Last Updated May 14, 2010 5:20 AM EDT
As a customer, there are certain phrases I hear when dealing with companies over the phone that are guaranteed to leave me feeling sour. And, I don't think I'm alone.
Most of these phrases although they are often irrelevant, seem to have somehow become so ingrained within the norms of customer service I doubt they could be removed without destroying the entire industry. Such examples of pointless waffle need to be stomped out and eradicated.
I'm sure that if companies would stop using at least these 10, their customers would be 100 times happier.
- If you're not completely satisfied... If I'm not completely satisfied I'll either be sure to let you know, or cut my losses and decide to just stick with my lot.
- Sorry, you've called the wrong number... Oh, did I come through to the Billing Enquiries department instead of Billing Support? It's an easy mistake to make, especially when companies employ fiddly, cumbersome multi-tiered phone menu systems.
- Your call is important to us. No it isn't. Somebody would have picked up the phone fifteen minutes ago if it was.
- Please listen carefully. Our menu has changed. I dread to think how bad a company's products must be if it assumes customers are phoning in to complain so regularly that they've learned the previous menu by heart.
- To be honest. As in "to be honest, there's nothing more I can do" or "to be honest, I don't really understand the problem".
- Sorry about the wait. This is a redundant message that customer services operators are forced to say at the start of a conversation when the customer has been hanging on the phone for too long.
- It shouldn't be like that. I often find myself hearing this when the customer services agent has no idea how to solve my problem.
- That's our policy. When I hear this, I understand where the person on the other end of the phone is coming from. They're basically saying they're not allowed to give you what you're asking for.
- I can't do that. Unless you're trying to bargain for something completely unreasonable, what they're actually trying to say is that they won't do that.
- We'll call you back. This would be fine if the company ever called you back, but that rarely seems to happen.
I understand the phrase was coined by company executives to imply the utmost confidence in their products, but these days the words ring completely hollow.
Also, are these companies expecting their customers to be anything other than satisfied? That doesn't seem like a good way to run a business.
I've had calls where the person on the other end of the line has hung up or sent me back to the automated menu after I pressed the wrong button. The right thing to do would be to forward the caller to the right department.
It also doesn't help that this meaningless phrase is guaranteed to be uttered by a lifeless pre-recorded message during yet another Moby or Enya track while you are kept on hold.
Most customers understand that lines might be busy. For those who don't, this automated message isn't going to placate their seething rage, as they hang on the line.
Instead, why don't more companies just try to simplify their menu systems so customers don't need a two-minute instruction course to navigate them?
It's a ghastly term. Is the person on the other end trying to say everything they've said up until then was some kind of elaborate lie?
The people saying it aren't sorry. Nor should we expect them to be -- they're just doing their job, after all.
But, when they open their conversation on a such a false note, it's hard for the customer to take anything else they say as authentic.
Case in point: I recently called my broadband provider and they told me this after I asked for some specifics as to why my line was dead.
It shouldn't be like that? I know it shouldn't, that's why I'm trying to call you up to sort it out.
Instead, they've thrown up some jargon stonewall that doesn't make any sense. It's a phrase commonly uttered when the conversation starts becoming around getting a refund.
I take my custom elsewhere in the face of such inflexibility. Sorry, but that's my policy.
Some customers accept it and just never return to that company. For others, it's a red rag to a bull. They dig their heels in and the whole conversation gets ugly.
If a customer service employee really can't do what they're saying, the best approach is to honestly explain the situation and say why they can't do what is being requested.
It generally means the company is completely stumped and has no idea of how to deal with you, or that they can't sort out your problem within a couple of minutes.
If either of these are the case, the customer service agent would be better off just admitting it and asking you to call back later. That's what you'll invariably end up doing anyway.