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The Worst Customer Service

Chances are you’ve had a run in with some bad customer service at some point. While overall rudeness, impunity, or outright ignorance can make for some funny customer service stories, they often have a lasting negative impact on a company. In this day-and-age, a five-star rating means everything. Consumers constantly review their experience online and through word-of-mouth, and regular complaints follow some of the most hated companies in the world.

Poor customer service damages a company’s immediate reputation. It might result in the loss of a sale, a demanded refund, or eyewitness accounts that spread like wildfire. In the long-term, this reduces customer lifetime value and overall profits, especially in the service industry. But even companies that sell products require good customer service. No one wants to be featured as the “Worst Company in America” due to lack of service quality control.

In this article, we’ll dive into some of the worst customer service stories. Featuring some prominent industries with regular issues, we’ll tackle qualities typical of the worst customer stories and how to make sure your company avoids them. But first, let’s talk about some companies with bad customer service reputations.

Industries with the Worst Customer Service

When looking through bad customer service articles on the internet, most people search “bad customer service stories restaurant” or “horrible customers retail”. But some of the worst customer service reviews actually come from the industries below.


Picture this – it’s 11:30 pm and you’ve been waiting two hours due to an unknown delay for your flight to Chicago. No one’s informed you as to what’s going on, and there’s a line 20 people long at the counter arguing with the customer service rep. You’ve already missed your connection, and in an effort to avoid further trouble, you contact the airline’s customer service agency via phone.

Except, instead of a direct answer, you’re redirected to three different places only to be told there’s nothing they can do. Your flight has been cancelled, and although they are willing to rebook you, you’re forced to take a 5 am flight with two connections and sleep in the airport.

Sound familiar? Unfortunately, airlines are notorious for this behavior. Between overselling flights, information control, and stressed-out, overworked employees, flying can be a nightmare.


Nowadays, it seems impossible to go without internet or a phone. Unfortunately, they are some of the worst customer service companies 2018. Calling their support seems like a case of cat and mouse as you’re connected across multiple channels.

They operate as individuals, neither passing on information to the next, forcing you to repeat yourself multiple times. These inconsistencies throughout telecommunications support make for some rude customer stories.


With a name like insurance, you’d think they’d provide consistent guidance and care when something goes wrong. Instead, filing a claim is one of the most difficult customer service experiences around.

You have to contact them, wait for someone from their company to assess damages, and follow an antiquated paper trail to get anything done. After a frustrating claims process, insurance companies try to low-ball you on asset valuation. Then, at your most vulnerable, you’re left stranded searching for contractors to make any repairs before your claim expires. And finally, you have to complete more paperwork to get refunded for service.

Regardless of industry, consumers demand a better experience. Great, forward-thinking companies are starting to realize that. Others are losing customers left and right by committing some of these sins.

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10 Qualities of the Worst Customer Service

In customer service, it only takes one bad impression to lose a customer forever. Here are the most common characteristics of bad customer service that lead to attrition and a loss in sales.

Hanging up on a customer

If a customer service rep hangs up on a customer, expect them to file a worst service ever complaint. People call customer service when they have an issue they need resolved. By hanging up, a representative clearly indicates they don’t care. As a straight rejection, hanging up is an immature cop out to not deal with tough issues.

Newsflash: customers realize they have a difficult issue. That’s why they’ve contacted customer service. Good companies will be able to navigate across tough conversations until they come to a solution.

Avoiding eye contact with customers

Bad customer service examples in retail start with this common flaw. People come to check out expecting to be at least acknowledged. Avoiding eye contact makes the customer feel invisible and as if the employee isn’t listening.

Yelling at customers

Some of the worst restaurant service stories involve yelling at customers. Not only does it completely degrade the person at the table, but everyone around can hear the remarks. Crowded, busy restaurants can be demanding, and customers are often rude, but yelling at customers is a massive mistake.

Complaining in front of customers

Characteristic of restaurants and retail, this poor decision leaves a bad taste in a customer’s mouth. Sure, we all get frustrated at work. Instead of complaining, learn to manage your frustrations and provide constructive conversations that help the people you’re trying to serve.

Even if they’re out of line, it’s better to vent frustration at home off the clock. Some of the worst restaurant customer stories come from a lack of awareness and patience. If need be, escalate the problem to management. But remember, the customer is always right.

Using technical jargon to confuse customers

No one likes to be talked down to during a conversation – they just want assistance. Don’t confuse your clientele about the intricacies of a product or use legalese. They’re not the experts. Refusing to simplify a problem so your customers can understand what’s going on may seem innocuous, but people are likely to drop these companies out of frustration.

Avoid these bad customer service experience examples at all costs, and you’re well on your way to client retention. But just because a company doesn’t have the worst customer service ever doesn’t necessarily make it good. Let’s look at how to develop great customer service by examining the companies that get it right.

Traits of the Best Customer Service Reps

Great customer service requires attention to detail at every interaction, putting your best foot forward, regardless of the situation. The simple things done right make all the difference. Basic traits of the best customer service reps include:

  • Consistent, easy-to-follow demonstration of products or services
  • Willingness to receive feedback
  • Clear communication skills
  • Problem-solving skills

While all good customer service reps practice these simple traits, some companies go above and beyond. These elite businesses are renowned for their assistance and friendliness, and they go out of their way to make their customers happy.

The Best Customer Service Companies 2018


At many fast-food places, you can drive up to the window and receive the worst fast food service. Not at Chick-Fil-A. They train all employees to use “my pleasure” instead of thank you when working with customers. If someone decides to dine-in, they will bring the food directly to the table, allowing people to enjoy time with their families and friends. Despite being a large fast-food chain, the employees are encouraged to use customers’ names when possible. They provide a welcome breath of fresh air to an often rushed industry.


Excellent customer service drives the culture at Zappos. One of their core values is to deliver a “WOW” customer service experience, from the reps on the phone to the people in the top office. Zappos offers upgraded basic customer service, with unlimited call times, no automation or scripts, and free shipping and returns. Other stories include replacing and refunding lost items, paying tolls for holiday travelers, delivering flowers and free items to grieving clients, and more.

Southwest Airlines

In an industry that continues to drive travelers mad, Southwest veers in the opposite direction. So much, in fact, that their website says “We like to think of ourselves as a Customer Service company that happens to fly airplanes…”

From enabling text alerts on flight updates to calling YOU when there’s an issue instead of waiting for you to contact them, their pre-flight customer service reigns supreme. In-flight, Southwest flight attendants are known for their friendliness, humor, and cheer. Their company regularly donates to charities such as Make-A-Wish, and they regularly engage with customers through social media and their “Stories from the Heart” program. Such practices allow them to learn more about what customers really want and develop their service accordingly.

Train your reps to deliver the best customer service

When it comes down to it, the best companies train their reps consistently in delivering quality, memorable customer service. Investing in their employees’ skills pays dividends in return by not only keeping existing customers around, but attracting new ones as well. Consumers expect easy, reliable, fast, and friendly service from representatives who work diligently to solve their problems.

Fortunately, it’s easy to implement company-wide training to instantly upgrade your customer service. Teams can use Lessonly to train customer service reps to deliver the best customer service. See more info on Lessonly or get a demo today.