By Nancy Friedman, Keynote Speaker, Customer Service Expert, President of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training

Throughout the years, Telephone Doctor has gathered all sorts of information using surveys and finding what things frustrate customers. From this information, we’ve been able to bring you the vignettes in our training programs both online at and onsite,, with reality that matters. That’s what makes Telephone Doctor programs so ‘real.’ It’s because they are. The segments produced aren’t ‘made up’ – they’re from YOU. Things, events and situations that have happened to you, me or we have witnessed. No pretend; nothing ‘made up.’ I’ve had things happen in a service situation that I know if we produced people would think, “Oh no, nothing as bad as that could ever happen.” But we know it does, right? And, I’m pretty sure some of the scenarios have happened to YOU as well.

In no order of importance, here are the TOP 15 NO NO’s in customer service. Yes, there are more. Way too many for this post.

1.    Employees are having a bad day and their foul mood carries over in conversations with customers. (Everyone has bad days, but customer service employees need to keep theirs to themselves.)

2.    Employees hang up on angry customers. (Ironclad rule: Never hang up on a customer.)

3.    Not returning phone calls or voice-mail messages, despite listing your phone number on your website and/or in ads and directories. (Call customers back as soon as you can or have calls returned on your behalf.)

4.    Employees put callers on hold without asking them first, as a courtesy. (Ask customers politely if you can put them on hold; very few will complain or say, “No way!”)

5.    Employees put callers on a speakerphone without asking them first if it is OK. (Again: Ask first, as a courtesy.)

6.    Employees eat, drink or chew gum while talking with customers on the phone. (A telephone mouthpiece is like a microphone; noises can easily be picked up. Employees need to eat their meals away from the phone. And save that stick of gum for break time.)

7.    You have call waiting on your business lines and employees frequently interrupt existing calls to take new calls. (One interruption in a call might be excusable; beyond that, you are crossing the “rude” threshold. Do your best to be prepared with enough staff for peak calling times.)

8.    Employees forget to use the words “please,” “thank you” and “you’re welcome.” (Please use these words generously, thank you.)

9.    Employees hold side conversations with friends or each other while talking to customers on the phone or they make personal calls on cell phones. (Don’t do either of these.)

10.  Employees seem incapable of offering more than one-word answers. (One-word answers come across as rude and uncaring.)

11.  Employees do provide more than one-word answers, but a lot of the words are grounded in company or industry jargon that many customers don’t understand. (For example, don’t casually drop in abbreviations such as APIs, ISVs, SMTP or TCP/IP.)

12.  Employees request that customers call them back when the employees aren’t so busy. (Customers should never be told to call back. Request the customer’s number instead.)

13.  Employees rush through calls forcing customers off the phone at the earliest opportunity. (Be a little more discreet. Politely suggest that you’ve got the information you need, and you need to move on to other calls.)

14.  Employees obnoxiously bellow, “What’s this in reference to?” effectively humbling customers and belittling their requests. (Screening techniques can be used with a little more warmth and finesse. If a caller has mistakenly come your way, do your best to point him or her in the right direction.)

15.  Employees freely admit to customers that they hate their jobs. (This simply makes the entire company look bad. And don’t think such a moment of candor or lapse in judgment won’t get back to the boss.)

Again, not a complete list. Please share your personal NO NO’s and we’ll create another list.

Please share this list so others can help others.

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Nancy Friedman

Nancy Friedman, customer service keynote speaker, is founder and chairman of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training and a featured speaker at franchise, association, and corporate meetings around the world. A popular TV guest, she appeared on Oprah, The Today Show, CNN, FOX News, Good Morning America and CBS This Morning, as well as hundreds of other radio, television and print outlets around the world, including the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. The author of 9 books on her chosen topics, Nancy helps corporate America improve their communications with their customers & co-workers.