The Top 10 Call Centre ‘Oh No!’ Moments


Every call centre has its ‘oh no’ moments, when a customer service agent says something insensitive, or gives bad advice.

We polled a number of call centre agents to find out their worst moments.

Matthew Brown takes a light-hearted look at a few classic stories.

1.    The accidental ‘oh no’ moment

“I worked for one of the 118 (directory enquiries) numbers. Somebody called asking for a valet service for their car and the nearest one to their location was called ‘The Ultimate Hand Job’. The caller thought I was mocking them and complained about me. I wasn’t disciplined, obviously, but I think they had trouble convincing the customer that it IS a real company.”

An ‘oh no’ moment like this is somewhat unavoidable. It isn’t the agent’s fault that fulfilling the customer’s request involved repeating an innuendo-based company name.

2.     Going on hold

“An irate woman rang. She said she’d shoot herself if she got put on hold again. I told her to get the gun ready, and hit ‘hold’.”

Amusing as this may be on paper, it is also slightly disturbing. How was the agent to know that the woman didn’t actually have a gun at the ready? Of course, that is highly unlikely, but not impossible. Agents have no idea of the mental state of their customers. Empathy is an essential for good customer service. Unsurprisingly, the agent behind this story was sacked.

3.    Insensitivity

Saying “why did you do that?” to a distressed caller who had tied their dog on a choke chain to a level crossing that had gone up. Poor agent.”

Asking a question like that to someone who has just accidentally hanged their own dog is obviously pointless and insensitive. It probably wasn’t done maliciously. Gaffes like this can be made when agents stick too rigidly to procedures, and don’t take the conversation into their own hands. A bereaved dog owner is one thing. Imagine the offence that could be caused if similar insensitivity was shown in a call relating to a dead or dying person.

4.    Failing to mute the call

“A female agent said, when on mute, “Stupid b*tch”. Turns out she wasn’t on mute at all. The complaint call wasn’t easy to deal with!”

Every customer service agent has probably had a customer about whom they shared the sentiments of the agent in this ‘oh no’ moment. It is only human to be annoyed by someone occasionally, but to allow that annoyance to be overheard by the customer – accidentally or otherwise – is highly unprofessional.

5.     The wrong surname

Just a few weeks ago Nat West disciplined a call centre employee for laughing at a customer’s name during a call. ‘Oh no’ moments are a headache for call centre managers and supervisors to deal with. But they can also be quite funny.

6.    Fobbing off a celebrity

“I had a friend who said something very inappropriate to Timmy Mallet when he worked for Compuserve tech support.”

Unfortunately we don’t know exactly what inappropriate something was said on this occasion, but the moral of the story remains the same. Every customer deserves good service, not agents who go totally bonkers as soon as they realise they are talking to someone famous.

7.    Sarcasm

“I wanted to cancel my personal accident insurance. After 20 mins and me saying no to various offers he offered it for 2p per month and then said it would be confirmed never as that deal would never exist. That didn’t encourage me to renew my personal accident cover …but it was quite funny.”

Amateur comedians often end up working in call centres, and with humour like this, it’s easy to see why. As far as ‘oh no’ moments go, it’s not the most offensive, but it is an off-putting trait that may deter customers from calling in future.

8.    Bad advice

The call centre industry is rife with examples of agents giving out bad advice, and this video from the USA is a prime example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=un6vh9zEXgo

The caller is given contradictory advice throughout, and the agent clearly doesn’t really know what he is talking about. He makes no effort to find out the exact amount of the cancellation fee. Even worse, he gives some absolutely nonsensical information about internet connections being limited in number and issued only on a first-come first-served basis.

9.    ‘Oh no’ moments that become ‘oh no’ crimes

One of my co-workers at a directory enquiries call centre got angry at a caller, and made harassing calls to the caller after her shift!

Dealing with an ‘oh no’ moment before it becomes a bigger problem is vital. Ultimately, managers can’t do much to prevent an unhinged agent harassing a caller outside working hours. But perhaps a quick chat with an agent angry after a bad call would defuse the situation before it becomes much worse.

10.    Lies

I had a belting experience with a mobile company tech helpdesk. Shocking lies, trying to cover up lack of knowledge. Not good.

This sums up both the problem and its cause. Customers can tell when an agent doesn’t know the real answer. Trying to cover with vague and sometimes ridiculous lies is unacceptable.

Call Centre Jokes and Funny Customer Service Stories

We have also got a wide selection of funny Call Centre Jokes and Customer Service Stories exploring the lighter side of work in a call centre.

Call Centre Jokes and Funny Customer Service Stories


Do you have any fine examples of the ‘oh no’ moment? How do you avoid them? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.

Published On: 22nd Jun 2011 - Last modified: 14th Feb 2017
Read more about - Call Centre Life , , , , ,


7 Comments
  1. Number one made me laugh out loud, I think we can all relate to at elast one of those!

    Mel 27 Jun at 5:11 pm
  2. Number one made me laugh out loud, I think we can all relate to at at least one of those!

    Mel 27 Jun at 5:12 pm
  3. This call was evaluated by the Quality Analyst and they busted out laughing.

    We support clinical applications as part of our work. There was a new hire who was put into the work.As he is new to the process he dint know what to do.

    Customer called in to ask if she can have a MATERNITY LEAVE FORM which actually is not supported by us.

    Tech: what application does it belongs to?
    Customer: (Being sarcastic) Pregnancy application.
    Tech: We are sorry to say that we won’t support it..(After confirming with his colleague)
    Customer dint know what was happening. She was totally frustrated and hung upon him.

    QA laughed out bursting listening to the voiceprint. Finally she called the tech to know how he would explain.

    QA: What made you say that? Don’t you know what u ought to say?
    Tech: I am not responsible for her problem (PREGNANCY??!!)
    QA (LAUGHING OUT LOUD):Then who was responsible?(In a sarcastic way)
    Tech: The guy sitting beside me. (His colleague)

    Ramya Trikcy 8 Jul at 8:04 pm
  4. I work in the medical industry, and our appointments are difficult to get with a long wait, hence, when a patient does not keep an appointment we ring to find out why. My collegue in the call centre rang:

    CC: Is Mr Blahblah there?
    Wife: No, sorry. Can I ask who’s calling?
    CC: This is So&so from X-ray. Mr Blahblah was due for an appointment today at 10 am. These are very expensive tests, and as you know the preparation is two full days, so we can’t get another patient in to his spot. Does he have an explanation why he did not attend?
    Wife: He passed away yesterday.
    CC: {Silence}….. OK, I’m very sorry for your loss.
    End of call!

    LisaJ 29 Jan at 8:33 am
  5. “A female agent said, when on mute, “Stupid b*tch”. Turns out she wasn’t on mute at all. The complaint call wasn’t easy to deal with!”

    This is lack of training and telephone manner, even when on mute you should be respectful to your customers!!

    Simply Answering 6 Dec at 9:00 pm
  6. I was working in a telecommunication provider, a teenager called to ask for his trouble of getting signal in his area. My friend probed the location detail etc, and explained that the customer might need to get out of the house or move to higher ground to test the signal. He rang again the next 10 minutes and shouted, “I’m on top of a coconut tree now, and still has no good signal reception, what should I do?!”

    Cici 14 Feb at 7:42 am
  7. I got a card order to take out insurance on a customers tv. However the card was declined and I was told to ring the customer to check details. Unfortunately the customer works shifts (How was I to know that?). Turned I rang the customer too many times (checked by complience) and I was sacked.

    Pat 15 Jun at 6:26 pm
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