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Five ways a business can be sabotaged

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There are many, many ways to sabotage your business, and chances are your staff likely is doing some of these things right now on the phone and/or in person.

Worse yet, you’ve probably even heard some of these yourself (ouch!). That’s the bad news.

The good news: I’ve got the top five practices that can sabotage a business, and I’ll show you how to neutralize their effects. You and your staff are about to be in a much better position to handle these bad practices and wipe them out:

1. “I have no idea.”

This is normally used as an excuse more than anything else. It’s a sure sign that an employee has not been shown how to explain something to a customer. This phrase is usually used when the employee doesn’t know what to say.

When customers hear, “I have no idea,” they immediately respond (usually silently) with, “You gotta be kidding me.”

Interestingly enough, normally there is a certain blank stare accompanying this statement. It’s sad.

2. “It’s not my department.”

Well, then whose is it?

Let’s remember one of our “Telephone Doctor” mottos: Tell the customer what you do, not what you DON’T do. If you get a call and someone asks for something that you don’t handle, it’s far more effective to say, “I work in the (such-and-such) department. Let me get you to someone in the area you need.”

This is far more effective than telling someone it’s not your department. And please don’t say, “YOU have the wrong department.”

Take full responsibility with the “I” statement—”I’ll get you where you need to go.”

3. “I wasn’t here that day (or I was on vacation when that happened).”

This one really makes me laugh.

Does that excuse the company? I don’t remember asking someone if he or she was there that day. Do you really think the customer cares if you weren’t there when his or her problem happened? It doesn’t absolve anyone from handling the matter.

Honestly, customers don’t care where you were, so that’s not even an issue to discuss. Just tackle the problem head on. Apologize without telling them where you were...or weren’t.

Remember, you are the company—whether you were at work or on vacation when the issue occurred.

4. “I’m new here.”


OK, you’re new. Now what? Does being “new” on the job allow you to be anything but super to the customer? When customers hear this sabotaging statement, do you really think they’ll say, “Oh, so you’re new? So that’s why I’m getting bad service? Well, then that’s OK—you’re new. Now I understand.”

Yes, even if you are new, the customer honestly believes you should know everything about your job.

Here’s my answer on this one: Tell the customer, “Please bear with me, I’ve only been here a few weeks.” That will buy you time. And hopefully a bit of sympathy as you steer them in the right direction.

For whatever reason, hearing the short length of time you are with the company means more to the customer than, “I’m new.” Again, “I’m new” is more of an excuse.

Remember to state the length of time. It’s a creditability enhancement while “I’m new” is a creditability buster.

5. There’s silence on the phone or a blank stare in person.

I called the doctor’s office the other day and asked to change my appointment. It went like this: “Hi, this is Nancy Friedman. I have a 9 a.m. appointment with Dr. Ring and I need to move it to later in the day.”

Then NOTHING on the other end of the phone for about 10 to 15 seconds. Zip. Nada. Zilch.

So I said, “Hello? Are you there?”

A very irritated voice came back with, “I’m checking.”

Wouldn’t it have been nice for the receptionist to tell me that? Ah, if the doctors only knew.

See how many of these you or your staff are guilty of—then set out to fix the problems. Good luck!

Nancy Friedman’s Op-Ed columns appear periodically in Tire Business. She is president of Telephone Doctor Inc., an international customer service training company based in St. Louis. She can be reached via email at or by phone at 314-291-1012. Her website is

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Previous | Published March 18, 2019

Where can you expect to see the most growth in 2019?

Tire sales
45% (34 votes)
General automotive service
15% (11 votes)
Brakes, shocks and other undercar services
7% (5 votes)
Add-on business
15% (11 votes)
Anywhere we can get it.
19% (14 votes)
Total votes: 75
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