased profit for your business


Customer service plays a crucial role in customer acquisition and retention for any business of any size in any industry. Can you really afford to keep losing your customers simply due to lousy customer service and your inability and unwillingness to keep your customers satisfied? If not, it’s about time for some serious changes in your customer service strategy in order to take it to the next level.

Provide Support is a leading software provider in customer service, offering live chat and real-time visitor monitoring tool for businesses: www.ProvideSupport.com

Mary Shulzhenko
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  1. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve experienced poor customer service. Sometimes I’ve wanted to grab the customer service rep by the shoulders and say “Don’t you realize you’re hurting your business?” This is a great article that I hope more people read. Easy fixes for great customer service!

    1. Thank you Tara, glad you enjoyed it. We’ve all experienced poor customer service situations so I perfectly understand what you feel.

  2. Every business must realize that people are its greatest resource. Whether it’s the people within or the people who visit the business as customers everyday, it is important to invest in and pursue excellence in customer service if the business will prosper and be profitable. Thanks for this enlightening article. Knowledge is Power!

    1. Thanks Bunmi, you’re right, it’s the people, whether employees or customers, who determine our business success.

  3. well thought out and lucidly explained on the significance of customer service for every organisation to pursue to cherish prosperity and growth. Customer service — a mission in pursuit of excellence.

  4. If I was a boss I’d never tolerate poor customer service at all as the customers are the backbones of our business no matter how abusive some can get sometimes as I’ve experienced bad customer service as well but know it may not be the workers fault as many things come into play when dealing with customers.

  5. The answer to the question why so many companies / businesses provide horrible customer service is simple:
    “because they think they can”. And as a matter a fact it very often is not that easy at all to go to the competitor. Try changing your phone number or your bank account. Finally; what people say and what people do tends to differ. Sure, a high percentage will say that they are willing to pay for better customer service. But as the owner and manager of a very good (and yes, a little bit more expensive) contact center, I have experienced customers walk away for a 2 cents difference.

    So…..as long as customers don’t have the energy and won’t spend the extra dime for better customer service, things are not going to change. Let’s face it; people are complaining more than 30 years about bad customer service. I would really be surprised if that would change in the next 30 years.

  6. Very interesting. I see also other reasons:
    – The fact that measuring customer satisfaction and direct impact on a business is sometimes not easy and often require expenses companies are not ready to pay
    – The fact that many companies are terrible for Customer Services, especially in Europe, so why to try to have a different strategy that main competitors have?… It is a risk where expenses are clear but benefits are not easy to perceive
    – Managers are often targetting short term results, mainly because of management control, and pressure of shareholders. On the short term, cutting expenses linked with Customer care is very easy (no training, outsourcing, juniors, time spent, etc…) and brings money at once. On the long term a bad Customer care may be catastrophic and a good one may create success, but it is rearly acknoledged as such. Moreover the time frame to measure results of a good Customer Service is, to my mind, at least 3 years, while manager performance measurement is one year only, and the managers are requested to bring performance at once.

  7. This entire article leaves the basic question, “Why Do Businesses Still Provide Terrible Customer Service?” unanswered. But towards the end, under the heading “Bottom Line”, it at least rephrases the question in a form that leads to the answer:

    “Can you really afford to keep losing your customers simply due to lousy customer service and your inability and unwillingness to keep your customers satisfied?”

    The answer to this question for most offending businesses is, unfortunately, a resounding YES!

    So this raises the original question again. The real issue is why to so many companies have knowledge of the negative impact of poor customer service, yet enthusiastically and knowingly continue to follow policies that drive many customers away?

    The answer is: MARKET FAILURE.

    Market failure is a term that describes failure “free market forces” to do their job, resulting in poor outcomes.

    So, what is standing in the way of free market forces doing their job here?

    Monopolies and oligopolies.

