“That’s Not My Problem” & Other Customer Service Missteps

Should you be having a birthday, and be anywhere in my vicinity, I will happily be in charge of getting you a cake.

(I am all about birthday cake. It is my favorite dessert.)

Recently, I called my local bakery in the last few minutes of the acceptable timeframe for alerting them about my upcoming cake-needs and the gentleman who answered the telephone was grumpy about it.

I said, “I know it’s last minute but I tried to call three times today and the line was busy.”

He replied, “That’s not my problem.”

That’s not my problem????

It is a testament to how good their cakes are that I still placed my order… but I have been flabbergasted/laughing about it ever since.

Now, you don’t have to run customer service trainings (as we do here at CMM) to know that “That’s not my problem,” is not an optimal choice.

But on the off chance anyone is unsure about it… be sure.

What other customer service responses have floored me?

Well, pre-Covid, (when you could still return things to stores… remember those days?) I was returning some throw pillows and—because I was feeling chatty—I started explaining to the sales associate how they didn’t really work in my house.

She replied, “Whatever.”

Suffice to say, internal hilarity ensued.

Again I’m sure you know this, but in case anyone is unaware it’s nice to at least feign interest in what your customer is saying.

I conclude with a response that might, initially, sound great but which I have found can go awry,

“I’m sorry that happened. How can I help?”

Now, some of you may be thinking, “What’s wrong with that? That seems like a perfectly appropriate way to respond to a customer’s complaint.”

I agree. On the surface, it does seem appropriate.

Unless, of course, you don’t sound sorry, which is going to incense your listener.

Additionally, if you are speaking with someone who has built up a head of steam around their complaint, moving right to “How can I help?” doesn’t give them the opportunity to feel their feelings—and they need to feel their feelings.

What do I recommend instead?

Speaking to what you’re hearing rather than what they are saying.

This might sound like, “I can hear how upsetting/frustrating/irritating this was for you and I’m so sorry.”

Then listen, listen, listen, listen… because sometimes you can problem solve too soon.


For more best practices for your customer service team, take a look at, “Come Wallow with Me! Let’s Wallow, Let’s Wallow Today!”