A Bad Customer Experience

WRITTEN November 4, 2020 Author: Rich Atkins

Recently, I contacted an HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) company because my elderly father had no heat at his house. During my call, I spoke with a person who would book the service call for me. To avoid being in the middle, I gave my Dad’s phone number and asked that she call and arrange the details. She promised that she would contact him as soon as she hung up from the call with me.

An hour later, I called Dad and asked when the HVAC tech was going to be there. Much to my surprise, he told me that they hadn’t called yet! 


I was immediately angry because it seemed that the person I spoke to did not keep the commitment.

In that moment, I called the company with my father on the phone, got to the same person again, and began to arrange the appointment. During the call, I had a disturbing exchange with the rep.

Me: Did you call my father?

Rep: Yes I did. It just rang and rang and rang. There was no answer.

Me: He says he didn’t get a call.

Rep: Well, I have it logged right here in my system.

Me: Ok, did you leave a message?

Rep: No.

Me: So he would never know that you called him. Do you have Caller ID?

Rep: Yes.

Me: When you called him and he didn’t answer, why didn’t you call me back?

Here’s where her tone shifted, and it became combative.

Rep: Sir, is this really relevant to our discussion here? Do you want to get a service call booked, or are you just trying to have a mini argument. Do you want me to cancel the service call?

This was an awful way for her to respond. She showed that she just did not care about the inconvenience she caused. She absolutely would not accept responsibility for poorly handling her non-contact with an elderly customer who needed help.

Instead of taking an apologetic and helpful approach, she flexed her muscles and threatened no service. If you work in a service business and you deal with customers, never behave like that!

Here’s another important question to consider – If I hadn’t called, would anyone from the company have attempted to contact my father or me again? When they get an active lead to business like that, do they call once and then abandon it?

Here’s a better way to handle situations like this:

  1. Apologize. Address the emotions (hurt and anger) associated with being dropped or forgotten. The proper way to handle that would have been to say something like, “Oh my goodness, I am so sorry. I forgot all about it, etc.” or anything like that.
  2. Fix it. Book the appointment and ensure it was taken care of.
  3. Make amends. Vindicate, by showing the customer how she will take steps to ensure that no customer will ever be dropped again, and/or offer a gift – perhaps 10% the service call to make up for the mistake.

That would have been appropriate customer service and would have created a loyal fan. Instead this rep showed that she didn’t care and alienated a customer.

What will you do for customers when things go wrong in your business? What can you do to turn around a bad customer experience?

This topic is discussed in the Improving Communications Improving Customer Service class curriculums. If you’re looking for ways to improve your communication skills, register for one of our public classes.

Other Resources A Bad Customer Experience:

How To Deal With Rude Customer Service

Rotten Customer Service: The Right Way To Handle Bad Customer Service

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay 

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