Customer Service- When to Fire the Provider


July 3, 2010

This is not going to be a rant.  It will be an observation.

In the last three days, I’ve either had conversations with friends about poor customer service experiences lately or read about them online.  Interestingly, none of these have been heated, negative exchanges.  For example, a colleague calmly relayed two negative customer service situations, one with a national rental car agency, the other with Coach.  Interestingly enough, Coach does appear to be the handbag of choice for female human resource professionals according to Laurie Ruettimann of Punk Rock HR.  I did an informal scan of the HR ladies I know and Laurie was right.  Myself included.  The other poor customer service experience I heard about this week came from China Gorman, former SHRM COO, on a guest post she wrote for Kris Dunn, The HR Capitalist.  Again, not a fiery rant, but an observation of some extremely poor customer service she witnessed on a recent flight.  Be sure to check out China’s post.  Another example came from the HR Maven as she discussed some extremely poor service from her doctor’s office staff.  And just this morning, Mike VanDervort at The Human Racehorses blog shares his poor experience with Delta airlines.


All of this has me thinking.  What does it take to decide to fire your provider, store, stylist/ barber, restaurant, or health care professional? How much has to go wrong or how many times do you have to experience service below your expectations before you stop going back?  I know the threshold is different for every one of us.  And, being that I am typically a glass-half-full kind of gal, I tend to give companies second or third chances.  For example, I have been a T-Mobile customer for at least nine or ten years.  Long story short, I have stuck with them through phones that stopped working, billing errors, and their complete failure on helping me with my trip to London earlier this year.  That little jaunt alone cost me approximately $1,000.  I’m still with them.


  • The customer remains hopeful that things will improve or that the situation is a one-time thing
  • It’s a hassle to change
  • We continue to shop at certain stores because they are close to home, even when they do not provide good service
  • The alternatives are sometimes no better

Well, I have decided to fire T-mobile.  The number of times my service just drops calls mid-discussion seems to be increasing, the prices keep going up, and the wait time to get to a live person when I call is just too much.  My phone also cuts in and out during calls and it’s a new 3G My Touch, so it should not be doing that.

In human resources, we support our managers and leaders when they decide to terminate employees who have performance that is just too horrible to ignore.  I say let’s take a little of our own advice and terminate the relationships of those companies who consistently disappoint and do not do their jobs.  And hey, T-mobile, YOU’RE FIRED!  Have a company you’re willing to fire?  Share it in the comments.


  • Trish: thanks for the blog post mention. I’ve got another one coming along the same lines. Having spent 25+ years in the career transition business I’ve got lots of real life examples of performance issues that broke the proverbial camel’s back and ended in termination. It’s funny sometimes what pushes us over the edge — both as employers and consumers.

    • @China- You’re so welcome. It was amazing that so many bloggers were having customer service experiences that were less than satisfactory in the same week. Glad many were resolved.

      @Krista- What a nightmare. Love that you said “they were SO fired”. Sweet. Thanks for the comment.

  • A former health insurance broker was also administering my organization’s FSA. They decided to stop doing FSA’s, but forgot to tell us. We found out when employees’ FSA debit cards stopped working. It just got quickly worse from there but I’ll save you the gruesome details.

    They were *so* fired….but I will also say, it wasn’t the first issue we had with them. The first time we had a significant issue, we did try to work it out and move on. The second time was a deal-breaker, though.

  • Usually, it takes a long time of bad performance for me to fire providers. But one example comes to light: the convenience store who is literally twenty-five steps away from me cheated me out of fifteen dollars. Yes, I paid for my Red Bull with a twenty and the clerk gave me back change like I had given her a five. I admit that I had a five out; however, she then pulled a fiver from the drawer and said it was the five I gave her. Since she was the manager, I really couldn’t argue. That act of theft has cost her store a princely $1040 per year in Red Bull alone, let alone the other items I had regularly purchased in a day’s time.

    Mind that this convenience store clerk/manager was a rude, miserable person whom you normally had to beg for a bag when I had made larger purchases. After stealing my $15, she had the nerve to ask if I had wanted a bag for the SINGLE Red Bull I had purchased. I wanted to jump over the counter and pummel that un-nice person (I will NOT say what I really wanted to call her) after she asked if I “want(ed) a bag”.

    I know I should have been more vocal during the absconding of my money, but after all, I had no time to mess with her. I will do whatever I can to make certain that everyone knows that the Gas Mart in Edwardsville, IL has a thief working there.

    But it took outright theft to get me to stop going to a place where I did not feel good spending my money, and I surmise that on a day where I did not plan well I will be making that trek of twenty-five steps to said haven of larceny out of desperation.

    Yeah- it literally takes someone doing horrendous things to make me stop using their services…

    • @Doug- You’re definitely not alone. I don’t like to put up with things but I find myself responding like you. It takes something HUGE to make stop being a customer. I think it’s so unfortunate what happened to you at Gas Mart. You’re right, not only do they lose what you would purchase ($1,040 in Red Bull?? Wow, interesting to see how that adds up in a year) they also lose business from anyone you tell about your story. I’m not sure if they are a franchise but I would at a minimum tell the owner of the Gas Mart. It may still mean you never go back, but at least you’re letting them know that there is someone there who is stealing. I also imagine they have video cameras and the owner could verify that person doing it fairly easy. Just my 2 cents. Thanks for sharing that story!

  • What a great post! I can’t believe what horrific service I get routinely. Most recently, Comcast suggested that we should return defective equipment to them on our time. I don’t think so.

    But it’s the norm. I did have an incredible customer service experience while on vacation and by golly I am going to write about it. They were amazing. And gave me hope. 🙂

    • @Dee- Isn’t it a shame that we get poor service so often that that is the norm? I say turn up the heat on the providers and demand more. Can’t wait to read your post.

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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.


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