What 1000 Consumers Say About Bad Customer Service


It’s very easy to underestimate the true cost of bad customer service. This is why we asked 1000 consumers if they would ever return to a company after a terrible service experience if recommended again by a peer.





Word of mouth marketing


The importance of getting it right first time


Our experiment


The results


What this means for your business


Is it too late to win the customer back?


What you can do to rectify bad customer service



Word of mouth marketing

Word of mouth marketing is one of the most valuable forms of marketing with 92% of consumers believing recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising.

We wanted to test word of mouth marketing to see if it could be used to rectify a customer’s bad experience. At Kayako, we help our customers get better at customer service.

We want to make sure our customers are offering excellent customer service so their customers continue to pay for their service or product.

We want to know whether there are ways to win back customers who have previously received bad customer service, if they’re recommended to the company by a trusted friend.


1: The importance of getting it right first time

Businesses of all sizes will, at some point, have to have to think about how they want to deliver their customer service.

Good customer service is powerful for any company. Through word of mouth, positive experiences resonate through people’s networks.
You can attract new customers while also retaining your current ones, making them more loyal.

Amazon's Jeff Bezos comments on bad customer service
Jeff Bezos (Founder, Amazon)

“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job everyday to make every important aspect of customer experience a little bit better.”

Companies assume bad customer service is a cause of customer churn; and that word of mouth heavily influences consumer decision making. The statistics support this too:

59% of consumers like to tell others about new products.

When companies give bad customer service, it looks bad on the company and often causes customers to leave and take their business elsewhere.


2. Our experiment

Customer support teams strive for excellent service but what if they don’t deliver?

We wanted to know: could a poor customer service experience end a customer relationship forever? Could you win back a customer who had previously left due to poor customer service?

We also wanted to look at the importance of peer recommendations. Could a trusted friend’s recommendation be enough to convince a customer to return to a company they previously received bad customer service from?

We asked 1000 consumers the following question:

You’ve received bad customer service from a company in the past. How likely would you be to try them again if a trusted friend recommended them based on incredible service?

Positive word of mouth seems to mean very little once a customer has already had a bad experience

What we thought would happen

If customer service is good, customers are likely to come back.

✅ READ MORE:  How to Create a Customer Feedback Form Without Causing Friction

But what if the service was bad?

What if service was bad, but your company was recommended by a trusted friend who told them the service was good – could peer recommendation bring customers back?

We assumed customers would be more likely to return on the back of advice from their trusted friend.

This assumption is based on the plethora of statistics supporting the idea that word of mouth marketing is a powerful asset and almost guaranteed to work.

People are much more likely to purchase a product when they learn about it from friends and family (77%)

81% of consumers’ buying decisions are influenced by their friends’ social media posts

With stats like those, we thought we would be proving our hypothesis. But the results told a very different story.

bad customer service report: customers are more like bomerangs than frisbees

3. The results

Almost 60% of consumers were unlikely or very unlikely to return to a business they had experienced poor customer service from, even if a trusted friend said the service had improved.

Only 12.5% of consumers said they would be likely or very likely to try a company again.

It seems customers don’t let their friends’ opinions affect their choices to buy.

Positive word of mouth seems to mean very little once a customer has already had a bad experience.

You’ve received bad customer service from a company in the past. How likely would you be to try them again if a trusted friend recommended them based on incredible service?

what Kayako data reveals about bad customer serviceHowever, age did have an effect on whether people would be more likely to return to a company: millennials are less skeptical and more willing to consider the opinions of their peers.

This is due to the “social media” effect, where they are more likely to ask their friends’ opinions.

70% of millennials are much more likely to base a product purchase on their friends’ opinion.

Age affected how high people answered on the scale.

Kayako's bad customer service research

4: What this means for your business

Customers are staying loyal to their disloyalty; there is little to no room for error. Businesses need to get customer support right the first time as there are often no second chances.

With more and more options available, your customer doesn’t want to (and doesn’t have to) put up with poor customer service. For every company that fails to provide excellent customer service, there’s another company that will.

Our survey found not even peer recommendation can win back a lost customer. One mistake and you can lose a customer for life.

