Customer Service Sins: 5 (surprising) things that piss customers off

Customer Service SinsHere at, we receive hundreds, sometimes thousands of customer reviews every day where people pour their hearts out and share their experiences with the businesses they use.

For the most part, the reviews are positive with over 90% scoring either 4 or 5 out of 5*. But there are certainly some negative reviews and it usually seems such a shame as the business seems to have provided a reasonably good service, but let themselves down with something that could easily have been avoided.

What we've noticed is that many of the negative reviews have very similiar themes. There are some very basic things businesses do that really get under customers' skin.

So are you ready to see whether your business is guilty?

Here are the top 5 things that piss customers off…

  1. Badmouthing other customers
    Hairdressers, beauticians, accountants, solicitors pay attention… It might seem like you're bonding with the customer you're serving by discussing how crazy/demanding/unrealistic another customer of yours was, but in reality they walk away wondering what you'll say about them. If you do talk about other clients, show them the utmost respect – even in their absence.
  2. Denigrating staff or colleagues
    In a similar vein, if you're yelling at your junior staff member or gossiping about a colleague, you might think it shows that you've got high standards and expect the best for your customers, but reviews on WOMO show that this makes customers very uncomfortable. Be professional and address any performance issues out of customers ear-shot. Even subtle corrections/comments/looks/thoughts are noticed and not appreciated by your customers.
  3. Failing to acknowledge someone
    This really is customer service 101 but the fact is, no-one likes to be ignored. Customers understand that you're busy serving someone, but still expect that you can give them a nod, tell them you'll be with them soon, or do something to make them feel welcome. If the phone rang you'd pick up and politely ask the caller to wait, so give the customers in your store/restaurant/salon the same courtesy. (Note, please don't translate this into harassing customers that just want to browse – be perceptive and provide the right level of service for each customer.)
  4. Telling the customer what they want
    Yes, you're the expert. You do this work day-in, day-out. You probably do know better than the customer. But if you're not listening to what they're after, you won't be seen as one of their favourite businesses. (I still remember a meeting with an architect where I mentioned that high ceilings were really important to me. He responded by telling me he'd designed hundreds of houses and doesn't do high ceilings as no-one ever comments on the ceiling height! Needless to say, he didn't get the job.) This really is arrogant and customers hate it.
  5. Keeping your expertise to yourself
    There is a fine line between rolling over and giving the customer what they think they want (the fake: "that tight skirt looks fabulous"), and bowling them over and telling them what you think they need (like the architect above). Great service involves really listening to the customer and then sharing your expertise to help them get the best result. Customers love it when a hairdresser shows vision and proposes a new style, or a waiter recommends a wine that matches the meal ordered, or an electrician suggests a dimmer switch (yes, it can really be this simple). Remember, you do have skills, product knowledge and have done whatever you're doing a lot more times than the customer. So give them the benefits of your expertise!! Guide them gently and you'll be thanked forever.

So, time for a staff meeting anyone? Hopefully your business is in the clear but even if you make mistakes, if you operate with a philosophy of actually caring about the customer, your intent will be seen and minor mishaps will be forgiven. It is simple, but it's not always easy.

*Footnote here because it's not what you'd expect is it? Everyone floats statistics around about how a happy customer tells 3 people about your business but an unhappy one blurts it around to 7 or more of their closest friends. But I can tell you that online things are different. Either a) those statistics were made up in the first place, or b) people behave differently when they're trying to gain sympathy or sound interesting (in person), compared to online when they know they're actually giving others useful guidance. Most feedback online is positive because people feel more inclined to write reviews that help people find great businesses, and they see their reviews as a way of thanking the business for providing them with a good experience.


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