All Complaints Aren’t Created Equal: Dealing with Silly Customer Issues



Brian Cantor
12/12/2011

It is fashionable to take shots at the customer service professional. Working conditions are perpetually mocked. The monotony of customer interactions is repeatedly skewered. The proclivity for adherence to benchmarks irrelevant to business and customer satisfaction objectives is limitlessly criticized.

But there remains a light at the end of the tunnel, a prize at the bottom of a cereal box that so many elitist corporate professionals never get to open: dealing with customers. The corporate world can be demanding and stressful, and getting to witness the direct impact of one’s work on the customers his business targets can provide compensatory pleasure.

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All interactions, of course, are not created equal. Call center agents will undoubtedly find themselves on lengthy calls with angry, disrespectful, unintelligent customers whose demeanors make them wish they were locked in a back office without exposure to the outside world. They will face issues that cannot readily be resolved, and they will face issues that do not need to be resolved—all with the same obnoxious customers parroting demands on the other line.

But when the customers are respectful and appreciative, the job can reward in a way few other corporate gigs can. And even if those qualities are not true of the caller, there is one other ground on which contact center interactions can put smiles on the faces of agents: if they are so inane or silly that smiling comes as a friendly alternative to laughter and mockery.

A report from CDC Software and Henley Business Schooldetailed the twenty "funniest, most unusual, or seemingly outrageous customer complaints" a group of customer service professionals received.

Undoubtedly a list from the UK, some of the "humor" will likely be a bit dark for American professionals (this journalist, for instance, is struggling to comprehend what is humorous about a dog getting pinned to the wall by a curtain rod), but the silliness in most is quite evident and universal.

So the question to our readers is simple: how do you respond to issues like these? When customers ask mind-boggling questions, what is the best way to respond? When one of your employees goes rogue and offers inexcusably illogical service, how do you justify it?

  1. The evil curtain rod: A customer complained about a company’s unorthodox "delivery" of a curtain rod. Upon finding no one home to accept the product, the driver slid the pole through the letterbox. The customer returned home to find "their dog pinned to the wall."
  2. Dishing out failure: A customer complained about his faulty dishwasher: though water sprays, the dishes themselves do not spin.
  3. I…dropped the hook…in the tuna: A customer complained that he found a fish hook in a food product—upon further investigation, it was determined that nets—not hooks—are used in the fish-catching process, and the customer was exposed as a liar.
  4. A salty customer: A customer complained that his ham was "unreasonably salty." He was offered a refund in exchange for returning the remaining product; unfortunately, he’d already eaten the final pound!
  5. I paid what it costs: A customer complained about a bill that turned out lower than expected. He refused to accept a variety of unanticipated in-store discounts, arguing that he would not pay until he was "allowed" to pay the higher, non-discount-driven total.
  6. Who likes proactivity: A customer complained that an automated reminder from a contact lens company, which confirmed the order was ready for pickup, was "overzealous" and resembled high-pressured selling.
  7. Wet and wild: A customer complained that his "fully waterproof" jacket was mislabeled—a cell phone stored in the pocket did not survive a full wash cycle.
  8. Caught on film: A customer complained that the picture on his television was not clear. It turns out that he had not yet removed the protective film from the screen, and as he had never been told he would need to do that, he demanded a full refund plus compensation for his wasted time.
  9. Automating the hassle: A customer complained, "I put the vehicle into auto-drive and walked to the rear of the vehicle, only to be thrown against the basinet, flinging fresh coffee flung against the wall and cabinets as the auto-drive failed and took us, at some speed, into the hedgerow."
  10. You stupid cow: A customer complained about his camping stay at a "farm stay" site, noting that the intrusive mooing of the cows ruined the trip.
  11. Dog eat dog world: A customer complained about the quality of his watch—a dog was able to chew through the wrist strap.
  12. Rabbit eat rabbit world: A customer complained that the dog coat he purchased was not "fit for purpose"—his rabbit, while dressed in the coat, "gnawed through the straps."
  13. Can you pet it?: A customer complained that his hamster was "neither friendly nor cuddly." A refund was issued on the return.
  14. That’s one killer look: A customer complained that the pattern on the blouse she purchased prompted her dog to bite itself. She sought a refund and compensation for the veterinarian feeds needed to treat the dog.
  15. What a snake: A customer complained about a major bank’s promotion of animal cruelty—its commercial depicted a pet snake being released into a garden.
  16. The price of good service: A customer complained that a utility company’s customer service was too good—he argued that less money should be spent on training and recruiting staff in order to make the monthly bill lower.
  17. Soap is all you need: A customer complained about the impact of a power outage resulting from heavy winds—it caused him to miss a vital episode of "Coronation Street"
  18. Stuffing the bill: A customer complained about his exorbitant electricity bill. As it turns out, the customer, a taxidermist, was storing animals in seven huge freezers in his garage.
  19. Customer-friendly slant: A customer complained that she could only view her computer monitor when she titled her head on the desk. The tech support rep fixed the issue by rotating the monitor.
  20. Drunk with frustration: A customer complained that the wine he ordered at a restaurant was not up to the "excellent" standard promised by the waiter. Unfortunately, this complaint came not after a taste of the wine but after the customer had consumed all but one glass of the bottle.

Image credit SXC & hanua

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