How bad customer service can destroy your business

Oct 7, 2015 | Business

It’s possible but unlikely that one bad review can destroy your business. The thing that’s more likely to ruin your business is how you deal with that bad review and whether that bad review was a result of bad customer service.

“Customer service is the service provided to customers before, during and after purchasing and using goods and services. Good customer service provides an experience that meets customer expectations. It produces satisfied customers. Bad customer service can generate complaints. It can result in lost sales, because consumers might take their business to a competitor.”

Nowadays, with social media, complaints can easily be seen and shared which means word of mouth can travel very, very far. Bad reviews, bad responses or general bad customer service can easily become viral and make your business famous for all the wrong reasons!

United breaks guitars

Let’s take United Airlines for example. It’s a great example of how one review can single handedly ruin a reputation.

A singer’s beloved guitar was broken on a United Airlines flight and he was truly disappointed by the reaction of staff. Through the power of social media and a hilarious song, he created a video about his experience that now has over 15 million views with several thousand comments sharing their own experiences and agreements.

The whole situation was because of bad customer service. Firstly, because the luggage handlers treated his guitar with disrespect and subsequently broke it and secondly, because the customer service staff he spoke to about the incident didn’t care, didn’t apologise and didn’t offer a solution. He only got compensation once he shared his experience in the video that became a Youtube hit, whereas the video may have been avoided altogether if he’d got compensation and an honest apology beforehand.

I’ve never flown with the airline, I don’t know what it’s like, but it’d be a shame if one incident or a handful of employees ruined the reputation of your business in your customer’s eyes. Here’s the video if you want to see it yourself.

Go above and beyond your customers’ expectations

Don’t do what everyone else does. Be unique and memorable. Maybe it’s your great customer service that makes you different or ensures you get repeat clients!

Really think about what your business does and what your business could offer to make that customer feel extra special. For example, I send Christmas cards to my clients and I’m going to be sending ‘Business Birthday’ cards to congratulate them on another year in business. Things like that, that make your customer think “wow, they remember me!” or “aw that’s lovely, how personal” are definitely things to aim for! Your customer’s delight and happiness are key here.

Always respond positively, even if you don’t feel like it 

Regardless of how rude or hurtful someone may be in a review or communication, ALWAYS respond politely and positively. Ensure you come across as reasonable and helpful. Don’t get angry and don’t respond rudely as this might damage relationships with other current or potential customers, and it’s more likely to be seen!

DON’T delete the review. Yes, I said don’t

If you’ve got a bad review on social media, don’t remove it. Chances are a lot of people have seen it already and by removing it you’ll just stir up more annoyance and make your customers wonder whether your 5 star rating is actually truthful.

Instead of deleting, respond to the feedback and put on your best customer service face. Potential customers will then know how quickly you respond, how passionate you are about your business, how you plan on improving and that you don’t ignore your customers.

The customer is always right. Mostly

This phrase I mostly agree with, but it depends on the business. For example with food companies, yes I see where the customer is always right and should get a refund or replacement if their food isn’t cooked properly. But service based businesses, like mine, I think that sometimes it’s ok to disagree with the customer and can actually mean you’re giving better customer service.

If you’re an expert at what you do and a customer would like something a certain way but you don’t think it’ll work, then tell them. There’s absolutely no reason to start arguments but the customer has hired you for your expertise, so if there’s something that should be done differently to benefit them, then explain it. If they choose to stick with their original plan even though you’ve given them an alternative then that’s fine but it just means that you’re trying to give them something even better than they first envisioned.

Ask for feedback

People are always more likely to make bad feedback known than good feedback. It seems that if someone has a problem with a business then they talk about it much more than if they’ve had a good experience. This is why it’s important to encourage customers to give you feedback, and even more important to give them a BRILLIANT experience that they’ll want to shout about.

There’s no harm in saying to a customer “I’ve really loved working with you! I’d be so grateful if you could leave a quick review on my Facebook page here. I hope to work with you again soon!”. They don’t have to leave a review, and most likely won’t, but at least they now know exactly what they can do.

Don’t let one bad review get you down

Regardless of how brilliant your business is, there’s always a chance you’ll get a bad review. Maybe it’s a fault of your own or maybe it’s a matter of opinion, but you must not ever let it get you down. Through every mistake you learn a lesson. Maybe you could improve your process to make everything a bit more straightforward for your client. Maybe you could improve on your packaging so things definitely won’t break in the post. Maybe you could outsource areas of work so you have more time to spend with your clients…see what I mean?

One bad review shouldn’t counteract the many other great reviews you’ve got, and as I said above, there’s always a lesson to learn from feedback.

I go above and beyond to help my clients and I have even turned away people who I don’t think would be a good fit and who I wouldn’t be able to offer my best work and best customer service to. However I offer an alternative if I can and still give good customer service even though they’re not strictly my customer.

Here are some more extra simple customer service tips to take away with you

You probably already do all of these (you brilliant business person, you!) but take note and maybe even write in your business plan what your customer service plans and policies are. What happens if someone does complain? What are your policies on refunds? Have this all planned out just in case and remember, stay cool.


  • Keep calm and collected, and don’t get angry if you receive a bad review or don’t agree with your customer.
  • Stay positive at all times. If you have to give bad news for any reason, sandwich it between good news (good point, bad point, good point).
  • Smile when you’re talking in person and even when you’re on the phone as it can elevate your voice and make you sound happier.
  • Always keep the customer in the loop. Update them on the progress of the project, maybe even send progress photos or just a little hello.
  • Encourage feedback and say you’re always looking to learn and improve.
  • Get everything in writing. Amendments, new orders, feedback etc…make sure everything is written down either by your customer or by yourself and then shared with your customer. Nothing can be misunderstood or forgotten when its in black and white.
  • Offer helpful and genuine advice or recommendations.
  • Be honest. If you’re not the right person for the job then point them to someone else.
  • Under promise and over achieve. For example, if you think you can get a job done in 3 days, say 5. This allows for extra time if any unforeseen circumstances pop up and ensures that you give a good impression if you get it done earlier or right on time.
  • Respond quickly and politely to any bad feedback whether it’s public or private.
  • Try not to let any bad feedback personally hurt you. The best thing you can do is respond and learn from the feedback given, unless it’s completely untrue or unfair, in which case respond politely and ignore it! Hey, it happens. Just the other day I heard of someone who got a bad review on Facebook because the person “hated the idea” of the product but wasn’t actually a customer! I don’t particularly like the flavour of cheesy Wotsits, do I leave a bad review on their page?! No, because I haven’t received bad customer service.
  • Solve problems! Sometimes you can turn a 1 star review in to a 5 star review.
  • ASK if there’s anything else you can do for them.
  • Be unique and make your customers feel special. Send a personalised thank you note, a Christmas card or a box of chocolates!
  • Note a customer’s preference and stick to it. In my design brief, I ask my client to detail how they prefer to be contacted. I record this in my CRM and make sure that I do whatever is best for them rather than myself. Personally I hate phone calls as I sound like a timid teenage girl on the phone, but if a customer wants a phone call, I phone them!
  • Take a genuine interest in your customers and their business.
  • Always keep your customer’s happiness in mind. Make it easy and delightful to work with you.

AmberHi, I’m Amber! I am a website designer specialising in creating beautiful and results-focused websites using WordPress. I live and breathe business and creativity and can’t wait to share some of that with you. Read more here

Pin It on Pinterest