The most ironic and humorous customer service experiences seem to land in my lap on the days I write an article for our blog.

Today was no exception.

I was intrigued by a teambuilding program I saw in a catalog. We typically create all of our team and customer service programs in-house, but I thought this one might fit a particular need we have in the next few weeks.

The toll-free number was answered by a completely forgettable sales guy. Let’s call him Chauncey since I can’t remember his name.

I told Chauncey the specific program I was interested in. After an uncomfortable pause, he began to explain that the program I was interested in required a “certification training session.” As he explained it further, I realized he was talking about a completely different program than I had asked about. So I gave him the title again and he said, “Oh, I must not have heard you correctly the first time.”

He then proceeded to tell me about all the OTHER programs that would fit my needs. I had to re-direct him again by asking about the specific program I called about.

He AGAIN launched into his pitch about the certification program. I AGAIN asked about the specific program I was interested in. He AGAIN apologized, “Oh, I’m sorry, I must have pulled up the wrong program.”

Prior to my call, I had accessed the web page about this program to find out what I could. The website had provided some good information, but I had other questions.

Apparently, Chauncey had the same idea that I did because he proceeded to read the description of the program word for word off the website. He did make a few lame attempts to make it sound like he was improvising, but since I could read along with his “script,” I quickly realized I actually might know more about his program than he did.

I abruptly ended the call, rather disgusted by this spectacularly inept attempt at customer service, sales, or whatever you want to call it. In any case, it illustrates what happens when you’re unprepared by a lack of knowledge or when you try to bite off more than you can chew.

Any one of three simple actions could have salvaged this $600 mistake (that’s what I was about to spend before I pulled the plug):

1. He could have handed me off to somebody who really understood the program and could talk to me intelligently about it.

2. He could have admitted he didn’t know the program that well, but would be happy to look up some information and walk me through it. (In other words, do what he did, but not B.S. me about it.)

3. He could have LISTENED to me from the get-go. In our vocabulary at sparkspace, we call this Shifting…focusing our attention 100% on our customer. I’m still amazed at how many times I had to repeat myself.

Here’s the kicker. The name of the program I had called about?

Communication Derailed.

True story.


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