It’s much harder than we thought to get customers back once they’ve gone. It’s important to put effort into preventing customers from needing to contact customer service.

You should always try to provide great customer service when something does go wrong and make up for it when you get something wrong.

✅ READ MORE:  The Subtle Differences Between Customer Support and Customer Service


5: Is it too late to win the customer back?

No company is perfect – you will lose customers, and sometimes it will be because of bad customer service experiences. But is there anything you can do to get them back once they’ve gone?

Our survey results show you can’t rely on peer recommendations bringing your customers back (though that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep working hard to satisfy your existing customers!). Instead, focus on making a proactive effort to resolve customer issues before they arise.

Know how to really say “I’m sorry”.

When JetBlue passengers were stranded on the runway for 11 hours without food or water, the founder and CEO of the airline, David Neeleman, described how he felt about the incident as “humiliated and mortified.”

Neeleman was both authentic and transparent with his apology. He demonstrated the humility to admit mistakes quickly without spin and without making excuses. He reacted by showing he genuinely cared about his customers.

After humbly apologizing after the incident, Neeleman provided refunds to the stranded customers, which was a huge financial risk to the company. JetBlue is an airline that wants to be known for great customer service, and Neeleman knew refunding customers is standard protocol for any company when they’ve given a bad service experience. So, JetBlue went further.

Neeleman next created a Customer Bill of Rights that penalizes JetBlue financially and rewards customers for every hour they spend stranded on a plane. This innovative bill of rights, however, protects JetBlue customers and may force the airline industry to face it’s bad customer service record, squarely putting JetBlue at the top for proactive customer service.

JetBlue customer bill of rights is part of their customer experience strategy to prevent bad customer service in the future

How Npshire priotoizes customer satisfaction to avoid bad customer service
Rasheen Carbin (CMO, Nsphire)

Nsphire follows a system of transparency and Rasheen personally follows up any customer requests in order to encourage disheartened customers to return, demonstrating Nsphire takes customer satisfaction seriously.

Curtis Boyd comments on how he deals and avoids bad customers service
Curtis Boyd CEO, Future Solutions Media

Curtis believes it’s important to give customers confidence in your company. Bad reviews matter regardless of what kind of bad review, the most important thing to remember is that these reviews decrease confidence in your company from potential customers.


6: What you can do to rectify bad customer service

It’s impossible to please all your customers all the time. It’s important to make sure you know what to do when something goes wrong, so you can solve the issue and try to win back your customer before they leave.

1. Accept blame and apologize

Your customers stopped using your service for a reason. They felt the service or support they received was not good enough. If you want a chance to win them back, you need to accept blame, be humble and find out exactly where you went wrong and what you could do to improve. The important bit? Ensuring their advice is taken on board!

✅ READ MORE:  14 Articles to Help You Deliver Flawless Customer Experiences in 2017

2. Give your customers something to come back for

If you’re going to contact a customer and encourage them to come back, there needs to be something in it for them.

They don’t want to risk wasting their time, and you don’t want to waste your efforts.

Whether they left because of a problem with your product, or your service, make sure the issue is fixed before enticing them back.

3. Build lasting relationships

Your customers are people, and people have needs. Give each customer personal and special attention to make up for any poor service they had previously encountered. A personal touch can go a long way to help build new, long-lasting relationships.

4. Make your offering better than your competition’s

If you’ve lost customers due to poor customer support, it’s likely they have moved to one of your competitors. If you’re going to attempt winning them back, ensure your offering is better than that of your competitors’, or customers will have no real reason to return. Learn from the best support pros about building customer relationships

5. Consider how you’re handling complaints

If you’re faced with a complaining customer, the first thing you need to do is rectify the situation. If it’s not already obvious, try asking “what can we do to make it better?” and listen to their feedback.

Customers are not always going to be happy with the support they receive, but dealing with their complaints in a positive, timely way can go some way to encouraging them to continue to do business with you.



Kayako's final takeaway on bad customer services true effects

We assumed word of mouth marketing would be powerful enough to convince customers to return to a company they previously received bad service from. However, the results from our survey showed 60% of people are unlikely to do this.

