What We Have Is a Failure to Communicate

Once, when our daughter was babysitting two neighborhood children,  the rambunctious two-year-old boy head-butted Daughter with enough force to break her nose.  It was an accident, pure and simple.  Nevertheless, it irked me when the mother came over the next day with a balloon for Daughter and told her, rather stiffly, “We’re sorry you broke your nose.”

As she and her husband were both attorneys, the real message was probably, “Don’t think we’re paying for this.”

Are sincere apologies are a dying art?  No more  “I’m sorry I stole your money,” but rather, “I’m sorry if anyone was hurt by my stealing pension funds and spending them on call girls.

And OMG, the worst of all: “Mistakes were made”… as if  mistakes form in corners like dust bunnies.

Even Leroy Jethro Gibbs on NCIS exhorts his team to “Never apologize.  It’s a sign of weakness.” Oh, Jethro, that is such horse hockey!

As I’ve ranted on other occasions, waaaay up on my List of Loathesomes are automated answering systems and outsourced technical support staffs.  Mistakes were, indeed, made.  Don’t the terms “Customer Service” and “Technical Support” imply some kind of… oh, I don’t know… A S S I S T A N C E????

Apologies for ranting, but I cannot for the life of me figure out why a company would think five automated options cover everything with which its customers may need assistance and let’s face it, that’s why we’re calling, Buster.  The system asks for information which I’ll have to repeat if I’m successful in my keyboard Whack-a-mole attempts.  I’m usually already aggravated by the time I reach said human and then, as is often the case, when that person can’t understand my Southern drawl, the situation goes downhill from there.

That is, in a nutshell, how we came to switch from our cable internet provider, which generally gave us good service, to our current DSL provider, which does not.  We had called our cable company to upgrade our equipment, but their Technical Support person insisted it couldn’t be done. Boo, hiss!  We knew it could–they weren’t understanding the question.  While I admit that my use of technical terms like “thingie” or “doohickey” may have caused confusion, eventually we gave up and switched to their competitor who understood our request. However, even though we supposedly have the upgraded modem,  our new service went from okay to yucky.

This is one of  the several different messages I receive dozens of times a day.  Everything takes longer when the link “is currently not available.” Why?  There is an implication that “it’s not our fault.”We don’t have to say we’re sorry…

Now to be fair, I should say that we have the same DSL carrier at the beach and the connection there is fine, so why do they think it is my computer’s fault that I don’t get similar service here?

I did get one error message while we were at the beach.  It came from WordPress, which publishes my blog.  They were experiencing a service problem.   While it may not be an apology, their error message made me smile.  No apologies needed for this one.

15 thoughts on “What We Have Is a Failure to Communicate

  1. I think people and companies have become masters at absolving themselves of any responsibility for any occurance. My son, a passenger, was in a near-fatal auto accident when he was 21. The parents of the driver, of course, expressed concern for him. But there was never a mention made of financial responsibility (driving under the influence). After our insurance company paid up and we still had thousands of dollars out-of-pocket, I became a bit irritated. We never said anything because the boys were were (and still are) close friends.

  2. “I am so sorry that happened -how can we fix it for you?” I know three companies that can say sorry like they mean it–Groupon, Lands End, and LL Bean. One problem may be not empowering employees to “feel” and only allowing them to read from a script. I realized how often I was not heard after Joe departed….I was stuck in an endless loop of voice mail and explaining with his credit union and on most occasions they would end our lengthy conversation with, “Well can you have him call us back as soon as possible.”
    Listening, saying sorry, making an effort to fix the problem-extra points if you succeed–keeps me coming back.
    Rant on.

  3. Birdie

    Excellent post Merrily! Since I remember the nose bashing, I believe you read that situation correctly. But I think you should “Dooce -tweet” your ISP (uhm that would be the company you pay to provide you the crappy service.)–surely there is a feedback option on their website. Or perhaps you could tweet a link to them and they have a FB page . . .? Your loyal readers are willing to retweet and repost!!

