Sarah Morgan

Healthcare Geek.
Professional Communicator.


Customer Service Case Study: Never Give Up

People think Winston Churchill said “Never never never never give up”. But he didn’t. Not exactly. What he did say was this:

“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense.”

Same basic thing, though.

Anyway, people take this as a motto for many big things in life. As they should. After all, Winston was talking about big things. He was speaking to the students of his old grammar school in 1941. Big things were afoot. But I’m learning that this motto is apt all the time, even for everyday things.

If you’re like me, you wouldn’t say that you give up very often. If pressed to explain many of your daily interactions, though, you’d find an awful lot of times when you cave in worse than anything a Chilean miner ever saw.

Our culture has developed the delicate term “push back” as a politically-correct catchall to comprise the meanings of “disagree”, “ignore”, “contradict,” “fight,”  and very often: “tell you no because I can’t be bothered”. We’ve honored the ability to push back as a gift, a talent. Certainly nobody wants a yes-man. This, however, has led to plenty of people telling you, very often, because you seem to be nice and therefore maybe a pushover, that you can’t have or get or do what you want. Not because it’s impossible, but just because, frankly, it would be slightly easier for them if you didn’t.

This is, all too often, lazy customer service. I worked in retail for eight years: I know how hard it is, and I know how tempting it is not to help every person to the utmost of your ability. But I also know how to do just that. As such, I know the difference, when I’m on the receiving end.

What I’m finally realizing is that you don’t have to shout or ask for managers or make threats or any of the things that awful customers do, in order to get what they want. You just have to politely, stoically, not give in. Just like Winston.

You say you can’t make that happen? Are you absolutely sure? Let me explain, very politely, why it’s actually really important that that does happen. And then – this is the key – let me be quiet.

Treat the person like a sensible adult (which, frequently, they are), explain what you need, and then shut up and let them figure it out. It is amazing how often that works. People do, surprisingly often, like to do their jobs well.

And when it does, you’ll be amazed when you think back to all of the times that you jumped to oh-well or I’ll-just-go-elsewhere or thanks-for-looking-goodbye, or any fast response that meant more work and aggravation for you.

That Winston. He knew what he was talking about.


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