People remember their customer experiences, especially bad ones, and a friend’s good word doesn’t have an effect on their buying choices.

It’s much harder to gain customers trust back once they’re gone. Word of mouth marketing is only effective if the customer is considering the business for the first time. It’s unlikely to be effective if the customer has already experienced bad customer service from a business.

It’s crucial when dealing with customers that you make a conscious effort to prevent your customers from needing

to contact your customer support team.

Primarily, you should always aim to provide excellent customer service. But you also need to make sure you have defined methods in place for when things go wrong.

Customer behavior more closely resembles a frisbee than a boomerang, once you upset your customers, they’re unlikely to come back


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About the author
Adam Rogers

Adam Rogers is the Content Marketing Manager at Kayako, the effortless customer service software that helps teams be more productive and build customer loyalty. Adam loves guitars, music, books, and his wife Lacey.

  • Tom_C

    Too often I see good customer service used, failingly, to try to cover up a failed product or service. If a delivery date is missed, a product is poor or a systematic problem is encountered – customer service is expected to make the customer feel better – without fixing the underlying problem.

    There is little I hate more than dealing with a bad product – getting politely blown off by customer service – and then asked to do a survey about my customer service experience. The problem wasn’t customer service – the problem was the company itself. Blaming the underpaid customer service clerk isn’t going to fix the problem.

    • Tom_C

      Here is a real life example – names redacted. WalMart screws up a delivery, and fails to deliver the product. The customer cancels the order, and buys the product elsewhere. Days after the order is cancelled, Walmart ships the product, and takes the money out of the customers account. The customer has been hurt severly by Walmart’s corporate incompetence.
      The job of customer service at that point is only to listen to the customer complain – and the corporate bad service only continues. It’s easier for Wal-Mart to lose a only one of their millions of customers, than it is to fix systemic problems.


      Andre M: Thanks for chatting with Walmart.com! I’m Andre M and I’ll be assisting you today.

      Andre M: Hi Customer!

      Customer: I ordered a snow blower a month ago, and you haven’t been able to deliver it. I cancelled the order and bought the item elsewhere.

      Andre M: I’m sorry for what I read with your order Customer, I’m feeling bad for you knowing such a bad experience we had with you.

      Customer: So now, suddenly, you take the money out of y bank account so I’ve paid for it twice.

      Andre M: Please let me go ahead and check for your refund right now.

      Customer: I need money to buy grocveries. I have (1) no money and (2) no snowblower and (3) no groceries.

      Customer: I ordered the item June 28th

      Customer: It wasn’t delivered and you cancelled the order a week after the delivery date.

      Customer: I called the order department and said I wanted the item, and if I did order, when would it be delivered.

      Customer: I was told July 25.

      Customer: Based on that I reordered.

      Customer: July 25, no snowblower.

      Customer: July 26, no snowblowere

      Customer: So I cancelled the order and ordered elsewhere.

      Customer: Now suddenly TODAY, still no snowblowere, but $688 is taken out of my bank account

      Customer: I have no snlowblower, after being promised twice, and now I have no money, and no groceries.

      Andre M: Thank you Customer, I appreciate the information you provided me. So you have not receive the refund for order placed on June 28, right?

      Customer: The Jume 28 order was cancelled by Wal-Mart, without my permission. I reordered the item, and was promised deliver on July 25. July 25, no deleiver. July 26, no deleivery, so I cancelled the order

      Andre M: Thank you Customer, I’m sorry we did cancel without your permission. In order to assist you with the refund, have you receive it for the one for June 28?

      Customer: Order number 4661773-426505 I asked to be cancelled after I did not receive item on promised date SECOND time.

      Andre M: If no received it yet, please provided me with the Walmart.com’s order for June 28.

      Customer: Then, suddenly, today, I see Walmart took the money out of my bank account.

      Customer: Order 4661773-426505, which I ordered on July 14 is the one in question.

      Andre M: Thank you Customer, let me check that order number right now.

      For security purposes, can you please provide your full billing address?