  4. Love the error message from WordPress; at least someone out there has a sense of humor.

    I purposely don’t post much about so called customer service because I’d be ranting almost constantly. For example, last week I had to call my cell phone provider because they had send me a message they were going to cut off my phone if I didn’t pay my bill… I was furious because I had signed up to have my bill AUTOMATICALLY deducted from my credit card. It took more minutes than I wanted to give to explain this to the “customer service” person I got after several punches of the keys on my house phone what my problem was. I was loosing patience by the second because HE was talking about something totally different than what my complain was…! I finally got his supervisor to just cancel the automatic deduction thing cuz it doesn’t work and stayed on the line until they sent me an email verification. At least my online bank will send me a reminder to pay the darn cell phone bill!

    Now, you see why I don’t post about these things?

  5. I swear to God, this is why I love Nordstrom. Their customer service is incredible. They actually give you ZERO guff if you return anything, for any reason, receipt or not.

    But don’t even get me started on GE. Those guys are bastards.

  6. Jincey

    Our favorite fast food restaurant is Chick-Fil-A, and it’s because their food is tasty and their service is EXCELLENT. We should all submit rants and raves and send them to the companies.

    I was angry at Northland Cable for CUTTING one of our rhododendrons OFF AT THE BASE and then STICKING IT BACK INTO THE GROUND AS IF NOTHING HAD HAPPENED, and I complained to the local office. Nada. Zip. Nil. Nuttin’, Honey. So, I sent a certified letter, return receipt requested to the president and to the CEO of the company. Within a few days I received a phone call from a supervisor. They would be happy to reimburse us the cost of the rhododendron . . . but who would plant it? WE would plant it. And who would pray that it lived? Obviously, no one because it died. Grrrrrrr.

    Thank you for providing me a place to vent!

  7. Having been married to a lawyer, I think you hit the nail on the head with your assessment of the parents of the head-butting kid.

    However, there still are some people out there who accept responsibility. When I was bitten by our neighbor’s Dachshund after it wiggled out from under the gate while I was talking to the neighbor, I received a phone call from the neighbor about ten minutes after I got home. She wanted to tell me that if I needed to see a doctor they would pay for any expenses. She’d also called her vet to check to make sure that the dog’s immunizations were up to date. The next day she called again and at least one or two more times after that to see how I was doing.

    The best company for customer service? Amazon.com—hands down.

  8. I would so love to have gotten that delightful message. They really need to get rid of Matt though.
    I have pitiful ISP also and they recently promised an upgrade. The town just outgrew their equipment. Good luck to us both.

  9. That error message from WordPress is enough to make me want to switch from Blogger, if only I could figure out how to export/import my baby without losing her altogether. I’m not sure my blood pressure could handle it.

    A few years ago, I was handling my father’s affairs while he was in assisted living. I broke down and bought myself a Janet Jackson headset, so I could fold laundry and clean toilets and apply eye make-up and do other important activities while I listened to whatever stupid music the insurance companies played while they made me wait for a live operator. I hate sitting still.

  10. Lawyers always tell you to admit nothing and say nothing. Society is so litigious….it’s really sad. I’m amazed you even got an I’m sorry out of them. (Sorry to be so depressing)

    Anyway…agree about everything you said as well….I’m sick of tech support. Every time I’ve had a computer crisis, they want to wipe everything and start again. And I hate those error messages….as though I had done something wrong. Geez.

    As far as store assistance, there are some good ones out there…LLBean is a dream and so is Amazon. Just to name two.

  11. The Bearded Iris

    Preach it, sistah.

    I too have gotten that very same WP error message – so clever! Totally agree with the Nordstrom comment above. You could take back a pair of Uggs you actually wore to the outdoor Live Nativity at your church, encrusted donkey doody and all, and they would smile and say “Thank you for shopping at Nordstrom! We’re so sorry these didn’t work out.” Eh, hypothetically speaking, of course.

  12. Whatever happened to “the customer is ALWAYS right??” Seems to have gone the way of lawsuits… I’ve been fighting with DirecTV myself. I hate having to pull out the mean voice to get my way! It’s so NOT me!

  13. Hey. Right on. I have a DSL connection and could probably get something faster with the cable (“oh look, it’s Wednesday, time to slap another $5 on the bill”) company, but my DSL provider answers the phone on the first ringy dingy with a human, and will exorcise my computer for free if I bring it over. I’m going to set them up with their own underwear drawer so they’ll feel at home if they drop by.

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