Hell hath no fury like a client scorned.

Valentine’s Day. Love is in the air. Pheromones galore. Chocolates and stuff. In the spirit of the holiday, I’d like to open up with a bit of verse to set the tone for today’s piece.

How Long the Night

Anonymous Old English Lyric circa 13th century, translated by Michael R. Burch

It is pleasant, indeed, while the summer lasts

with the mild pheasants' song ...

but now I feel the northern wind's blast—

its severe weather strong.

Alas! Alas! This night seems so long!

And I, because of my momentous wrong

now grieve, mourn and fast.


BOOM! Thought I was gonna get all lovey dovey on you, didn’t you? I’m sorry to say that today’s message isn’t brought to you by cupid. No. It’s coming to you from the forsaken, wart-covered troglodyte who narrated that poem. One has to wonder what his “momentous wrong” was that led him to such a pathetic state. As it happens, I’ve got the inside scoop. He wasn’t lamenting the failure of romantic relationship. Rather, he was a business man grieving over the loss of his best customer. Tragic really.

This Valentine’s Day, I want to remind you to love your customers! But, since I’ve already set this total bummer of a tone, I’d like to do so by taking a look at some customer service failures in the hopes that we can all learn something from the mistakes of others. And because we’ve all been on the receiving end of some customer service nightmares, we’d love to hear from you as well! Share your own horror stories in the comments section, and maybe even a line or two about what we might learn from the experience. Let the healing begin.

Case 1

Our first example comes from the lone star state, where our protagonist had plans to fly out of Houston to visit family over Christmas. Being a savvy traveler, he arrived at the airport with 3 hours to spare. Arriving at his gate with 2.5 hours left before his departure, he decided to grab lunch. With a belly full of delicious airport food, he returned to his gate to find that his plane was having mechanical issues which would delay their departure, thereby jeopardizing the likelihood of him catching his connection. He approached the gate agent about possibly changing his connection. What followed may actually qualify as assault in some states. The gate agent proceeded to yell at him, letting him know that if he missed his connection, it was his fault as she had been paging him and that he had no business leaving his gate (despite arriving 2.5 hours early).

Lesson: Put your customers on a pedestal. That starts by, I don’t know, NOT YELLING AT THEM. It seems like common sense, but if you truly care about pleasing your customers, treat them with dignity and respect. This is especially true when you think they’re mistaken about something. Nobody likes to be made to felt foolish or ridiculed for their mistakes, particularly not your customers. 

Case 2

A man went to a sandwich shop to enjoy, get this, a sandwich. Now, I have it on good authority that this man is no fan of honey mustard. Sure, he enjoys honey as much as the next guy. And he’s a big supporter of mustard. But when the two are mixed, well, things can get ugly. So, on this particular day, like every other day, he emphasized “and hold the honey mustard, please” when ordering his sandwich. Alas, he took a bite of his sandwich and was greeted by a mouthful of the dreaded condiment. Upon returning his meal, the cook informed this man that it was, and I’m quoting here, “your fault” that honey mustard found its way onto the sandwich.

Lesson: Own up to your mistakes, and then fix them. So many customer service “mishaps” could be fixed if we could just acknowledge and own the error and then strive to make it right. Heck, if handled correctly, how you fix a mistake can even leave the customer feeling more loved than they did prior to the mistake.

Case 3

A woman was preparing for a task that no one enjoys (save for a few masochistic individuals): car shopping. In preparation, she used this newfangled internet thingy to do plenty of research and price comparisons before setting foot on a dealership. When she stumbled upon a sweet deal, she headed straight for the dealership only to find that, once on the lot, the car was priced at $6,000 more than it was listed online. And the dealer had no intention of honoring the advertised price. Going back to the drawing board, the exact same bait-and-switch scenario played itself out again the following week at a different dealership.

Lesson: Honesty and integrity above all else. If you think about it, this one simple customer-loving tip encompasses just about everything. Keep your word and everything else pretty much falls in to place.

Well, lovebirds, our time is up. I hope you’ve found these three horror stories to be a good reminder of how to love your customers. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.” Happy Valentine’s Day from all of us at Orgwide!

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