The 5 Scariest Customer Horror Stories in CS

October 26, 2021

Marley Wagner

Category: Customer Experience, Customer Retention, Customer Success as a Service, Customer Success Strategy, Voice of the Team

At ESG, we’re extremely lucky to work with wonderful customers who treat our employees with respect. But that doesn’t mean that we’ve all been so fortunate at every point throughout our careers – we’ve all experienced our fair share of customer horror stories over the years. So, in honor of spooky season, I’ve compiled five scary customer encounters that may just make your skin crawl.

Don’t worry, author and customer names have been omitted to protect the innocent (and the not-so-innocent).

A Case of Mistaken Identity

When I first started working in CS, I had a customer call transferred to me from a Business Development Rep. The customer claimed they’d been using our product for years. I spent probably 15 minutes on the phone with a very upset customer, intensely trying to diffuse what was clearly a very bad day on the other end of the call. Before I could even get the customer business name or this person’s name, they demanded to speak with leadership, and so I brought in my manager.

Another 15 minutes of frantic yelling and more of the same and this person demanded an even higher level of leadership because “we weren’t listening.” So, our director joins the call. Another 20 minutes pass, now nearing an hour of time on with this frantic person and our director asked “what company did you call to get support?” and the customer answered with the name of a well-known consumer electronics company.

That was not our company.

There was a very clear line of miscommunication that happened from the BDR, to me, to my manager, in obtaining valuable info to determine that this person had dialed the wrong number. It was awful for all involved and a major learning experience for everyone.

Call Me Puddin’

Several years ago, I flew to the East Coast to visit a customer’s office. It was getting dark, but I promised this customer I would stop by that day. I followed the customer’s directions, only to end up in an industrial complex in the middle of nowhere. There were no signs of this business, just unclearly marked street numbers painted, and some scratched into the doors of what looked like an abandoned building. I carefully walked along this building looking at the numbers on the doors and found 319. There were no windows, no cars, no people outside. I knocked cautiously at first…nothing. Again, I knocked louder and finally the door creeped open and smoke billowed out from inside.

As I peered through the smoke, I saw about 20 women, sitting behind computers in school-sized desks, all with cigarettes hanging out of their mouths. One of them said, “what do you need honey?!” I replied in a cautious voice, “uhh…is Tim here? One of the ladies hacked, coughed, and said, “come on in Puddin’…Tim is in the back.”

“Puddin’?!” I thought, but I cautiously cut through the smoke, and sure enough, met the gentleman I had previously communicated with. Needless to say, I wrapped up the meeting as quickly as possible and got the heck out of there!

Gif Baby, Gif

My path to Customer Success began in Customer Support, where my responsibilities sometimes included remote accessing customers’ systems to help troubleshoot. During one of these remote access interactions, the customer I was helping asked if he could show me something else on his computer. I assumed it was another support question that I could help with, so naturally, I agreed.

Well, you know what they say about assuming – and boy, was I dead wrong. Instead of pulling up another issue in the system for me to help him with, he opened a Gif on his screen. This particular Gif was, shall I say, R-rated. I quickly shut down the remote session, and thankfully never received another support call from that particular customer.

The Butcher Shop

A few years ago, I was in Stockholm, Sweden with my colleague who managed the Nordics. We were invited to meet up with a customer for dinner, but the only detail he gave was that we would be meeting him at a “special place.”

I passed on the address he shared to the cabbie, and he looked at me and said, “you must have the wrong place, because that’s an area of town that people don’t frequent.” I double checked, but that was indeed the address the customer had shared. The cabbie shook his head like we were crazy but drove us over to that area of town anyway.

We pulled up in an alleyway between two tall, grungy buildings. It looked so sketchy that we thought about leaving immediately, but we had spotted a large metal door with the street number the customer had given us. So, cautiously we knocked, and waited, but nothing. We tried the handle, and it was open. We carefully walked inside and the entire entryway, from floor to ceiling, was filled with dirty white tile.

My colleague and I were sure it was either butcher shop or murder house and we were both about to be killed. It was possibly one of the scariest looking places I’ve ever been. We walked up the stairs carefully, hearing nothing, and came to this large black door that said “knock.” We knocked, heard footsteps on the other side, and then the door opened.

A man who looked like he was straight out of a mobster movie asked who we were there to see. We gave him our customer’s name, he shut the door, but returned quickly and said, “follow me.” He guided us to a large velvet curtain, which he pulled aside to reveal a large glass room with sides of beef hanging on hooks, further strengthening our concern about being inside a butcher shop.

But as we turned down the hallway, we walked into an AMAZING underground restaurant. We met our customer, he explained that this special restaurant was by invite only and was a true hidden gem in Stockholm. We had a great time, and I ate one of the best aged steaks I’ve ever had in my life!

The Horror that Wasn’t So Horrible

A few years ago, my colleagues and I were traveling to a customer’s office to conduct an all-day workshop. There were seven people in attendance – myself, plus three of my colleagues, and three contacts from our customer.

Unfortunately, five out of the seven of us were having a “horrible, terrible, no good, very bad day”. One attendee had arrived from Europe the night before, so she was certain it was actually late afternoon by the time our meeting began. Another was suffering from a severe sinus and ear infection. A third was awaiting news of a family member in the hospital. And two of us (myself included), had taken a cross-country red-eye to make it to the East Coast just in time for the meeting to begin. Needless to say, none of us were in tip-top shape to make the most of this workshop.

But in spite of all the horrors of that day, it remains one of the most productive working sessions of my entire career. In some strange way, all the challenges we were each facing made us even more invested in using that time in a productive manner. We were all there, so we were going to use the unfortunate circumstances as fuel to accomplish what we had set out to.