Customer Service: We Can’t Do That!

We can't do thatI am not a difficult customer. Having spent many years on the other side of that counter, I understand what it is like to work with the public for hours at a time, answering questions, providing information, solving problems. But it is also because of that experience that I have a heightened awareness of how situations are handled, and there are certain phrases that I just do not accept; “We can’t do that” is one.

I don’t know about you, but my first reaction to hearing “We / I can’t do that” is “sure you can”. Please note that I’m not asking “why can’t you?” because, well, there is always something that can be done. More importantly, that phrase is usually uttered without thought, without consideration of the customer’s request, and without caring. It’s poor training and bad customer service.

Last week, my family was on vacation in central Oregon. The area has a water complex with a large wading pool for the little ones, which feeds into a deeper pool for the middle ones. There is a water slide and a tube slide, which feeds into a lazy river. Now imagine everything full (over-run) with kids. There is one 30 minute time period just after lunch when kids are not allowed into the lazy river so adults may have a few minutes to themselves, but otherwise, it is a kids’ paradise. There is a large jacuzzi for those 18 and over only, but who feels like spending time in hot water when the outside temperature is 85 degrees and up?

On our last day of vacation, I asked the life guard at the lazy river if there was a possibility of having a 30 minute adult-only session. It was 4:30 on a very hot afternoon and there were a number of us (other adults) gathered on lounge chairs in a back area, grumbling about our inability to cool off without being run over by a kid (or kicked, or told to move out of the way … but their rudeness is another issue altogether!) The immediate response? “We can’t do that.”

I moved on to what appeared to be life guard “headquarters”, and repeated my request. Again, “we can’t do that!”, so I asked why … “because if we do it today, we’d have to do it tomorrow.” Um, does that not tell you there is a need?

On our way out, I asked for the facility manager’s business card. During my conversation with the woman at the front desk, I again repeated my question, and once again, was immediately told “we can’t do that.” Really?

At this point, what annoys me more than anything is the response I received. How about telling me you understand my frustration (my 14 year old son was frustrated, so it’s not that I’m a grumpy old lady!) Consider telling me you can see that there is a problem and you will let management know what I – and others – have said. Why not apologize that it has been a less than ideal situation for many of us? Yes, it is a fantastic place to keep the kids entertained for the day, but remember, it is the adults who are paying for it.

There is always something that can be done. Sometimes, it’s just about the words you choose.


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