Customer Experience

Call Center Horror Stories Told by Customers (And How to Avoid Them)

The contact center world is a beast that can bring out the best and worst in us. Agents can feel real satisfaction when they hang up the phone knowing they’ve added genuine value, but it can also come with tremendous frustration when they receive screams on the other side of the line.

I get it, it ain’t an easy job. However, it’s important to place ourselves in the shoes of the customers once in a while, to help us understand what we can improve.

I spoke with a few clients who have had their fair share of call-center experiences. From social media to the phone, they have seen it all.

Their call center horror stories that are so scary they will haunt you at night. Just kidding. But really, we will take a look at call-center faux pas and note alternative solutions to dealing with these sticky situations.


Who cut the line?

Stacey (Busy Mom, Pittsburgh) 

A payment system company I’m regularly on the phone with often has a waiting time of about 15 to 20 minutes. When I finally get connected to an agent, I explain my long complicated story and agents usually end up putting me on hold and transferring me around from colleague to colleague. As a result, I have to explain my concern over and over again.

My calls with this company tend to always last more than 30 minutes, plus waiting time of another 30 minutes. One particular time I had to call back 3 times because I kept getting hung up on or disconnected for no reason. By the third time of having to wait in line and explain my case to several agents I was screaming and tomato red.

What could have been done better?

  • Training. If every agent was trained to handle a wide variety of cases, they wouldn’t have to transfer the customer from agent to agent and could handle the situation on their own, eliminating the need for the customer to explain themselves repeatedly.
  • Taking better notes. It’s annoying for a customer to have to explain their case repeatedly when they get transferred, especially if it’s a complex situation. By using an integrated software where agents can see the journey of the clients and take detailed notes, this mishap could easily be avoided and the agent taking over would know exactly where the last one left off without having to ask the client to re-explain.
  • Getting a callback number. Having good faith that the line accidentally got disconnected three times, agents should ask the customer right off the bat for their callback number in case there get disconnected. By doing so, agents show good faith by being proactive, but most importantly, it avoids customers from having to deal with another agent, having to explain again, and waiting in line.
  • Measuring the right KPIs. But let’s say the disconnection was for some reason not unintentional, could it be that management is measuring the wrong KPI’s? Something like average handling time can affect the service agents deliver to customers, resulting in more transfer or ‘accidental’ disconnections to stay within the AHT.


Related: Why first call resolution wins over average handling time


Social media management fail

Sherri (Busy Executive, New York)

Having good faith in my internet company,  I never questioned my bills. One day, I stopped by their store and noticed that my package was cheaper than what I was actually paying for. When I reviewed my invoices, I noticed there was a discrepancy and immediately called the company to rectify the situation.

The agent did not understand and tried to reason with me why they had been charging me more. After talking to management they finally agreed to refund me the difference of the six months. However, a few days later I noticed I had only received a partial refund.

Over the next three months, I called and fought with their call center to no avail. I was furious and took my concerns to social media. I spoke to them on Twitter and Facebook demanding an answer and that action be taken.

Instead, I was given the cold shoulder and blocked from their social media so I could no longer comment or interact with them. I was so enraged, I actually thought about taking a day off from work to protest outside their offices. As a result, I will never purchase from that company again. 

What could have been done better? 

  • Social media. Being present on social media is just the first part. Customers turn to social media to engage in conversations with brands, share their love and their troubles. Having the right procedures in place is vital to maintaining a good reputation. Assign a dedicated team of agents to interact and react to customers on social media.
  • Communication between departments. Perhaps the message sent to the billing department from the agent did not get properly passed along. It is important that departments have channels to communicate clearly and share information. If not file and cases can easily get lost and fall through, resulting in unhappy customers.

Cold calling belongs to the 90s

Michael (Busy Techy, San Francisco)

I remember those days of having dinner with the family and getting annoying telemarketer calls. People offering their products or services as you sit down to try to enjoy dinner. This strategy might have worked then, but not anymore.

I work from home and the very same company who I have my internet and landline with continually call me to upsell, distracting me from work. One day, I picked up the phone and cut the agent off and told her to no longer call as I would cancel my service with them if they continued. She dryly explained to me that this was not her department and hung up on me!

I was so shocked that every time my line rings now with an unknown number, I simply ignore the call-It just doesn’t seem like an effective tactic to share promos.

What could have been done better?

  • Add value. Cold calling is old-school and disruptive. No one wants to hear what your company has to sell. Instead, add value using the right message, through the adequate channel at the right time. Call centers are created to attend to the customer. Want to sell your product? Try having an eye-catching banner next time they come into your store to promote your latest offering. Or why not offer customers extra bandwidth at a small price next time they call to ask about their service.
  • Re-Targeting Campaigns-millions of people log on to Facebook and other social media everyday. Learn about the benefits of retargeting the right audience to promote new products and services through channels they are already using. Much more effective and less intrusive than bothering someone on the phone.

Surely, these call center horror stories hit home in more than one way.

These situations can potentially cost you your customers. However, they can easily be corrected with proper quality measurements, and the right coaching and E-learning tools for your agents with platforms such as Playvox


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