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How to Avoid Bad Customer Service in Your Call Center

Bad customer service can have far-reaching consequences for your bottom line. In this post, we look at some common pitfalls to avoid.

Most of us have experienced bad customer service at some point and can relate to the disappointment felt when a business fails to live up to expectations. And it’s not just a minor frustration–the caliber of customer service in a call center can significantly affect a company’s reputation and potential for growth. In fact, over half of Americans have abandoned a planned purchase due to bad customer service, while 33% claim that they will consider switching brands after only one negative service incident. Other major implications of bad customer service include:

  • Higher marketing spend: Acquiring a new customer costs up to five times more than retaining an existing one.
  • Reputation damage: Your brand’s reputation is the first thing to take a hit when your customer service quality nosedives. Kiss goodbye to customer referrals too!
  • Fewer conversions: Bad customer service may not just affect current customers, but future ones too. A half-hearted or delayed response (or worse, none at all), being put on hold for an extended period of time and other lousy experiences can result in losing prospective customers.
  • Employee churn: It’s not just customers and prospects you risk losing. Often your top-performing agents are forced to pick up the slack for poor-performing agents. This results in burnout and job dissatisfaction, which often leads to an employee looking for another job.

That’s why pulling out all the stops to avoid bad customer service isn’t just optimal, it’s crucial. This blog looks at some common customer service pitfalls to avoid in your call center.

The use of negative or vague language

Always remember that customers want to feel confident that the agent they have been assigned will deal with their issues efficiently. This means call center workers must focus on using friendly, confident, and professional language at all times.

If, for example, an agent replies to a difficult question with “I’m not sure”, the customer may question the abilities of the employee in question and the wider practices of your business more generally. Training your employees to remain positive and to use language that inspires confidence is very important if you want to avoid dealing with hordes of dissatisfied customers. 

That said, it’s inevitable that agents will be asked questions they don’t know the answer to from time to time. Rather than panicking, they should assure the customer that they will look into the problem right away. The agent may need to put the customer on hold for a couple of minutes or take their phone number so they can be contacted as soon as a solution to the problem has been found.

Leaving customers on hold for extended periods

While the hold button can be a lifesaver when complex questions arise, it should be used sparingly. As well as frustrating the customer in question, leaving someone on hold for more than three or four minutes is likely to create a huge backlog of irate customers waiting to get through to your team.  

If you frequently find yourself with big hold queues, it may be time to hire more call center agents. While extra hires will push up your outgoing expenses, it will also ensure that you do not lose precious customers (and, of course, revenue).

Transferring callers to lots of departments

Customers hate being messed around by disorganized call center workers who pass them from department to department until an employee is found who can address their issue. As well as revealing competency issues with your staff members, it may suggest that your company is suffering from wider structural problems. 

On top of organizing your customer service department into subsections with clearly defined responsibilities, you must provide agents with comprehensive information about where to transfer different kinds of enquiries. 

Rude or offensive behavior

It may seem obvious, but it’s worth mentioning that there’s nothing like plain old discourtesy to help you lose customers. While it is worth acknowledging that even the calmest of employees have their off days, it is imperative that all agents remain professional and polite when communicating with customers. 

So, how can tired or irritable employees control their temper? First of all, they need to be offered the opportunity to decompress from time to time. A few minutes in the staff kitchen with a mint tea could be enough to set them back on course. 

You should also remind agents of the basics of good manners during their initial training session. They should, for example, always introduce themselves to the caller by name, listen carefully to their problems, and ask them whether they need any further assistance before concluding a customer interaction.

Asking customers to repeat themselves

Asking a customer to provide the same order number, credit card details, or mailing address repeatedly is likely to irritate them (we’ve all been there!). To prevent angering or fatiguing your customers, agents should be given quick access to the relevant details via a customer database. If the information is not available, they should ask the questions necessary to address the customer’s issue and fill out the database accordingly. This will ensure any future interactions are swift and streamlined.

Failing to demonstrate empathy

Customers need to be respected, and it’s important to remember they are people with feelings (not just a number in a support queue). If your business has wronged them in some way, they will want your representatives to demonstrate empathy by offering an apology and acknowledging the issue head-on.

Of course, it’s impossible to manufacture empathy, but reminding your employees of their role in helping customers benefit from your company's services is likely to make them more effective communicators. 

Directing customers to your FAQs page

Sometimes, call center agents get a little annoyed when customers reach out to ask simple questions that could be answered by visiting the company FAQ page. However, evading questions and directing someone to a website is a perfect example of bad customer service. 

It is important to understand that not every caller will be adept at using the internet. They may be a little older and find navigating pages tricky. Or they may simply want to hear the answer from the mouth of a real-life person, just to make sure they understand it. Either way, it is the job of agents to answer questions directly, so they must always do so. 


It may be unsurprising that 9 out of 10 customers say they're happy to pay more if it translates to a good customer experience. Prioritizing customer service quality is crucial to your call center’s success–and your bottom line. A clear training strategy combined with solid call center QA software is vital for top-class customer service. 

Avoiding bad customer service isn’t rocket science. It does, however, require empathy, courtesy, and professionalism–values that must be instilled in call center workers before you set them loose on the phone lines.

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