      Customer: Andre, you’re giving me a snow job. You can look up order XXXXXXX-XXXXXX as clear as day, and see just what the problem is.

      Customer: Billing address is PO Box X, Town, State zip

      Customer: I need that money in my account. It is Saturday, and the banks are closed. I have no groceries in the house.

      Andre M: Thank you Customer, this seems no to be your billing address, may I have the one associated with you payment method please?

      Customer: You took the money, and did not deliver the snowblower. I bought the snowblower somewhere else when you failed to meet the delivery date TWICE.

      Customer: Addess Street, Town

      Customer: So what I am supposed to do for groceries? Wait for you to fix your mistake, tahat might take days?

      Customer: You’re going to tell me it’s the BANK’S fault, aren’t you.

      Customer: The bank didn’t give my money to you on it’s own – you TOOK it – after failing to delibver the item TWICE.

      Andre M: Thank you Customer, I’m not able to verify for your information yet, I’m still missing for your state and the zip code.

      Customer: Addess street – do nyoun have the biloling address?

      Customer: State zip code zip

      Customer: Yolu can look uo that easliey – and you are stallng.

      Customer: You are going to tell me lies, because you sc rewe3d up and cant fix it

      Andre M: Thank you, I’m sorry for bothering with your billing address, we need to request it from you in full for security purposes.

      Andre M: Let me check for your order right now.

      Customer: Just admit it – you took my money without delivering the product as promised. Then I can pronty this screen out and sue you in small claims court.

      Customer: Admit your screw up – don’t give me your pre-printed customer service lies – I want tyo sue you, so just admit you stole my money, after failing to sdeliver the product TWICE,. then I was damagined because I couldn’t buy groceries.

      Andre M: If you would like to have it the transcript as well, we can email it to you Customer. I’m working on verify you account notation to find out what happened with the order and your payment.

      Customer: And I will sue in in small claims court. Triple damages – that $688 times 3 is $2064, but not being able to buy groceries until the banks open on Monday.

      Customer: that’s worth, I dunno, another $1000? So you are at fault for $3064 in damages, so far.

      Customer: Plus lagal fees.

      Customer: So, will you admit you screwed up here?

      Customer: Or will you just disconnect me, and leave me hungry and angry?

      Customer: I cn’t believe that I tried to cancel this DAYS AGO, and with your million dollars in computer programs couldn’t stop the order – DAYS ago.

      Customer: So, don’t tell me it’s taking you THI*S long to look up a simple order.

      Customer: You figured it out- you KNOW you screwed up, and you’re stalling.

      Customer: Stalling

      Customer: Cauight in a lie

      Customer: What does the customer service manual tell you to do?

      Customer: (1) Lie to the customer

      Customer: (2) Stall

      Customer: (3) Say it’s the bank’s fault

      Andre M: Thank you Customer, I understand how you may feel with the new charge created. Let me explain you how this work, when you place a cancellation attempt request, there is 50/50 chance to cancel or to ship, that’s why its called a cancellation attempt. In this case the order was shipped today to our store to expected for us to deliver the item for you 3 business days after its arrive, this is because we need to ensure for your item’s quality. In order for you to place you the refund, I can go ahead and request the full refund right now for your purchase, this will be refunded to you within 5 business days.

      Customer: How am I supposed to buy groceries NOW?

      Customer: The order was shipped TODAY?

      Customer: After I cancelled it days ago?

      Customer: IO cancelled this order June 26

      Customer: three days ago. According to you, that was 3 days before it was shipped.

      Customer: (and after I was promised delivery)

      Customer: and you telling me you couldn’t stop taking the money out of my account THREE DAYS after I cancelled the order?

      Andre M: According to our records Customer, the attempt to cancel process was placed on 07/26.

      Customer: So, now that you’ve cleaned out my bank account, just what am I supposed to do this weekend for money?

      Customer: That’s right – that was AFTER the promised delivery date – and three days before you took the money out of my account.

      Customer: And now you are telling me you shipped it TODAY?

      Andre M: After I request the refund on your account Customer, it will take 5 business days to refund your money back to your account. I won’t like to assume you would like to request the refund, May I request the refund for you?

