Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 


A good fib is one that takes you in one time.

A less good fib is one that keeps being told until one day you think to yourself: "Hang on. This may well be utterly mendacious bilge."

In the annals of customer service there are so many dubious things said that it's very hard to parse the euphemisms from the actual truth.

Here are my top -- and therefore bottom -- five lines of customer service doublespeak.

1. We Are Experiencing Heightened Call Volumes.

I am grateful to the Economist's Anne McElvoy for reminding me of this one only this morning. As she so delicately puts it, the true meaning of this is: "We do not have enough staff to deal with you." I fear, though, it has come to have an even greater meaning. It's now: "Look, what the hell are you doing calling us at all? Calling is so 1993. Get off the phone, go online and IM us. When you do, you'll get this message: Our representative will be with you in 23 minutes."

2. Trust Me.

This was uttered to me only a couple of weeks ago by a blue-shirt at Best Buy. I wanted to buy a new TV. He insisted that the one I'd been advised to buy was not available. Instead, he grabbed his phone  and showed me another TV on its screen. "Trust me," he said. "This is the best deal we have right now." I asked if I could see the TV in question. He said: "We don't have it on display." "But if it's the best deal, why not display it?" I wondered. He then showed me another picture of it on his little iPhone. It was a mere $1,000. "What about this one?" I countered, pointing to one I could actually see and touch because it was on display. "Terrible TV," he said. I regret to say I didn't trust him and bought a TV elsewhere.

3. We Value Your Business.

Why does this one so often come out when a company has just shown you how little it  values your business? It has either behaved negligently or its product has unexpectedly failed and the first thing the customer service rep comes out with (on IM, of course) is to tell you how much it values your business. When it comes to valuing someone you should show it, not say it.

4. I'll Pass What You've Said Onto Our Management Team.

I don't like to complain all the time about poor service. Somehow, I rarely think anything will ever be done about it. One of the few exceptions to this is Amazon, whose customer service I've often found frighteningly intelligent, especially when things go wrong (which they do rarely). Sometimes, though, when I do explain to a customer service human that their company has behaved not too well, I get the line about passing my comments on. Do I believe my comments will be passed on? Not really. Why do I always translate this line as: "You and I both know there's nothing I can do about it. I'm just a lowly-paid customer service agent and you're just one customer who got a bum deal. I'll tell you I'll pass your views on, but we both know that even if I did, they wouldn't do anything about it anyway"?

5. I'll Transfer You To Someone Who Can Help You.

This is uttered when you have been fool enough to get on the phone, wait to speak to a human and then finally explain the situation that has befallen you. This might take a couple of minutes. You're a touch frustrated because you've been waiting 47 minutes to talk to this human. You get to the end of your torrid tale, only to hear: "Oh, I'm afraid I'm going to have to pass you to another person/department who can help you." What follows is another wait, another explanation of the facts by you and another customer service agent explaining: "Ah, no. Could you hold for a moment? I think you've come through to the wrong department." Do they do this for sport? Are the staff competing to see how many departments they can pass a customer on to before that customer gives up? They wouldn't do that, would they?