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7 Examples of Bad Customer Service That Hurt Your Bottom Line

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We don’t have to tell you how crucial good customer service is to your business’s success—you already know. But what you might not know is some of these more subtle issues that still drive your customers crazy. Are you guilty of any of the following bad customer service habits? If so, you could be driving your customers straight to your competitors.

7 Examples of Bad Customer Service

1. Not updating your website—or worse, not having one.

My family still talks bitterly about a local restaurant whose website listed its open hours incorrectly. We packed everyone into the car, drove 30 minutes to get there and arrived with our stomachs growling—only to find the restaurant wasn’t open for lunch after all.

I’m not alone in being annoyed by this behavior: In a survey by, “inconsistent information,” “website has inaccurate information,” “wrong contact information listed online,” and “no website” are among the top reasons consumers won’t visit a local business.

Make sure you have a business website, and that it’s current, with your location, hours, and contact information clearly listed. Also make sure it’s mobile-friendly (for customers searching for your business on their phones) and loads quickly (three seconds is the industry standard for retailers, though many top retailers’ sites load faster than that).

2. Ignoring customers in your store.

Some 40% of shoppers regularly have trouble finding a sales associate when they need one, reports MindTree. That can cost you big time: Customers who do interact with a salesperson are 43% more likely to make a purchase, and spend 81% more than shoppers who don’t get assistance from a salesperson.

Just as bad as being short-staffed is being rude: Sales associates who have lengthy conversations with each other or are texting on the sales floor instead of helping customers are common pet peeves. Make sure your staff is trained to respond quickly, be observant, and engage customers when they enter your store.

3. Not answering your business phone.

Nearly two-thirds (62%) of phone calls to small businesses go unanswered, according to a survey by 411 Locals. To be more specific, 37.8% get forwarded to voicemail, and 24.3% don’t get any response. In fact, 411 Locals says, a whopping 70% of small businesses answer less than half of the phone calls they receive.

If this is you, you’re throwing business away. While you may not always be able to answer the phone (especially if you’re a one-person or very small business), you can make it a practice to reply to voice mails the same day or at least within 24 hours.

bad customer service

4. Sending too many emails.

More than four out of 10 (43%) of consumers say they’d like businesses to email them less often, according to data from TechnologyAdvice. And more than 45% have unsubscribed from an email list because they get too many emails from that business. At the same time, MarketingSherpa reports, 15% of consumers like it when a business sends them emails every day.

Given this range of preferences, how can you choose the right frequency? Segment your email marketing lists based on customers’ interactions with your emails. Does someone always open your weekly emails and frequently act on them? They’re probably fine with that cadence. Are your emails always deleted unopened? Slow the frequency.

5. Not maintaining your location properly.

Does your business stink—literally? Letting your store or office get grimy is a huge turnoff for customers. More than nine in 10 (93%) of people in one Harris poll say they won’t go back to a business that has bad odors (78%), dirty restrooms (66%), dirty surfaces (65%), or an unkempt entryway (60%). There’s no excuse for not keeping it clean.

6. Overusing industry jargon.

Industry terminology can be useful in some situations—for instance, at an industry conference or trade show, or in a sales meeting with prospects who are eager to “geek out” over all the features of your product. But if you’re over-relying on industry jargon—using it in your social media posts, marketing pieces, all over your website, and in casual conversation—you’re driving away prospects who may not know what you’re talking about.

If they’re not sure what you’re saying, they probably don’t want to ask for fear of seeming stupid. That means they’ll just head over to the competition instead.   

7. Providing slow service.

Everyone’s in a hurry these days, and that includes your customers. Eight in 10 customers won’t wait longer than 5 minutes for service, according to a TimeTrade survey. Customers’ top frustrations with business include lengthy hold times, companies that don’t quickly resolve problems, and dealing with representatives who aren’t empowered to provide solutions, the survey also found. You may not be able to solve a customer’s problem in 60 seconds, but you at least need to try.

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The Bottom Line on Bad Customer Service

Some of these examples of bad customer service may have come as a surprise to you—and that’s okay, at least you’re aware of them now. If you found yourself nodding in recognition at any of the examples on this list, it might be time for you to make some key changes around how you and your staff interact with your customers. Good luck!

Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is a small business contributor for Fundera and CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company. She has spent 30+ years covering, consulting and speaking to small businesses owners and entrepreneurs.