“It’s Not My Department,” and Other Statements Certain to Enrage Customers

When it comes to service recovery, four words can be like throwing gasoline on a smoldering fire, turning an irritation into a full-blown conflagration.  When one of your employees says, “That’s not my department,” the customer hears:

  • Don’t bother me
  • Not my problem
  • Go somewhere else
  • You’re wrong
  • I don’t care

None of these messages are going to make the customer feel valued or cared for. Customers receiving one of these messages aren’t likely to (happily) ask for redirection. They are already smoldering and you have just fanned the flames.

I’ve researched, written, spoken, and trained on customer service and service recovery for over 25 years. I am certain that commitment to service and service recovery starts at the top with corporate values, followed by training and constant vigilance to ensure that both the individual employees and the organization learns, and makes improvements from, every service recovery issue.

For the past six weeks my assistant and I have spent countless hours chasing after AT&T, trying to get my business phones running after moving our office just five blocks. We alerted them of the impending move 12/3/20. One single phone number is too much. When we called for help, we heard:

  • That’s a different service (the bill says “AT&T” and the phone number on that bill brought me to you at AT&T. What am I missing?)
  • Someone will call you back (No one calls)
  • I’ll get to the bottom of this (No one calls)
  • Here’s my favorite: “We tried calling but couldn’t get through on your business line.” Duh. That is the line that is down and needs to be re-installed in the new building. That is why we gave you our cell phone numbers. (Verizon, because we had to drop AT&T for lousy service on wireless.)

Twice, when workmen arrived to do the “final install”, we were told, “We have the wrong equipment because we put the order in wrong.”

Desperate times call for desperate measures. I’m not a person to vent on social media to get my needs met. I have always felt that it is more mature and professional to handle problems quietly, and one-on-one. But when the other team doesn’t hold up their end after multiple attempts, where else could I turn to get the right person’s attention? Twitter.

One statement on Twitter resulted in contact within 30 minutes asking me to continue the conversation privately so they could help. Mind you, it wasn’t a rant, just an alert to my followers that our AT&T phones were still down and to use email to reach us. That resulted in a promise of “escalation” which resulted in… nothing.

I won’t go into more details, but after numerous attempts to just get someone to listen and resolve the problem, we’re still without phones. Data says a dissatisfied customer will tell 25 people. I’m now telling anyone who will listen, while I look for my next vendor.

Don’t let this happen in your organization.

  • Have good processes for managing concerns before they become full-blown complaints.
  • Train staff on how to handle dissatisfied customers, but give them real tools and processes.
  • Track complaints for patterns that point to broken processes.
  • Have a closed-loop process to ensure complaint is resolved in a timely matter.
  • Assign a single individual to ensure the loop is closed.

Missteps are inevitable in service-based businesses. Make sure you address them efficiently, respectfully, and accurately. If you don’t, it can, and will, damage your reputation.

Tags: , , , , ,

Subscribe to our Articles and stay up to date on leadership practices, employee engagement, retention, and service excellence.

Submit your information below to start receiving our Baird Group articles.