Not all lessons have to be learned the hard way. In fact, when it comes to customer service, it's best to let your team learn from the pitfalls of people who did the job before them. The customer might not always be right, but it is always the responsibility of the customer service agent to handle every interaction with grace, tact (and sometimes an abundance of patience). How can customer service horror stories better your business? Find out with these "really happened" whoppers.

1. Timing is Everything

In Boise, ID, one fast food customer service agent recalls when a drive-through customer asked how late the restaurant was open. "Well, it's 8:58. We're closing both dine-in and drive-through in two minutes," said the CS agent. The customer said they'd "be right in" and then spent 20 minutes studying the board and deciding what to order. The customer then proceeded to sit down and eat, causing all the employees to stay an hour past their shift end.

The lesson here? Yes, it was extremely rude and insensitive of the customer, but there's no telling who that customer may be. Perhaps this experience led them to being a loyal customer. Maybe they are a business owner who will soon spend thousands on catering. Maybe they'll share their positive experience on Facebook. Sometimes you have to suck it up and allow patience to take hold. However, as a business owner, make sure you pay your workers extra for any excess time on the clock.

2. The Business of Bigotry

At a call center in Florida, one irate customer demanded to know where the customer service agent was located. When the agent told him "Florida," the customer snapped back, "Well at least you're not some dot-head." The caller then proceeded to say he didn't have time to talk to "some uneducated girl" in a foreign country. The bigotry, racism and ignorance here were palpable, and the agent replied, "I have a master's degree. So unless you have a doctorate, I'm certain I've had more education than you and I'm more than qualified to help you."

The lesson here? When a customer demeans a worker, it's natural to want to defend yourself. However, embarrassing a customer isn't doing the company any favors and it might even cause the caller to get angry enough to reach out to higher ups. A thick skin is unfortunately part of the "uniform" for any customer service agent.

3. Catering to Customers

At a golf course bar in the UK, one bartender recalls finishing up his cleanup duties at 7:30 pm following closing at 7pm. Suddenly, a customer shows up asking, "Are you open?" Since this members-only club is brimming with regulars, the bartender replied, "No, sir. We closed about half an hour ago and I'm just finishing the last of my tasks behind the bar." Suddenly enraged, the customer said, "Well, you should be open for people like me who like to be the last to tee off on the course in the day!" The barkeep kept mum and continued with his tasks.

The lesson here? There's no point arguing with an irrational customer--especially when he very clearly did need that last drink in order to relax. Polite silence is always preferable to arguing and is often the best way to end an angry encounter.

As much time as we spend talking about how important development, marketing and sales are to the bottom line of a business, it is just as vital to remember that ongoing customer service is just as relevant. Daily interaction with the patrons of your business is where "the rubber meets the road." It's one piece of an overall package that should not be neglected.