We’ve all seen them online, maybe experienced them ourselves. Those stories of sales that went horribly wrong. The times when either seller or buyer (or both) fails so spectacularly that the result is hilarious, sad or a good old fashioned train wreck.

If you’ve somehow never read a customer service horror story, I encourage you to check out (The Customer is) Not Always Right which is often funny, always head shaking looking into customers (and sometimes businesses) behaving badly. Consider yourself warned, the site is firstly strange addictive and secondly a little depressing after a while. But while it’s tempting to read the horror stories of others and feel like running a business is hopeless and to want to throw in the towel, I think that reading about customer service fails is an excellent learning tool for bettering your business.

It’s a good practice, whenever reading stories of customer service gone wrong online, to ask yourself the following questions as you read:

  • If this had been my customer or situation, how would I have handled it differently?
  • Are there ways in which this problem could happen in my business? If so, are there small changes I can make that will head issues like this off before they happen?
  • If the bad situation has already happened (let’s say due to an employee of yours) what would you do to fix the situation and regain that customer’s business?

In the end, it’s only a mental exercise but it can be very good practice for when things go wrong in your own business. I believe there is value in knowing just how wrong things can go ahead of time as it makes you better equipped to deal with problems as they happen.

What has reading the horror stories of others done to help you in your business? Has watching someone else’s train wreck ever helped you to adjust your own customer service?