Get All Access for $5/mo

Only You Can Prevent Cringe-Worthy Customer Service Two-thirds of American consumers have walked out of a store due to bad customer service. Here's how you can prevent pushing customers away.

By Carol Tice Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Only You Can Prevent Cringe-Worthy Customer ServiceThere's never been a worse time to fail at customer service.

Where once only a few of your wronged customers' friends and neighbors might have heard about how you neglected to make that customer happy, now your customer-service blunder can go viral and be discussed by thousands or even millions of consumers. Like the time United Airlines lost a musician's precious guitar -- and he made a YouTube video about it.

Bad customer service is an all-too-common way to lose a customer for good. A recent Consumer Reports survey found 64 percent of customers walked out of a store in the past year due to bad service.

By the same token, good service can earn you customer loyalty -- an American Express Global Customer Service Barometer survey found 70 percent of consumers said they'd spend 13 percent more with businesses that provide great service. Three out of five customers said they'd switch to a new brand or company if it offered superior service.

The barometer report also found small businesses have the edge here -- 81 percent of consumers in the survey said they believe small businesses provide better customer service. On the flip side, that means the expectations for small businesses are higher and it may be easier to flub it.

How can you prevent cringe-worthy customer service? Here is a list of must-dos:

  • Answer the phone. "Can't get a human on the phone" was the biggest customer-service flub cited in the Consumer Reports survey. So kill the robots and make sure the phone gets picked up by a real person, within a couple of rings.
  • Reduce voicemail steps. Banks, are you listening?
  • Teach politeness. Rude salespeople also topped the consumer complaint list.
  • Cut the pushiness. The hard-sell is dead, dead, dead. These days the only thing it's good for is driving people away.
  • Eliminate red tape. Many companies get bogged down in elaborate policies and procedures, leaving employees' hands tied when it comes to fixing problems on the fly. Empower workers to solve problems using your guidelines.
  • Surprise and delight. Do something unexpectedly nice for a customer -- send a thank-you note or a small extra gift in a mailed package.
  • Use social media. Big companies such as Comcast are winning over customers by setting up a Twitter channel where they can report problems and get a rapid response. At the very least, do a scan once a day to make sure nobody is venting to the Twitterverse about what you did wrong.

How do you prevent cringe-worthy customer service? Leave a comment and tell us your approach.

Carol Tice

Owner of Make a Living Writing

Carol Tice, a freelance writer, is chief executive of TiceWrites Inc. in Bainbridge Island, Wash. She blogs about freelance writing at Make a Living Writing. Email her at

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Editor's Pick

Starting a Business

How to Connect With Buyers and Get Your Products on Store Shelves, According to the Founder of Daring and Cadence

Ross MacKay, founder and original CEO of the plant-based food company Daring Foods and co-founder of performance beverage brand Cadence, shares the strategies that have landed his products in over 40,000 stores nationwide.


Maintain Professional Boundaries with a Second Phone Number for $25

Keep your business and personal communications separate with Hushed—and save an extra $5 for a limited time.

Growing a Business

Being a Good Manager Isn't Enough — Here Are 5 Leadership Skills That Will Keep Your Employees Around

The article outlines five key leadership skills — engagement culture, effective staffing strategies, AI utilization, shared team reality, and work-life balance — that can improve team performance and reduce turnover, fostering sustainable growth and innovation.

Starting a Business

How to Find the Right Programmers: A Brief Guideline for Startup Founders

For startup founders under a plethora of challenges like timing, investors and changing market demand, it is extremely hard to hire programmers who can deliver.

Starting a Business

'Wait, I Have to Pay to Donate to You?' How Nonprofits Are Flipping the Script With 'For Profit' Strategies to 10X Their Impact

Spiraling donations and outdated dogmas around fundraising and operating costs have left many charities struggling to stay afloat. Some are trying new strategies to make money.