88 Ways to Make The Naughty List

Ok, so last week I asked you to tell me what actions, attitudes or behaviors would land a business on your “naughty list.” In other words, what do companies do that make you NOT want to do business with them? 

Y’all must have needed to vent! Oh, the stories you told! The anguish you’ve endured! The amazing and horrific customer service you’ve witnessed!

I’ve read your stories, comments, and pleas for help, and summarized them into 88 ways companies can make the naughty list. As you read these, you’ll chuckle knowingly at some, wince at some, and nod your head in agreement at nearly all of them. But as you read, I’d like you to use this list as a checklist for your own business. Think about each of these 88 behaviors and ask yourself, “Do we do this at any level?”

I’ll be honest with you, we pride ourselves at sparkspace on the level of customer service we provide, and I found SEVERAL items on this list that hit a little (or a lot) too close to home.

I probably don’t have to encourage you to do this, but you might want to share this post with, well, EVERYBODY you know. I have a feeling this is going to be one of our most read, most forwarded posts ever.

88 Ways To Make The Naughty List (in no particular order):
  1. Poor communication between different parts of your business.
  2. Talking to co-workers about personal matters instead of paying attention to me.
  3. Talking on the phone about personal matters instead of paying attention to me.
  4. When 10 employees walk by the same piece of trash.
  5. Communications that contain grammatical and/or spelling mistakes (but, please excuse any in this newsletter).
  6. Saying or implying “it’s not my job” and pushing me off to another department or person.
  7. Having to call (or be transferred to) three different people because nobody has access to all of the information I need regarding services or my account.
  8. Lack of accountability for mistakes.
  9. Not knowing the answer to a question AND THEN not trying to find the answer.
  10. Long lines.
  11. Employees who don’t seem to care.
  12. Having to ask you to repeat a service because of poor quality the first time.
  13. Employees who PICK THEIR NOSE just before helping me.
  14. Not responding to a personal complaint phone call, voicemail, letter, email, facebook page post (on your company’s page), or tweet (to your company).
  15. Placing me on hold for 20 minutes.
  16. Placing me on hold for more than a minute, period.
  17. Providing a “help” phone number staffed by people who can’t (or won’t) really help you.
  18. Failing on your promises to me.
  19. Bad-mouthing the competition.
  20. Not having an advertised sale item in stock (or not providing a rain check).
  21. Asking me to wait so you can make a bigger sale to a customer who just arrived.
  22. Automatically replacing an ordered item with a “similar” item because the original item wasn’t available, then not informing me of the change.
  23. VOICEMAIL JAIL! A. Dumping me into automated voicemail systems with way too many options to listen to. B. Asking me to input my account number multiple times. C. Placing me on hold, then disconnecting me. D. Any of the above, in any combination.
  24. Acting like you don’t have time to help me.
  25. Charging more just because you can.
  26. Requiring ME to follow up continually in order to resolve YOUR mistake.
  27. Treating me like you’re doing a favor for me instead of being grateful for my business, no matter how big or small.
  28. Employees arguing with each other.
  29. Using foul language.
  30. Not sounding educated (about your company or product).
  31. Not sounding educated (by an elementary school).
  32. Being placed on hold after talking to someone, then being asked “Can I help you?” when someone picks up the phone again.
  33. Making me repeat an issue, name, account number, etc. every time you transfer me.
  34. Sending me marketing emails without my permission.
  35. Selling or sharing my email address without my permission.
  36. Not unsubscribing me when I request to unsubscribe.
  37. Completely ignoring or “blowing off” my complaint by not offering any solution, resolution, or compensation.
  38. Not being somewhat flexible on deadlines, due dates, and expiration dates of special offers.
  39. Not providing complete information about a product, sale, or promotion and expecting me to live up to all of the rules & regulations that you DIDN’T publish.
  40. Slow shipping on something that’s “in-stock”.
  41. Selling your product through “representatives” or “franchises” that don’t deliver on YOUR brand promises.
  42. Complaining to me about another customer!
  43. Cashiers who are on “auto-pilot”.
  44. Employees who talk about how they can’t wait until their shift is over.
  45. Making me fight my way through a poorly designed form.
  46. Requiring me to fill out multiple forms with the same information.
  47. Making a special offer or sale, then basically negating most of it through a complex disclaimer.
  48. Being rude.
  49. Being aggressive.
  50. Not taking no for an answer.
  51. Being inconsiderate of my time.
  52. Giving me a time-frame of when you’ll show up, and showing up at the very end of the time.
  53. Giving me a time-frame of when you’ll show up, not showing up, and not calling me to tell me.
  54. Telling me about you instead of asking me what my needs are first.
  55. Making me go through your entire automatic phone system only to find out I’ve called outside of your business hours.
  56. Barraging me with mail solicitation.
  57. Not smiling.
  58. Telling me you don’t “ever” do something when you could easily do it for me this time.
  59. Sending me communications that try to win me as a new customer when I’m already a customer.
  60. Not saying thank you.
  61. Not honoring your 100% satisfaction guarantee.
  62. Price gouging.
  63. Lying.
  64. “Lazy lying”, i.e., saying you’re out of something without checking.
  65. Bad-mouthing your own company.
  66. Not being nice.
  67. Not making it easy to do business with you or, worse, actually making it difficult to do business with you.
  68. Speaking the phrase, “Our policy says…”
  69. Being condescending.
  70. Being patronizing.
  71. Being arrogant.
  72. Poor follow up. If you say you’ll do something, DO IT.
  73. Failing to apologize for your mistakes.
  74. Failing to acknowledge that my situation sucks, even if it’s not your fault.
  75. Hiding from me by not providing me a way to contact a real person.
  76. Calling ME, then putting me on hold!
  77. Offering discounts to new customers, but doing nothing for existing loyal customers.
  78. Not being properly staffed when you know you’re going to be busy.
  79. Employees standing around chatting, or doing nothing, while I clearly need help.
  80. Not listening to me, not engaging me in conversation, and giving me a “pat” answer instead of finding a real solution to my need.
  81. Not trusting me and requiring too much verification (especially when “security” is not an issue).
  82. Assuming you know what my problem or desire is before truly finding out.
  83. Not providing a simple, “I’ll be right with you” acknowledgment.
  84. Operating solely off of a script instead of listening and being human.
  85. Making me feel like a number instead of a valued customer.
  86. “Nickel & dime-ing” me by adding on fees, hidden charges, etc.
  87. Constant reorganization and restructuring and making me re-learn your company.
  88. Disciplining your employees in front of me.


Whew! That’s quite a list. And as exhausting as it may be to get through it, it’s not an exhaustive list. You might even wish to spend some time developing your own “naughty list” of behaviors that your company should specifically avoid.


We promised to enter everyone who sent in their comments into a contest to win a copy of one of our favorite books on customer service: Zingerman’s Guide to Giving Great Service. We received so many responses, we’ve decided to give out FIVE books instead of one. We’ll be mailing books to these lucky winners:

Chuck Clark
Kristen Harris
Scott Moehring
Dan Smith
Juli Kernodle

Thanks for reading. Happy Holidays!


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