By Nancy Friedman, Keynote Customer Service Expert; Founder, President, Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training


Most of us know what the BEST CUSTOMER SERVICE feels like. And some of us know what the Worst Customer Service Mistakes are. To make it even, we’ve compiled the ten worst customer service mistakes. Take note and don’t let these happen to you!

  1. Not Being Friendly Enough

        Without exception, not being friendly is the number one customer service mistake. Customers should be treated as welcomed guests when they call or visit your company. As we’ve all experienced, sometimes we’re treated as an annoyance or an interruption.

        FIX: A happy, friendly smile works wonders, whether you feel like it or not.

  1. Poor Eye Contact

        Heads that twirl on a spindle when you’re working with a customer is a big mistake. Keep your eyes on the customer. It’s a sure sign the person you’re talking with isn’t holding your interest when you’re glancing all around. And they’ll notice it quickly. Obviously, making good eye contact on the phone is a bit difficult, albeit impossible. That’s where your listening skills are needed.

        FIX: When you’re on the phone you need to be completely focused on the call and the customer. Actively listen. Ask questions. Don’t type, unless it pertains to the call, don’t read something else, and don’t do anything but listen to the caller. 

  1. Talking with Coworkers and Ignoring or Not Acknowledging the Customer

        This mistake happens a lot. Seems as though it’s more important to continue talking with a coworker than establishing immediate rapport with the customer.

        FIX: Drop the internal conversation as soon as you see the customer. Carrying on a conversation with someone in your office while you’re talking with a customer on the phone is a real no-no! 

  1. Being Rude

        No one thinks they’re rude; certainly not on purpose. However, the customer can perceive many things you do as rude. And as they say, “Perception is reality.” What’s rude? Interrupting the customer, not listening to their concerns, talking on your cell phone when trying to help them, not sounding happy, chewing in the customers face or on the phone. This is just the start!

        FIX: Be sure you’re not doing these “Rudes.” 

  1. Poor Product Knowledge

        If you’re not familiar with the products and services you offer, it’s going to be very frustrating to the customer. Take the time to learn about your company. Know what’s going on. If you’re temporary or are new with the company, that shouldn’t be used as an excuse. Customers don’t care if you’re new, working on a temporary assignment or if it’s not your department. All they want is help and information.

        FIX: Ask to be trained. Ask for more information from your company. Telling a customer, “I’m new” or “I’m just a temp” only adds fuel to the fire. You can explain that you will find someone to help them as you are “not familiar” with the situation. That at least shows you’re going to help them. 

  1. Leaving a Customer Without Telling Them Where You’re Going and Why

        It’s a very good idea to explain to your customer, in person or on the phone, what you’re going to be doing for them. It helps them a lot and they’ll have a little more patience. If you need to “go to the back” to get something it’s easy to say, “Mr. Jones, the widget you’re looking for is in the stock room. Let me go get it for you. I’ll be a few moments.” The same procedure should apply on the phone. Never tell the caller, “Hold on a sec.” Let the caller know where you are going and approximately how long you think you’ll be. This will make working with the customer easier for both them and you.

        FIX: Good communications is critical. 

  1. Blaming, accusing and complaining

        It’s not the person you blame that will look bad . . . it’s you. Don’t blame (or knock) the company, its policy or any member of the staff. Customers don’t want to hear about whose fault it is, they just want the situation fixed.

        FIX: Take full responsibility of the situation on hand. Don’t blame, accuse or complain. 

  1. Not Double Checking

        When a customer wants something and it’s not available, it’s how you reject them that’s more important than the fact that you are rejecting them. The process of double checking should become habit forming. It should be a standard operating procedure. It feels so good when you tell someone, “The last time I checked we were out of stock, but let me DOUBLE CHECK for you to be sure.” I personally can think of dozens of times when I asked the person to double check after they told me they were out of things and what do you know . . . someone had reordered, and the person didn’t know about it. It’s a big mistake to not double check.


  1. One-Word Answers

        We’re taught in school that three words make a sentence. Don’t answer with one word. Even yes, no and OK are perceived as rude and uncaring.

        FIX: Use complete sentences for your customer. 

  1. Head Shaking – the Silent Treatment

        When a customer asks you for something, give them a verbal answer. Shaking your head up and down or back and forth is NOT an appropriate answer. They can’t hear your head rattle. (Well, maybe they can.)

        FIX: Answer the customer with at least 3 words. One words answers are perceived as rude and cold. 

Fixing these customer service mistakes will enhance your ability to work better with customers. Remember, it’s the subtle little differences that make the big difference.

Nancy Friedman

Nancy Friedman

Communication and customer service expert Nancy Friedman, The Telephone Doctor, founder and chairman of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training, is back in the saddle again. Well, back into live onsite programs, and still offering her ZOOM programs, in a cost saving manner. Whichever you choose, onsite or Zoom, you’ll be glad you did. The reviews are excellent, and audiences have loudly applauded her in either area. Sales, customer service and communication skills are her area of expertise, and she welcomes calls, texts, or emails. You can reach her directly at; through the website at, where you can sign up for her newsletters; or call/text directly at 314-276-1012 central time. Bring it on. Whether you need a keynote speaker or workshop/breakout speaker on customer service and communication skills, you’ll make a great choice.