“Don’t tell me what you can’t do…”


So I’ll admit this is a bit of a pet peeve of mine – and it happened twice in the last week.

Twice this week I have been on the phone with some very nice “customer service agents” who could not help me in the way I needed.  What I was asking for was not that unreasonable (to me), but they were unable to provide it.  So, I asked to speak with their supervisor.mad-at-phone

Here’s were the pet peeve comes in (it wasn’t because they were following their procedures – that I can respect).

Both agents, as if reading from a script, said, “I can transfer you, but they can’t do anything more than I can.”

In my experience, people (especially the public we serve) don’t like to hear that they can’t do something.  First of all, it’s not very optimistic.  For that reason alone I would rather hear about what CAN be done, or at the very least, leave it neutral.  I would have much rather heard, “Sure, I can transfer you.  One moment, please.”

Whether the next person on the phone could or would do anything different is irrelevant.  At least I didn’t hear the “can’t”.  That drives me nuts.

I guess one reason that statement bothered me is that they don’t really know what the next person might say.  Of course they have the same policies to adhere to, but as you “escalate” (as one company called it), the people higher up the food chain typically have more leeway to make decisions.  One person said he was the “highest point of escalation.”  I then asked if he had a boss (a trick I learned from my Dad) and of course he said yes.  My response was, “then you are not the highest point of escalation.”

The other reason “can’t” bugs me so much is that its as if they aren’t even trying.  No matter what we say, the answer is the same. Nope.  Can’t.  Don’t want to.  Na, na, na-boo-boo…

As I look back, I don’t even think I would have wanted to escalate the call if I hadn’t heard “can’t” so many times.  Even if they said, “I don’t think I can help you, let me see if my supervisor is available”, that would have at least shown that they were owning the problem, and that they wanted me to think they were helping.

I guess that’s the bottom line.  When I hear, “I can’t”, to me it means, “I have no interest in trying to solve this problem.”  That means they are not on my side, and if they are not with me, they’re against me.

Wow.  No wonder this is a pet peeve!

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