Here is a collection of things I have heard, and things that have been said to me by customer service people that make me absolutely twitch, and the reasons why they should never, ever say them. Ever.
I am of the mind that the word "can't" should be avoided, not just by people who work in customer service, but by everyone, whenever possible. I make exceptions for times when I need to spontaneously sing "Can't Get Next To You" and/or "You Can't Always Get What You Want" at the top of my lungs, which does happen, from time to time.
"Can't" is such a catch-all, lazy, defeated word. "I can't..." Bullshit. There is no "can't", there is only, "I don't feel like it" or, "You're not worth the effort to try". Be honest! A man with no legs climbed Mt. Everest! That fact alone makes all of your "can'ts" complete crap. (Also, a double amputee climbed Mount Kilimanjaro...I'm just sayin'...what's your excuse?)
Whenever someone in customer service uses the word "can't" with me, I counter with one of two questions: What are you ABLE to do? OR, Is there someone there who CAN (insert whatever it is that I need done), not meaning to be snotty...Because what I want to hear instead of "can't" is someone telling me what IS possible, and what I need to do, or who I need to speak to, in order to achieve the objective. It's not that I call customer service thinking I'm going to stomp all over them and bully them into doing something they wouldn't normally do, it's that I want to know how to solve my problem. I'm calling to find out what my options ARE, not what they AREN'T. Even if what I'm asking for is completely nuts and "impossible"...
Me: Hi, I'd like a loan for a million dollars
Bank: OK...well, we do have some loan options available. What were you planning to use the money for? Are you buying a home?
Me: Nah, I just think I need some massive retail therapy.
Bank: ....OK...well, do you have any collateral for a loan that size?
Me: Hmmm....I have a cheapy watch, this Uniprise travel mug that I got for free when I worked there, and a 7 year old car.
Bank: Well, we do have some consumer loans and lines of credit available, up to $3000...
See what they did there? Completely blew off the insanity of what I was asking for, remained calm and went straight to what my real options were, without once using the word "can't". That's what I'm talking about. A bad customer service person would have said "we can't do that" or worse, "you can't do that". Don't ever say the word "can't" to me--I immediately become stubborn, arms folded, and ready to prove you wrong. Of course, I don't stand a chance of getting a million-dollar loan for anything. I'm in the middle of a divorce, for cryin' out loud--I couldn't get financed on a used Yugo. (and remind me, later, if I ever utter the M word again, how badly my finances get effed up by doing this...and to run, screaming, for the hills. Thank you.) But I really don't want to hear about how pathetic I am--I want to hear that they want my business in SOME capacity--that they want me to keep being their customer, and that it is worth it to them to at least TRY. Even if the person suggested that I marry a millionaire (AAAAAAAAUUUUUUGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!) as a solution to my financial issue, it's still better than saying that I can't have something...of course I CAN--you can have anything you want, it's just a matter of what you are willing to do to get it. How about, instead of saying "you can't", just leave it up to me to decide what (or whom) I'm willing to "do" for a million dollars?**
2. "You need to"
In the immortal words of Eric Cartman, "Whatever! I do what I want!" You say you need some paperwork in order to make this happen? An 8X10 copy of my driver's license? How about you just ask, instead of telling me? Or simply explain, politely, that you'll be happy to process the paperwork for the million dollar loan, just as soon as I can provide proof that I'm legally tied to someone who's good for it (AAAAAAAAUUUUUUGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!). What I liked to say, when I was working in customer service and the law required that I get a signature on a document, or some such thing, was to just say something like, "We CAN take care of that for you, but we (or the law) require(s) ________, and you can either fax, mail, or email that". The customer doesn't "need" to do anything if they don't want to--they can just leave that problem unsolved, or seek a different solution that doesn't have anything to do with customer service at all, like, sell a kidney, for example...
3. "We have nothing to do with that..." and/or "That's not my department"
How about simply saying, "That particular issue is handled by the _________ department" then offering to connect me with them? I'm just some schmoh, after all--I don't know all of the things that a customer service person would (SHOULD) know about how their company operates. I am aware of my limitations in this regard. But more importantly, I'm not calling because everything is peachy in my world! Who does that? Have you ever called customer service just to say "hi"? Me neither. I call because I have a problem, and more importantly, because I sincerely believe that this problem CAN be solved, by SOMEBODY at your company. If I didn't believe that there could be a resolution, I wouldn't bother. I might get lucky and have the problem solved by the first person I get, but that doesn't always happen, and I'm OK with that. I know that sometimes, people who solve problems don't answer the phone--if they did, they might not have time to solve problems! Just make sure that I'm not passed around like a hot potato, then back to the same person twice, or things will start to get ugly. KNOW YOUR COMPANY! Know who does what and how to get ahold of them! Educate me on how it works! I promise I won't mind. Don't just tell me "it ain't me"--if not you, then who?
4. "That's not our policy" and/or Using "our policy" as an excuse not to help me reach a resolution.
Perhaps this is a bit Pollyanna of me, but I don't believe that companies make policies solely for the purpose of shutting out customers and their annoying problems. I believe that "policies" are created with the customer in mind. I believe that companies WANT to help, and I know for a fact that they want my money, and so, want to keep me as a customer. If you work in customer service and you don't believe this, then you are in the wrong damn job, my friend. What about the Big Picture? Do you think that they guy who started your company would have blown off potential or current customers with a simple shrug and a "that's not our policy"? Hell no...entrepreneurs are all about GROWTH, and POSSIBILITIES. They started the company because the saw a way to solve a particular problem AND make money, not to shut people out with limiting "rules". More likely, they started the company because they didn't like the limiting "rules" of OTHER companies. Policies at (good) companies are constantly changing to suit the needs of their customer base. If someone is asking you to do something outside of the norms of your guidelines, how do you know that they're not the first of many who will ask you to do the same thing a dozen times this week? I once worked for a very, very large company, where our un-official motto was, "The only thing constant at ______ is Change", and that company absolutely kicked ass--they were ever-evolving, breaking new ground. If you're stuck thinking some policy will never, ever change, or shouldn't, then you're just not a very good employee, period, because you are not honoring the original vision that created your company in the first place.
My customer service rants are scattered all over the internet--mostly raving and long winded comments on other people's blogs. Perhaps one day, I'll put them all together in one place, sell it, and make a million dollars, and then I won't need that loan OR a husband (AAAAAAAAUUUUUUGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!). Even better, I'll be so fabulously busy that I'll have to hire someone to take calls for me...
**My "what I would do for a million dollars" list is so short that it startles most people...OK, I actually don't have one.