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The Top Reason You Shouldn’t Try to Improve Customer Service

choc covered strawberries closeupI recently had some eye-opening customer service experiences that I must share. Each revolves around a dangerous three-letter word.

I’m guessing you have been through similar situations when communicating with front counter people working in retail establishments. It seems everyone wants to ‘try’ and help.

Room service: When room service failed to pick up my breakfast order from the doorknob tag the night before, I called to place my order. Keep in mind it is 6:30 AM and I’m bleary-eyed having not had my daily cup of coffee. “I’ll try to bring the tray up as soon as I can,” mumbles the woman on the other end of the phone in a most monotonous voice. My take: Don’t try. Fully commit to fixing the problem by telling me the breakfast will be delivered in 20 minutes. Then deliver it in 15. I promise I’ll be impressed.

Cashier: “I’ll try to contact my manager to see if he can authorize a refund.”  My take: I am certain you know how to contact your manager. Don’t try. Make the call. Write the e-mail. Send the text. Impress me with your response time.

Front Desk Attendant at hotel: “I’ll call now and try to get you a taxi to the airport.” My take: Just last night, you happily offered to call a cab for me so I could easily get to the airport. Now you’re only willing to try? Look around. We’re in New York City. There are cabs all over the place. Your cavalier attempt to find a taxi borders on lame. Real New Yorkers can call or hail a cab with barely any effort. Sure, I can drop my bags and flag down a cab, but I was counting on this person to follow through on his promise. Now that would be impressive.

A bit harsh? Maybe. In my own defense, my only response in each encounter was to smile.  And bite my tongue.

For many years I have likened the word ‘try’ to being mediocre.

Professionals who go beyond ‘try’ and deliver fabulous customer service (bring the food, call the cab) are the ones who excel and make positive lasting impressions on customers and prospects.  They also get noticed by managers and executives who sign their paychecks.

These are the professionals who have purposefully removed the word ‘try’ from their vernacular.

This three-letter word is giving us permission to merely be average in a world that demands outstanding.

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  1. It sounds like you’ve had some trying experiences lately. (Sorry.) I hadn’t noticed this before, but I commend you for having your ears so attuned that you did. And I think you might be onto something.

    My guess is that by saying “try,” customer-service people are leaving themselves an out if it turns out they can’t live up to their promises. Subconsciously, because it removes some of the pressure to perform, that “try” might actually keep them from trying as hard as they otherwise would have.

    • Yes, Larry, you are correct that the word ‘try’ gives people an escape when they choose not to work hard and perform. To me, it’s the easy way out. I always appreciate your comments. Thank you!

  2. I totally agree. Trying is one thing. Doing it is another. I’d rather have people do something rather than make promises that don’t actually push through.


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