Customer Service Should Quit Apologizing and Start Fixing



HR people love to write about customer service. I’ve blogged about it before, and so have many others. TLNT blogged just last week about the importance of customer service to the business bottom line, and why ensuring that employees have the proper customer service skills is ultimately the responsibility of HR.

But while HR is quick to discuss how important customer satisfaction is to employee satisfaction, someone else is telling a lot of companies that good customer service means continually and meaninglessly apologizing to the customer.

A couple of weekends ago the power in my house went out for 5 hours during a wind storm in the metro Detroit area. Maybe not exactly a wind storm, because winds were about 16 mph, with gusts up to 40 mph. Call that “medium windy”, at best. It’s not unusual for me to lose ¬†electric power when the weather is windy. Or snowy. Or rainy. Or just about anything, because I lose power all the time.

The next day I received a pre-recorded call from DTE energy. The recorded voice said she “hoped my power was back on”, and apologized for any inconvenience that was caused. Does that mean their company doesn’t even know if they’ve fixed the power, but it’s okay since they apologized?

I don’t even care if they apologize (especially with a pre-recording) for causing me inconvenience, I just want them to fix whatever is causing my power to go out so frequently.

Other companies have the same “tell them you’re sorry and they won’t be unhappy” attitude.

About a month ago I began experiencing difficulties with AT&T U-Verse, after a couple of years of pretty exemplary service. It took several phone calls and 4 different technician visits to finally fix the problem. One of those phone calls took almost an hour, during which time I was placed on hold several times. Each time the customer service rep apologized profusely to me for placing me on hold. Each technician that visited my home was apologetic for the one who came before and for the multiple mistakes that were made. The AT&T employees were exceptionally c0urteous.

Call me crazy, but I don’t think that the multiple apologies from those employees were helpful at all, given the inability of this company to fix a service problem over a month’s time, several phone calls, and several visits to my home. In fact, those apologies are annoying when you have heard them 4, 5, or 6 times without results.

HR, tell your employees to apologize to customers once, and then spend the bulk of their time cheerfully fixing the problem.

Unless your employee sings like Brenda Lee.