Sue Me. I’m Sorry.

Four consecutive calls to customer service and four conversations with four different representatives, but not one “I’m sorry.” It was the fourth absence that finally sent me over the edge.

A company to which I am quite devoted and which provides excellent telephone customer support seemed to be missing the most fundamental customer service trick in the book: apologizing for the customer’s inconvenience. And given the fact that it had taken four calls and more than an hour on the phone to ultimately get my situation resolved, I was feeling pretty inconvenienced.

So with the fourth rep I politely and calmly highlighted my long-time devotion to the company (which I could hear him verifying by clicking away on his keyboard and pulling up my purchase history), as well as the lengthy inquiries it had taken to resolve the current issue. I then commented I found it interesting that not one customer service representative had apologized on behalf of the company to one of their more loyal customers.

“Oh they tell us to avoid doing that if we can. It was used against us in a lawsuit,” the eager-to-set-things-right rep shared with me.

Ah, the joys of our overly litigious society, equating “I’m sorry” with “I’m responsible, liable, and have deep pockets for you to sue.” Egads! Is this really what our capitalist legacy will be to the rest of the world?

It is a good thing Dear Abby is no longer with us to witness the time when basic civility and politeness makes one culpable to civil liability. What’s next? Will wishing your neighbor “Have a nice day!” be seen as part of an oral contract which can be invoked if her day does not turn out to be all that nice?

If this sorry state of potential litigation over saying I’m sorry is indeed where we are at, we need some leadership at the top to come up with acceptable language for customer service folks to use that won’t send the legal beagles into hysterics. For someone on the front line of complaints to be unable to use the phrase that usually takes some of the heat out of the moment almost instantaneously is not a good thing.

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