12 Reasons Bad Customer Service Isn’t Your Fault

Even the best of us are capable of providing bad service at times. These excuses have rattled around in my head more one than once. What about you?

  1. It isn’t part of your job description.
  2. You’re overworked and underpaid.
  3. The customer is not always right.
  4. You had a terrible day and just need to be alone.
  5. You don’t have the right tools to deliver great service.
  6. Your customers just want a good deal, they don’t care about the experience.
  7. The customer is unreasonable and rude.
  8. Another department is responsible for what the customer wanted.
  9. Your company hasn’t made customer service a priority.
  10. Your bonus isn’t based on customer service, so why spend any time on it.
  11. The customer didn’t complain, so they must have been happy.
  12. You had too much to do and other people were waiting. You couldn’t spend all that time with just one customer.

Every single one of those things will probably be true at one point or another.
Whether you choose to accept them as an excuse is up to you.


  1. Unfortunately it is quite common to find those excuses (scenarios) as a way to conceal the real reason of the action. There is no way, any person, any company should have any excuse to provide bad customer service. What it should be done instead, is to treat those excuses as the challenges to overcome to be able to provide excellent customer service. Being in charge of delivering customer experiences means to be creative in finding the solutions. Any time, any person, any company, accepts and excuse, they should seriously reconsider to do something different outside the scope of Customer Service.

  2. Tim: You hit the nail on the head! Do you want to know how many reasons there actually are for bad customer service? Under any and all circumstances the number is………..ZERO!

  3. Wise are those who learn how the bottom line doesn’t also have being their priority.
    There are 2 types of companies, the ones that work to try to charge more and those who work to charge less. We are the 2nd.

  4. Hi Tim, I agree any business should consider these as unacceptable excuses for giving bad customer service. To me, good customer service is about operational excellence in delivering a service more than it is about ‘customer friendliness’ of the frontline staff (although that should also not be left to chance).

    So to me these ‘excuses’ are symptoms rather of ‘bad management’, more than of bad attitude on the part of the frontline staff. To me these excuses indicate that the business’ management and leadership have failed to design the desired service experience and fail to support their frontline staff in delivering it. They are essentially leaving it to chance.

    To take a few of your examples:
    Excuse #5 “You don’t have the right tools to deliver great service.” Now this may indeed be the excuse of a bored, inflexible, lazy, etc. employee, or it may actually be true that management are leaving their frontline staff to deal with whatever comes, and have no regard for what service excellence is and how to support their staff in delivering it.
    Excuse #8 “Another department is responsible for what the customer wanted.” Sure, some flexibility on the part of frontline staff to apply some common sense thinking, some initiative and thinking from the customer’s perspective should be expected. But this also means that frontline staff have (been granted) the empowerment to actually make such decisions. And if that particular customer issue is a recurring theme, then who do we really look to to improve things? In both cases, we should have higher expectations of management in how they organise their service delivery and how they support their frontline staff.
    Excuse #12 “You had too much to do and other people were waiting.” Why is there a line of customers? Was this really unexpected, or does this happen every Friday afternoon? Are there any contingency actions, such as other staff stepping in to assist? Why did that person have too much to do; were they doing things they shouldn’t be doing? Each of these things is something we would expect managers and leaders to manage.

    Cheers, Little Hinges

  5. I love this post! You’d think customers would be a little considerate when you’ve not raised your voice.

  6. Tim, just wanted to say that your blog is beautiful, and the content is so interesting and well presented. I was asked recently asked for a list of favorite blogs, and your blog was front and center on the list. Many thanks.

  7. Customer service is one of the most important aspects that companies should focus on. Certain companies are renowned as having excellent service where staff are always happy to help, whereas others are known to have poor service. Having good customer service will make people want to visit the store/restaurant etc again.

  8. There is noticeably a bundle to learn about this. I assume you made certain nice factors in options also.

  9. I am from the old school and feel that there is no excuse for zero customer service and that the customer is always right. I called a local merchant on Wednesday to purchase a bed. I introduced myself and said that I am a repeat customer. I also needed the bed delivered by Friday. He took my name and number and said he would call me back. Well I did not hear back from him so as a loyal customer, I decided to buy it online. The website said same day delivery by the way. The website did not give me confirmation that the bed has been ordered so I called the store again and left a message on voicemail. When I did not hear back, I went to a competitor and walked in and bought a bed and it arrived the next day. Mattress Firm is very professional and organized. I finally received a call yesterday evening from the original store. He said he saw my order from the online store. I explained I already purchased the bed from a competitor. He gave me a litany of excuses. Oh my father in law took the message and he was tied up with something else. Well I did call back and left word again. Well we are just a family company and we normally get back to the customer within a week or so. The excuses went on and on. Customer service dictates that you should apologize and not get defensive with the client and as I am his mothers age, I believe I should have been called by my last name. He lost my business and made me mad in the process so the whole experience left a bad taste in my mouth. They dropped the ball and burned a bridge. Thoughts?

  10. I do not believe in the old maxim that ‘the customer is always right’…that may be controversial to some people but it is a truism.

    Many customers have unrealistic expectations based upon nothing more than an assumption. When entering into a contract with an organisation it is incumbent on a customer/purchaser to understand what they are entering in to. By their very nature contracts have mutuality about them that requires an element of responsibility on both parties.

    The amount of consumers who abdicate responsibility through ignorance of accountability has been on the increase over the last two decades. This is a human condition that I believe has been brought about by our own tolerances and a litigious nature that has been encouraged by the change in the laws of whatever land you happen to reside within.

    Of course, the company involved has an absolute duty of care to make their terms and conditions from a financial and service point of view as transparent as possible. They should also strive to provide the best customer experience at the first time of asking. However, once all of that is taken into consideration and is operating as it should be then the consumer has to live up to their end of the bargain.

    I would also add at this point that, this is also an opportunity to shine when the customer is wrong and the actions you take afterwards determine whether you retain that customer. But re-education of the customer (in a pleasant and non-condescending way) is important so that the cause of this does not happen again.

    As an example: in my business we operate a pre-paid model and if the customer does not have enough credit in their account then our service is not provided. That, right there, is the customer accountability. Then when we have a customer contacting us to rave about why the service was not provided, we have to explain, in the most pleasant manner possible, that they have not paid their bill. On most occasions customers understand and pay what is owed and service resumes. We also then can offer automatic payment methods that can solve the issue for the customer. We have even put in place a ‘low balance’ alert via SMS/Mobile App. However, we have a growing cohort of customers that become indignant despite all of our best efforts and simply will not accept responsibility. From there it can escalate if not treated in the right manner and this causes more time, resource and administration to ensure we close this loop.

    We have enhanced our service to ensure we do cater for these customers but I believe this is a growing concern and I am sure I am not alone in my thoughts about this.Personal accountability, good customer education and transparency help but this human condition is growing.

    The above may sound cold, mercenary or obtuse but in my estimation there has to be a flip side reality to this conversation.


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