Call Center

Being a Substitute is No Excuse

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

We had some frustration taking delivery of a package today.  It’s not the first time and, I’m quite sure, it won’t be the last.  Sometimes our packages are delivered to the wrong address; other times — like today — the drivers don’t really attempt to make the delivery, they just leave a notice. 

Twice, they’ve skipped the first delivery attempt and moved right to the final notice.  The same type of thing has happened with our mail, although not nearly so frequently.  Our mail carriers, do however, seem to have a predilection for bending photos in packages marked “do not bend.”

From time to time, when frustration levels are high, we go to the trouble to complain.  Invariably, the response is the same: “Oh, there was a sub on your route that day” as if that is an acceptable reason for delivery errors, mistakes, and general incompetence. 

A parallel explanation that I hear too often in customer service roles and among call center reps is the apologetic explanation “Oh, but they’re new.”

Sorry, those excuses don’t cut it.

Being a sub is not a justification for delivery errors and missed commitments (though it can explain being late).  Similarly, I expect customer service reps to know how to do their job.  They should be fully trained before they attempt to help me and not use my time as a training opportunity. 

True, there are unique situations that can’t be anticipated and there are rare procedures that happen so infrequently that training is forgotten by the time the situation occurs, but for the most part, I expect them to do their jobs correctly.

Why to people offer inane excuses?  Why not just say, “I’m sorry and will make it right?”

We shouldn’t need to complain just to get good service, should we?

Read more in Peter’s Sticky Series books: Sticky Leadership and Management, Sticky Sales and Marketing, and Sticky Customer Service featuring his compelling story-driven insights and tips.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine, covering the call center teleservices industry. Read his latest book, Healthcare Call Center Essentials.

By Peter Lyle DeHaan

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, publishes books about business, customer service, the call center industry, and business and writing.

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