The Worst Thing You Can Say to Your Customer

“There’s nothing we can do to help you.”

 
When you hear these words as a customer, you instantly feel abandoned. In terms of customer service, they’re probably the very worst thing you could ever say to clients, short of cussing them out. I recently had to suffer through hearing these words from a company I’ve done business with for years, all over an Amazon Fire TV Stick.
 

BURNED BY LATE FEES

This past February, before Covid struck and the world ended, I noted that I had a $10 credit with Dell that was about to expire. I used that credit to get a new Amazon Fire TV Stick, saving a few bucks in the process.

Cut to May, when we’re in quarantine. I’m walking around my neighborhood when I get a call from a Dell representative informing me that I had a bill of $42 that was past due. That had never happened before, so I assumed it was because we weren’t at the office. I couldn’t remember what I had ordered from Dell recently, but when I asked what the payment was for, the rep told me that she couldn’t see that information.

I didn’t want to be past due, so I authorized the payment and went back to enjoying the pandemic. Later, I asked Kelsey, who handles our bills, what the payment was for. She hadn’t been to the office either and said she hadn’t seen a bill from Dell recently. Whatever it was, I’d paid for it, so I decided not to worry about it… I should have worried more about it.

In July, I got another call from Dell, again to inform me that I have a past-due bill. Only this time, it was for $72. I didn’t remember ordering anything from Dell, but I didn’t want to owe anyone money, so I let the rep record me stating that I authorized the payment. Then I asked what the payment was for. This time, the rep quickly looked it up.

“It’s for a Fire Stick,” she told me.
 

THE CASE OF THE MISSING INVOICE

The $20 Fire Stick I’d bought five month prior was not $72. Somehow, we never received the invoice for the Fire Stick, so it never got paid for. And it turned out, the phone call I had gotten in May for the $42 past-due bill was also for the Fire Stick. I don’t know why that rep lied about not being able to look up the item. Maybe for the same reason they didn’t process the payment even after I had authorized it over the phone.

At that point, I unauthorized the $72 payment and wanted to know why I wasn’t getting the invoice. The rep passed me to her supervisor who was quick to use that dreaded phrase, “There’s nothing we can do to help you, sir.”

After years of working with Dell and paying our bills on time, it should have been clear that some kind of mistake had been made. I wanted to know why we weren’t receiving our invoices anymore. Instead of trying to help me, the supervisor was very combative and nearly accused me of lying. In the end, I had to hang up and get in touch with the rep I usually deal with. They gave me a new number, and when I called it, they told me they would waive the past-due bill and give me credits for everything. Turns out, there was something they could do to help me.
 

THE BEST COUNTER QUESTION

This isn’t the first time I’ve ended up in a frustrating situation with a customer service rep. I once spent three years arguing with Iron Mountain over a ridiculous bill. A guy I work with told me to use this line with someone who claims they can’t help you: I understand that you can’t help me. Can you connect me to someone who can help me or to someone who might know someone who can help me?

I used this line to navigate a long, frustrating battle with Iron Mountain over a $7,000 bill for a service they had increased the fee on after it was too late for me to cancel. After years of being told they couldn’t help me, I finally got to speak with the vice president of collections, Maria Rodriguez. She actually looked at the situation, agreed that what happened to me was not okay, and credited me for the entire bill.
 

IF YOU CAN’T HELP SOMEONE, YOUR COMPETITION WILL

I know I’m not the only person who’s been told by a customer service rep that they can’t help me. It’s a bad feeling. I never want any of my clients to hear that there’s nothing my team can do to help them. Instead, I want them to be proactive and look for ways to solve a problem, rather than immediately shut clients down. This kind of service starts with empowering your employees to want to take care of customers.

Ritz-Carlton, the luxury hotel company, is famous for their $2,000 rule. Basically, employees are allowed to spend up to $2,000 to solve any customer’s problem without needing approval from a manager. This is a pretty big number, but considering the fact that the average Ritz-Carlton customer will spend $250,000 in their lifetime, it’s worth it to help keep customers happy. The easier it is for your employees to help your customers, the happier the customers will be if there’s ever a problem.
 

I hope you enjoyed the post,

Randy Sklar
 

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