Four simple ways to lose customers

Leslie Collymore

I’m not a difficult customer: I have reasonable expectations, I understand that frontline staff can do only what management allows, and I’m a brand loyalist who isn’t quick to abandon a product or service I like.

But I’m unforgiving when customer service fails to meet basic levels of common courtesy. And I won’t make a fuss about leaving; it’s not my job to lecture a company on good retail manners. I’ll simply leave.

So, which customer service foibles drive otherwise easygoing customers like me into the arms of the competition? A few companies have lost my business by doing the following four things:

1. Making Me Constantly Repeat Myself

The customer service call begins with an automated system that prompts me to enter my account number. Fine. Then, I’m put on hold, told my call is important, and transferred to a live representative who asks for the account number I just entered.

Not fine. She also asks me to describe the problem I’m having. Then, I’m put on hold, told my call is important, and transferred to another representative who asks me to describe the problem I just described to the previous representative. Really not fine.
Stop telling me my call is important, and actually treat me as if my call is important.

2. Acting Like I’m Not There

I went to a big box retailer last month with a few questions about car stereos. Only one salesperson was in the area, helping an older couple choose a navigation system. The couple was clearly baffled by the technology, and I didn’t mind waiting my turn.

But I did mind when the wait went on, ad infinitum, while the salesperson and customer discussed their shared interest in Civil War history, and the salesperson didn’t once acknowledge my presence. At a very minimum, glance in my direction to tell me you’ll help me soon or find someone who can.

3. Trying to Sell Me Something I Don’t Need

The aggressive up-sell of unnecessary products and services at quick oil-change shops put me in the habit of bluntly telling employees: “I want an oil change. That’s it. I don’t want to hear about an air filter or a transmission flush or anything else.”

So I was amazed when I discovered a shop that didn’t bother me about anything I didn’t actually need. And I was a loyal customer until that shop, too, slipped into an up-sell routine designed to maximize its profits at my expense.

4. Asking for an Instant Evaluation of Customer Service

Being asked “How would you rate your service today?” by the person who just delivered that service puts me awkwardly on the spot. Furthermore, I’m not convinced that this little exercise in anecdotal feedback gathers reliable, actionable data.


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  1. In Saint Lucia I think number one is sales girls gossiping away and ignoring the customer, resulting in an uncomfortable environment for the customer. Most of them have no customer service etiquette. And when the business doesn't succeed and they're unemployed they wont even realise that they were the cause.


    • Well said! Incidentally, the above also applies to certain staff members of most, if not all government ministries!!


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