      Customer: Yes, What joy you will be giving my money back to me in five days – after you gave me the run around and took it out of my account after I told you not to

      Customer: Yes, I want you to refund mhy money. And send a big UP YOURS to the bastards who made sure I wouldn’t be able to buy groceries this weekend. I’ll bet they are sitting pretty. They’re not going hungry this weekend. Just the stupid little customer.

      Customer: How come your big fancy computer system cant cancel a single order?

      Customer: You screwed up the delivery date TWICE

      Customer: THEN only when I cancel the order do you ship it

      Customer: Heck, you waited until THREE DAYS after I cancelled the order before you shipped it

      Andre M: Sorry if the cancellation attempt was result in a shipped order, it is because we have the same chances for us to cancel or ship your order. Your refund has been submitted right now for you to have it back in 5 business days.

      Customer: The contract was void when you missed the promised delivery date.

      Customer: THWICE

      Customer: TWICE

      Customer: When I ordered the second time I asked the order department if they would be able to meet the deleivery date

      Customer: They told me they would.

      Customer: I told them BASED ON THAT I would order the item again.

      Customer: They missed the delivery date AGAIN.

      Customer: THEN I cancelled te order.

      Customer: I am a good customer, and you STILL managed to screw me – TWICE by failing to deleiver as promised,

      Customer: and again when you took the money out of my account after I cancelled the order

      Customer: What kind on nonsense is “there is a 50/50 chance” that you won’t be able to process the cancel the order – AFTER you miss the promised delivery date?

      Customer: I didn’t cancel on a whim – I had enough faith to order TWICE – and you lied to me on the delivery date both times

      Customer: I was acting and a good customer – ordering TWICE, and you still found a way to screw me.

      Customer: So, can you send a transcript of this to me? I’d like to discuss this matter with a small claims lawyer.

      Andre M: Thank you, based on the scenario that the chances for this order was a cancel status, the financial hold (Name of the hold for the amount before the ship confirmation) You should received your full refund on 08/02 since in that date we complete 5 business days since 07/26. Now the order has shipped and the refund was placed today it will take up to 08/04 for us to return this into your original payment method.

      Andre M: Sure Customer, this will be sent to you to your email address Customer@email.com.

      Customer: And you will send a transcript of this conversation to me. My mailing address is Customer, Addess Street, PO Box 7, Town, State zip

      Customer: Thank you. What a piece of work WalMart is.

      Customer: Who is going to buy me dinner tonight?

      Andre M: Thank you Customer, since we do not have the option to send this trough a mail option, we are able to send this trough your email address.

      Customer: Do you think maybe one of Sam Walton heirs could stop by pony up $10 so I can buy a big mac and a coke?

      Customer: I bet those kids are eating JUST FINE.

      Customer: Stupid faithful customer though – he’s on his own!

      Customer: You guys think $688 is a joke.

      Customer: A drop in the corporate billion dollar bank account

      Customer: Stupid customers! They can fend for themselves until our accounting department comes in Monday and takes their time processing the refund, after thay after they have their Starbucks coffee and chocolate croissant!

      Customer: MAYBE that stupid customer will have his precious money by Friday! If not – haha!

      Customer: We’re Wal-Mart! You’re just a STUPID CUSTOMER! You’re at our beck and call!

      Andre M: If by any chance Customer, the refund has not completed at your Bank account, feel free to contact us back, we will verify for your account and provided you with further assistance. Are there any other questions I can help you with today?

      Customer: Yes, you are sending a copy of this conversation to me by email, as you promised – although I don’t think those promises are worth much at this point.

      Customer: And as far as anything else you could help me with today – could you GET ME SOMETHING TO EAT! I’d buy groceries but you stle all my money!

      Andre M: Yes, the transcript for this chat interaction will be send it to you after this chat session.

      Customer: And the getting me something to eat part?

      Andre M: Customer, our email has been send right now. It’s been a pleasure assisting you. I am going to disconnect now. You may receive a brief email survey regarding your experience with me after you close this chat, and I would appreciate your feedback. Thank you for contacting Walmart.com and have a great day!

      Andre M has disconnected.

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