There’s no point spending millions of dollars on marketing if you can’t provide exceptional customer service.

This is particularly true for service-based businesses where customer interaction is inevitable. If a potential customer has a poor experience during their first encounter, they are never going to buy from you. What’s worse, customers are more inclined to tell their friends about a bad experience rather than a good one. Now you have a reputation issue.

Exceptional customer service doesn’t apply to potential customers alone. An existing customer will not hesitate to jump ship if they have a bad experience, not matter how long they have been buying from you. Customer retention is super important.

Here are some examples of poor customer service I have come across, and how you can do better.

Poor first impression

Potential new customer submits an email enquiry about placing an order for four different products. Customer Service replies with a simple, “Thank you.” Why? Because they were busy, didn’t take the time to read the email properly, and thought it was an order from an existing customer. Potential new customer is now confused and replies asking about cost, delivery, and payment process. Customer Service now has to backtrack and start the conversation all over again with a quote. Not a great start to a new business relationship.


  • Have template emails ready for potential new customer enquiries. That way you can copy and paste, and edit as required. This will make your life easier and ensure a consistent processes.
  • When an existing customer submits an order via email, reply with more than just a simple “thank you”. Your response should include details on delivery and if any products they have ordered are out of stock.

Not capturing contact information

Potential new customer walks into the premises and asks for a sample of product X. Customer Service provides a sample and potential new customer leaves. I happened to see them on their way out and asked what company they were from. Based on the work uniform, it seemed like there might be potential to become a big account. Customer Service replies, “I don’t know.”


  • I can’t believe I even have to say this… ALWAYS get a potential new customer’s contact details. How the hell are you supposed to follow up otherwise?

Not knowing who you’re talking to

Existing customer submits a product enquiry via email. Customer Service replies asking, “Do you have an account with us?” The existing customer did not have an email signature indicating company name. But if you looked at the email address, you’d see straight away it said And yes, that customer had an account. Now existing customer is thinking, “Don’t they know who I am,” and has to write an extra, unnecessary email of clarification.


  • If you’re unsure who an email is from, because the email signature is missing, check the email address for clues. If it’s not clear, there are better questions to ask like, “What company name will your order be under?”

Lack of information

Existing customer submits an email enquiry asking, “Do you have product X in stock? The website says place on backorder.” Customer Service replies, “Sorry we don’t have this in stock.” And that’s it. Full stop. Existing customer is now frustrated at lack of clarification and replies, “When are you expecting more stock?”


  • Unless you know a customer really well, always start an email with a greeting. A simple “Hello,” followed by their first name goes a long way in building rapport.
  • Always anticipate a customer’s next question and provide the answer without them having to ask. The response should have been something like, “Yes, that is correct. If the website says place on backorder, it means we don’t have it in stock. We will have to order it in from our supplier which could take X time. Would you like to proceed with an order for product X?”

No attempt to cross sell

Existing customer submits an email enquiry asking, “Do you guys have automatic product X?” Customer Service replies, “Sorry but we don’t have any at the moment and no ETA at present.” Now, the automatic version of that product was out of stock, but there were manual alternatives available. Yes, it wasn’t what the existing customer asked for, but it was a solution all the same. And more importantly for the business, a sale.


  • If you can’t provide a customer with their first choice, offer an alternative solution instead, or the option to be added to a waiting list. Don’t shut them down with a hard no.

Is your customer service up to scratch? If not, it’s time to consider training. And when you’re ready to invest in marketing, let’s chat.

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