Smells Like Bad Service

smells like bad service

Smells Like Bad Service

Customer service that stinks leaves a lasting impression.

The Automated Menu Goes Round and Round

Repetition may have been fun when you were three. “Play the song again, Dad!” As an adult trying to solve a problem it is maddening. In a post-COVID world the companies that survive realize bad service has a smell that can destroy a business.

Automated menus that never address an issue and never lead to an agent feel like a black hole absorbing energy and time. Some menus hide agent access so deeply it’s clear they don’t want you to reach one. The service is so bad that websites and forums exist where people share how they successfully reached an agent so others can too. These work at least until the company changes their menus.

It’s no surprise customers dislike IVRs (interactive voice response)

A survey of over 1300 people chosen to represent the US customer market revealed:

“…75 percent “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that IVRs forced them to listen to irrelevant options. Similar percentages thought IVRs present choices that lead nowhere and so achieve nothing, that IVRs have too many menus, and that the prompts used in IVRs are too long.”

Why make it so hard for customers to contact an agent? Reducing cost per call is great, but is it worth losing customers?

According to Zendesk, IVR’s can be effective self-serve options for customers with simple questions. However, they also recognize that IVR’s need to evolve as customer needs do.Whatever patience customers may have had during the pandemic is exhausted. If a business survived the pandemic, be warned. According to Micah Solomon “Customers are going to go back, full force, to expecting the levels of courtesy, polish, and emotional alignment they expected pre-pandemic in customer service from businesses across the board.”

Could you Please Hold…for Infinity?

Bad service onn Hold too long

Hold? The question is how long? Is it so long the customer could have driven to the brick and mortar store, addressed their issue in person, and driven back?

Online feeds are filled with customer service stories like putting customers on hold not to handle their issue, but to finish a personal phone call or just to mess with them.

Or they ask to put the customer on hold but mute them instead and listen to them. Creepy.

These impact average handle time and customer effort metrics which in turn affect customer retention.

In 2021 Solomon advises companies to upscale their customer service quality by training for situational empathy, service recovery and avoiding defensiveness. These measures improve the agent-customer relationship and the business-customer relationship.


You want a fierce linebacker, not a fierce customer service agent. Some agents take the company mandate of retaining customers too far. Talking over customers, aggressively upselling or trying hardcore manipulation that ignores customer’ requests doesn’t build loyalty.

Service agents execute company policy and may be pressured to try to shift a cancellation to retention or to upsell. This is good for both customer and company if executed well and solving the customer issue. However, a bad customer service encounter going viral on social media leaves your company issuing a public apology as in this Comcast incident.

I Don’t Care What You Think…

Apathy is not good for business. When an agent gives a customer partial or incorrect information that forces the customer to call back and start all over again.

This also pushes an even angrier customer onto a different agent. Nice. Then there are agents passive aggressively ending calls before resolution is achieved.

Training agents to handle difficult situations before they occur is a positive proactive measure. Providing a supportive culture for them to manage the difficult interactions makes it easier to retain these agents.Bad customer service may be great fodder for comedy, but you don’t want your company to be the butt of the joke.