    Poor customer service is a behavior that makes bottom line sense to companies that feel their customers have no place better to go when they are disrespected, mistreated, or cheated. To companies like this, the loss in business they experience by delivering poor customer service is simply “collateral damage” which to them is an investment in the larger goal of extracting maximum revenue from a captive audience in a non-competitive environment.

    Think of it this way: If you are the only fishing boat (or one of a small select few fishing boats) that has exclusive access to “prey” in a fishing ground that you are able to “wall off” with nets so the fish cannot escape, you can be as inefficient as you want and still rake in a large catch each time you go out. It pays to be cheap. Improving your methods won’t happen because you don’t have to spend the money in order to make a profit. All you have to do is keep your fish from escaping to other waters.

    The only flaw in this thinking for monopoly or oligopoly fishermen is overfishing, which eventually reduces the fish population to zero, resulting in bankruptcy. When this happens it’s too late to fix it. But smart fishermen simply abandon their boats shortly before the end and move on to the next “slash and burn” opportunity, leaving nothing but ruins in their wake.

    Unfortunately there is a name for the ruins they create: the economy. What happened in 2007 can happen again. Just not exactly in the same waters. While we are supposedly watching the real estate and banking industry (and doing even that poorly) the foxes have moved on to other hen houses (or new still viable fishing waters to consume and destroy).

    We have to start thinking about the larger picture. Simply teaching the converted how to offer better customer service is a good thing. But the larger problem of the unconverted will require a much larger effort to make our market economy competitive again.

  8. I believe that the customer service is poor because of a two fold issue.

    1. People expect customer service but do not know how to give it or think it to be to hard. The majority of people in the service industry are over worked and stressed to the point of not caring. This is happening because the cost of that service is high. Like Paul says. Some people are willing to pay a little more but need to see value not just a cost. What is the added value to the higher price.

    2. The generations that are coming into the work force now have a very low work ethic in general. I see it every day. The people have low loyalty and will change jobs or quit because it is expecting to much of them to care.

    This is not very optimistic but it seems to be a way of the future. I work in the hospitality industry with a average turnover of 5-6 employees a year. My average tenure is 5 years with 22 employees.

    1. Thank you Kevin. I tend to agree with you about new generations with low work ethic and loyalty, however, I believe it also results from poor management, lack of leadership and employee motivation within organizations.

  9. Failure to provide good customer service often reflects the quality of employees hired and thus the hiring process. The employees should have the passion and not only the skills in customer service. The hiring process should not solely focusing on the qualifications but also capable inf identifying the said ‘passion’ by implementing ‘project or assignment’ type of interviews, instead of filling up stacks of checklist/forms. Credit should be given to candidates who have the initiatives in problem solving, innovation and exerting extra effort to please the customers rather than candidates with good accent or charming voices etc.

    Aside from that, the organization has to equip the employees with knowledge and details of the company itself, the vision and mission, the people in the company, the stakeholders, the products and services. These information should be updated frequently and disseminated to all employees.

    Proper tools and training are definitely critical in any customer service. The employees should be provided with the right tools for delivering, following up, monitoring and giving feedback to customer inquiries or complaints. Training should focus on i) developing new skills ii) rectifying weaknesses or continuous improvements iii) updating information iv) introducing new technology or tools.

    And last but not least, the organization willingness to invest in building customer centric culture through developing and branding good customer service team(s).

    1. Thank you Mohaini, that’s perfectly true. Excellent customer service starts with hiring the right people with the passion for this job. And then, of course, everyone should be properly trained to improve their both technical and soft skills, and equipped with all the necessary customer service tools.

      1. You are right on the money about getting the right people and giving them the tools to help the customer. Good customer service should be seen as a company wide objective from management to customer service to shipping to accounting because in some way every position has an effect on keeping customers. In today”s atmosphere it is so easy to lose a customer and anything that rubs a customer the wrong way can be cause for a customer to go elsewhere.
        I am between positions and I hear lots of lip service about how important customer service is when interviewing. Then they offer you part time work at near minimum salary. This does not seem like customer service people are really important to management. Until customer service positions are treated as important as they are the climate of bad customer service will continue. Customer Service people need to feel they are important part of the company rather than an easily repaceable peon. Give me a place where I can have a career with benefits and I will work my butt off to make the company better. You get what you pay for so why would it be expected that customer service would be top rate.

