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Conversations That Go Nowhere


I was recently involved in a customer service conversation that went nowhere and was a total waste of time. Something that should have been solved in 2 minutes took 20, which caused a lot of frustration and ultimatelyCONVERSATIONS THAT GO NOWHERE created a poor customer experience. To be clear, this was not our company’s customer service ?. We’ve all been caught in conversations that seem to go in circles, where the people engaged are digging their heels into their own point of view and cannot see past it to any solution. Being a simple guy, I find these conversations frustrating. I prefer straightforward discussions that end with a solution or at least a path forward, rather than going in circles. Isn’t the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over yet expecting a different result?

In this case, the call regarded a set of contacts that I ordered. The company made a mistake on my order and sent me the wrong prescription for one eye, so I called requesting the correct replacement. The representative apologized after I explained the situation, but when I asked her how to correct the issue things went downhill. She suggested that I return the wrong prescription and reorder the correct one. Seemed logical, but I explained that the website would not let me order contacts for just one eye, I could only order them in a pair. I asked if she could correct it on her side and send me the right contacts. She responded that it would be faster if I ordered a pair of the correct prescription on the site…see where I am going? I even suggested that I would return both sets and asked once more if she would correct the wrong prescription and expedite both sets, as I was now out of contacts. Again, the representative responded with “it will be faster if you just reorder the one that was wrong.” I was on a merry go round and I wanted off, fast! I also wanted those contacts badly. How can we break the cycle?

Getting off the merry go round is not that easy, especially if you want to get off with a satisfactory resolution. Often if you replay the conversation, it’s clear that there is a disconnect that can be resolved by taking a step back to assess where the discussion went awry. In this instance, the issue the rep and I faced were our respective assumptions. The representative wanted to solve the problem her way; she assumed I could return one set of contacts and could not see past that. On the other hand, I knew it could not be done that way but could not convince her of that. Instead, I assumed the rep knew how her company’s process worked. Our bad assumptions compounded the problem and the representative’s strong belief that she was right prolonged the conversation and made us go in circles.

To break the cycle, sometimes we must take a step back to move forward. This step back can be as simple as trying to see where the other person is coming from rather than just assuming you are correct, and then re-approaching your point to reach an understanding.

“People who like talking in circles should be set straight.”– Anonymous

What’s your plan for breaking the cycle? Let me know.