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What went wrong? January’s worst customer interactions and how they could have been avoided

January 29, 2024


Sometimes customer service interactions go wrong. Maybe the customer had unrealistic expectations, maybe the agent was having a bad day, maybe everybody decided to call at once or there was a technical issue. It happens.

But bad customer service interactions cause irreparable brand damage. I looked at some of January’s most scathing reviews to understand how consumer-facing businesses can do more to give customers the support they need.

1. Time goes by so slowly…

Personally, I’m a fan of Unchained Melody, but there’s something about listening to a song over and over while on hold trying to return a call from your energy supplier about electric vehicle charger installation that really takes the pleasure out of it.

Finding hold music everybody can enjoy is never going to happen, so why keep callers on hold in the first place?

A voice assistant could have told this caller they had the wrong number right away. Better still, it could have forwarded the call to the right department. It could have even allowed the caller to jump the queue, given the frustration of two previous misroutes.

Given the circumstances, I can forgive this Righteous Brothers slander.

2. Nobody’s home, please go away

Ahhh yes, the old disconnect the phoneline and pretend nobody’s home trick.

Maintaining phone support can be expensive, so it’s no surprise that retailers like this one are looking to move customer service onto cheaper channels.

So why not move all your support over to social media? Especially when you’re targeting a primarily millennial and gen Z audience.

Because sometimes we can’t be bothered to jump through self-service hoops to get basic customer service. That’s why.

You don’t need 1000 customer service agents to offer support over the phone. Plug the phone back in and let a voice assistant give your customers the support they need on the channels they want.

3. An interesting approach to customer retention

It’s not uncommon to charge customers for breaking contracts early, so this isn’t really that surprising. It’s also not uncommon to require customers to cancel contracts over the phone – it gives companies the opportunity to try to win them back. It’s the double whammy that hurts here.

This big financial services company could have built an automated cancellation system into the app, using AI to pull special offers and negotiate with the customer to try to get them to stay. They could have used a voice assistant to answer the call immediately. But keeping someone on hold and then charging them? It’s a no from me.

4. Not there when you need them

It’s super frustrating when a brand is hot on your tail when they want something, and then, as soon as you need them, they leave you hanging.

Hanging up, not listening, missing callbacks – this all sounds like your typical overworked contact center. Budget cuts, out-of-date technologies, and overcomplicated systems aren’t just frustrating for representatives. If your team, technology, and processes are stretched, your customers are going to notice.
Looks like this company is overdue for a contact center transformation project.

5. You’re about to be disappointed

This airline has a pretty bad reputation for customer service, but this review hits on something a lot of companies are struggling with.

For the last ten years, companies have been undertaking massive digital transformation projects to move customer service online, but customer experience has often been overlooked. Had this company invested further in natural language technologies and bot design, they could have created a chatbot that was far from ‘useless,’ and this bad review would never have happened.


Customer support is often overlooked as a brand channel, but even with increased pressure on operational efficiency, it’s still possible to create great customer relationships through customer service. By creating automated solutions and processes that keep the customer at heart, brands will create competitive advantages, drive customer loyalty, and advance their ability to grow.

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