Customer service worst practice: everything you shouldn’t do when supporting customers


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There are a few things that you absolutely shouldn’t do when supporting customers. Being deliberately insulting, swearing and simply not responding are all obvious contenders. But there’s more to the list than these obvious no-nos.

While there’s plenty of material out there giving great advice on customer experience best practices, less attention is focused on worst practices. Unfortunately, the more nuanced in the list of customer experience sins remain left to service teams to discover and avoid.

So, here’s a definitive guide of the customer service attitudes, practices and pitfalls that customers hate. Unless you avoid them, these worst practices will guarantee a bad customer experience.


Lying to a customer is one of the main customer service worst practices, even if it deceptively seems like a good idea in the short term. In fact, 26% of lies in the workplace are told with the goal of pleasing a customer.

You should never lie just to appease a customer. If you don’t know the answer, then make an effort to find out. If you can’t do something, offer an alternative. You need to be able to back up your words with actions. The customer business relationship, after all, is about building trust. So, when a customer finds out they’ve been lied to (and they will, every time), they won’t be filled with the desire to stay loyal.

Be hard to reach

Worse than lying to a customer is not listening to their problem at all. If you offer a support channel, make sure that someone will be on the other end of it to reply. Leaving customers in the cold with no way to contact you despite false promises of chat, call or email support, is another of the customer service worst practices.

Being inaccessible intensifies the perceived risks of purchasing from you. If something goes wrong, the customer can’t rely on you to resolve it. They’ll go to a competitor that will take the time to give them a great experience and fix it when things go wrong.

Getting defensive

It isn’t personal. But it has upset the customer. So instead of getting annoyed, accept the blame on behalf of the company, and look for a solution. Blaming the customer and adopting a defensive ‘you’re wrong’ attitude will irritate and insult, making defensiveness another of the customer service worst practices.

Even if the problem is on the customer’s end, and there’s nothing you can do, try to offer a solution they could use themselves anyway.

Not updating customers

Don’t leave a customer hanging – keep them abreast of what’s happening when solving their issue. If they need to wait, explain why. Customers don’t want to feel like their time is being wasted. If you don’t tell customers what you’re doing to help them, they’ll feel ignored and be far less patient in waiting for a resolution.

When customer impatience isn’t met with speedy service, it leads to a bad experience. So, placing this on the list of customer service worst practices helps you avoid inciting customer impatience.

Settling for the bare minimum

We’re in the experience era of marketing and retail. That means that the customer experience is the competitive edge of your business. Settling for ‘good enough’ just won’t cut it.

Today’s new breed of customers have become accustomed to real-time, personalised service infused with smart technology. They’ve come to expect businesses to go above and beyond. If a customer can get better service elsewhere, they’ll do so, and 86% of them will even pay more for it.

Leave it all to the chatbots

Chatbots are great, and they’re getting smarter. But they can’t do it all for you. Fully automating your support is a key customer service worst practice. It removes the human touch from your communication, and will undoubtedly leave a trail of upset, irritated and frustrated customers in its wake.

In fact, empathy in customer support is cited as being a highly important factor for you to include, with 40% of consumers stating that they want ‘better human service’. So, keep your humans – they’re important.

Not empowering your support team

That said, there’s no point hiring humans if they can’t exercise the flexibility that bots just can’t replicate. Empower your service team to make deals, offers and decisions when helping customers.

No one likes hearing ‘I just need to check with my supervisor.’ It tells them that the rep they’re talking to doesn’t know what they’re doing. Cue the feeling that their time is being wasted.

Not treating customers like real people

Forgetting to apologise, getting their name wrong, not thanking them. It’s communication 101, and with the growing push to personalisation, it’s an unforgivable customer service faux pas.

Why would a customer come back if they think you can’t be bothered to show appreciation, humility or even friendliness when they reach out to you? People don’t want to repeat bad conversation experiences.

Customer service crimes

Customer retention is cheaper than acquisition, and when a negative customer experience reaches almost 3 times as many people as a good experience, it pays to ensure that you aren’t falling foul of these customer service worst practices.

Great service makes trust and trust makes a strong customer relationship. So, make your customer service great every time, no matter the customer or query, by avoiding these pitfalls.

Niamh Reed
I'm a Keele University graduate and copywriter for digital engagement specialist Parker Software. I graduated with first-class honors in English with creative writing and was also awarded a certificate of competency in Japanese. I can usually be found feverishly writing business technology articles – covering everything from AI to customer service – and drinking too much tea.


  1. If you want to destroy a relationship with your customer… well here are a few ways to do it. Thanks for a great article approaching service from the “Dark Side.” (Thank you Darth Vader!)


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