        1. Thanks Douglas, just couldn’t agree more. Until customer service people are valued by management and treated as important as they are, customers will continue getting bad service.

  10. I agree with Mohaine and Douglas,

    Employees must have the right tools and management must reinforce those tools being the roll model of how it should be done. It is not hard to listen to a customer complaint if you do not personalize it. The best advice I ever got from a coach was to keep a pocket full of Qtips. I laughed when I heard it, what would Qtips have to do with anything? I did ask, luckily. She explained to hand a Qtip, to whomever it was, management or an employee who did not give the customer what they wanted and tell them Quite Taking It Personal. A customer didn’t get the food they wanted, well replace it. They didn’t like something, get them something else. They have an issue, fix it. First, it’s not coming out of our pocket, unless they walk away upset, then they tell all their friends. Their friends tell others. We all know how bad news spreads.

    As far as hiring good employees. Sad to say, sometimes you have to go head hunt. Of course good employees maybe hard to find, many are all ready working at competitors or other jobs. They probably aren’t getting paid well where they are either. I have seen employees stay at companies, making very little money, perhaps having to work 2 or 3 jobs to feed their family, have a home, and buy an overly priced used car, because they can not afford a new one. This has been going on since the late 80s and its not getting better. What we can do, is provide our employees a place to work which they feel at home. They feel part of the ‘family’ and are not just another face collecting another pay check.

    The economy is one battle, but what we do in our own workplace, and how we treat our employees will impact how the customers are treated. If employees are unhappy, why would they care about making the customers happy, for at the end of the day, they still walk home with a paycheck, and your company may have just lost another customer.

  11. At my position we serve our clients with excellence and when we provide customer service we think and act like an owner. You have to take the initiative to be constantly training and improving your customer service skills to retain your customers and keep them coming back. There is always room for improvement and you should never treat a customer bad, no matter what the situation is. They are your bread and butter that keeps your job and your company. It does take that special employee who loves their job and truly wants to make a difference to those they service. Training is on-going and keeps us abreast of any new changes in our products so that we may pass that onto our customers. Our company is fully vested in their customer service agents and we take pride in ensuring they are fully trained to do their job.

    1. Thank you Geralyn, you are spot on. Training, improving your skills and the right attitude are essential in customer service.

  12. Simple and great point of view of customer service. I think Customer Service is like the heart thay pump all the blood in our body. It’s true that customer service is the core of any business in the world. Nice article.

  13. Hi.
    I provide a lot of customer service training in the uk motor trade and talk to my delegates about the financial value of customer service.
    To keep it simple I use the following structured questioning.
    For how many years will somebody drive a vehicle of yours or a competitors product?
    Answer, approximately 30
    On average, how often to they change their car?
    Answer 3 years (you can see I keep the maths easy)
    So they have 10 cars in that period of time
    What is the average value of a vehicle?
    Answer (it depends on the make) let’s assume £15,000
    What is the turnover over 30 years
    answer £450,000
    How much do they spend on service and repairs per year?

    And so on.

    The question is, as a business wouldn’t you therefore want loyal customers. I then lead into customer satisfaction, delight or whatever phrase is being used and make the links.

    Happy Xmas everybody

  14. Very interesting. I see also other reasons:
    – The fact that measuring customer satisfaction and direct impact on a business is sometimes not easy and often require expenses companies are not ready to pay
    – The fact that many companies are terrible for Customer Services, especially in Europe, so why to try to have a different strategy that main competitors have?… It is a risk where expenses are clear but benefits are not easy to perceive

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