Zee2A's Marketing Edge Blog

March 5, 2008

Excuses rather than Solutions

In a recent issue of our e-zine The Marketing Edge we asked readers to share their experiences illustrating how service providers offer excuses rather than solutions. We ran the same question in the Q&A section of LinkedIn. Here are some of the best answers we received:

“Back in November I alerted my web host company about a problem with one of my accounts. I supplied the requisite paperwork to resolve the issue on my end with the promise by them that the issue would be resolved.No less than five phone calls later, a lost account, and excuses galore, I ended up recovering the account two months later, but it cost me time and money. I’m still not satisfied with the way that they handled this problem and I am closing this account after a five year business relationship. Worse, were the excuses and lack of customer support. There were times I felt insulted by their answers, never mind the canned answers I received for many of my problems.The bad thing about this company is that I am telling everyone how dissatisfied I am with their product. I am sure they’ll lose more business because of their customer nonsupport.”  – Matt Keegan

“I was unable to find my question addressed in the FAQs on the Web site. Past experience has taught me that sending a service request e-mail would only net me further frustration, so I called the service hotline instead. I was routed through a long menu of options, none of which seemed to fit my question. Then I was put on hold. No exaggeration, my phone timed it–I remained on hold for seven minutes.The rep who finally picked up told me I could not proceed any further without a credit card number. My name, PIN, account number, password, etc.–things that work from the Web site (assuming the Web site is functioning, which is another frequent problem) would not do–it had to be the credit card. I ran off and dug up my credit card…OK. I asked my question. The rep told me that wasn’t his department. He transferred me, at which point I went back on hold for another five minutes.The second rep took me through the credit card routine again, and I asked my question. The rep wanted to know why I called her because the other department should have answered. I told her the other department had transferred me, so what do I do? She put me on hold again (3 minutes) and came back with an answer this time…but unfortunately the answer was, we don’t offer that service. Before ending the call, the rep tried to pitch me an account upgrade. It’s easy, she said…I already have your credit card number and only need your authorization!Now that’s nerve. And it’s NOT “customer service.” ” – AnnaLisa Michalski

“Excuses vs Solutions. However best an excuse is, it will still remain an excuse and not satisfy the customers right to get a solution. The irony of today’s cost cutting competetion is that no one is allowed to build an infrastructure to support the customers, every penny goes into marketting and sales efforts. Upon this, there are chances of over committment to sell more. So, finally comes the role of Support staff to handle the customers problems. Really, the present situation is of firefighting and companies should understand the need to build the infrastructure to be proactive to serve the timely solutions to the customers everytime. They should understand that however best the firefighting operation is, it still leaves many damage marks which are difficult to erase/compensate for. Also, the classic case of using Service Providers, the principles should understand that they still are accountable/responsible for the after sales services to drive the repeat sales and so they should be really in the driver seat of all the activities of the service providers instead of allowing them the liberty of carrying out the service operation from A to Z. Its their brand name which sells and its their image which gets hurt when the customer does not get the desired/ committed solution.” – Bhupinder Sehgal

“Part of the answer to that question, I think, goes to the basic business model of the service provider. It is easy to illustrate in the case of a very small (micro) start-up, compared with a larger broad-market provider of the same basic service. The start-up model may rely upon word of mouth and customer referrals to grow the business, and this may work well up to a point. At some point, the company must leverage its reputation, that is, the company has to capitalize an expansion of its work force and delivery zone to keep growing, and this “lumpy” investment (bigger facilities, internal training, new layers of supervision/management, etc.) means borrowing based on past business performance, which was reputation-driven. It starts to get hard at this point. The larger competitor may operate on a different business model, one that invests much more heavily in advertising and sales. To the extent that the big company relies upon advertising and a well managed sales process, they will have less incentive to invest in customer service–because their new customers do not come from referrals, they come from advertising/sales! Now, at some point in their target market, the big company may find that negative feedback, transmitted by word of mouth, is harming new sales. But in many situations, this intuitively plausible outcome does not occur. How, after all, does an unhappy customer communicate their bad experience to prospective new customers? In some business environments (hospitals, say, where there are only a few thousand in the entire country), that’s a risk, but in others (snow removal services to residents in Chicago), it’s tough for an dissatisfied customer to “get the word out” about Ace Snow Removal on a broad scale; ASR can continue to advertise on TV and the Trib.”– Rod Bell

“My worst experience: I took an expensive gas trimmer (had it for 2 months and it busted) into a local shop for repair, the one required by the manufacturer – I had purchased this at a big box home improvement place, but was not allowed to take it back there for an exchange. (flag 1) The shop tagged it, said it would be ready in 2 weeks. I let 3 weeks go by, no phone call. I then call and they say (flag 3)”oh, it’s next in line, it’s not ready, but call in tomorrow, so you can come get it.” I call the next day and it’s still not ready. (flag 2 – me having to call, flag 3, it’s not even ready) Next week, “we don’t have the parts.” (flag 4) Okay, so you get the idea.After 2 months, I still don’t have my trimmer. I call the manufacturer and proceed to throw the shop directly under the bus. The final straw? They said “we have other stuff to work on here, your machine is not a priority.”
I ask for the manager of the shop and he is more rude than the other people that work there –this treatment is part of their company culture!
This small business amazed with their ignorance of the situation and had multiple opportunities to care for me, but chose instead to make me feel like I was a nuisance and a bother for wanting my machine repaired.That said, I don’t believe the clock starts ticking at the time of a complaint: it starts ticking the minute you begin a relationship with them. Like any relationship, they have an opportunity to knock your socks off with attentiveness and care or they have the opportunity to completely blow it and treat you like you’re not special at all. Making excuses does nothing but this – they don’t care. “ – Deb Kolaras



  1. Thanks for the mention, Vanessa. Lousy customer service is pet peeve of mine, particularly when excuses are given not solutions. Even today I had a minor dealing with this soon-to-be-former web host and it wasn’t a pleasant experience.

    Comment by Matt Keegan — March 5, 2008 @ 10:34 pm | Reply

  2. Wow, what a collection of customer service nightmares. There are shocking–but valuable–lessons here.

    I appreciate the credit, Vanessa! I’m grateful at least my rotten experience led to discovering you and your blog!

    Comment by AnnaLisa Michalski — March 6, 2008 @ 2:40 am | Reply

  3. Thanks for the blog, Vanessa and citing my gripe. Isn’t it a shame that I have more of those types of stories to share than the ones that where a business went above and beyond to keep me as a customer?!

    Cheers and best wishes,

    Deb Kolaras

    Comment by Deb Kolaras — March 21, 2008 @ 3:49 pm | Reply

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