“Thank you for your patience.” When I see it in a letter or hear it from a customer service representative, I often think, “Hmmm…but maybe I’m not being patient.”
As a homeowner and business owner in Houston, Texas, I’ve seen and heard this more than usual in the past months. That’s because we are living in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, when recovery and other services are in high demand and not always readily available. As a result, so many affected by Harvey’s flooding are routinely thanked for their patience – or understanding, or cooperation.
Out of curiosity, I conducted some informal research. I asked a few friends how they feel about being thanked in advance for their patience. I also searched online. Both friends and the online community reveal the same thing: phrases like this can be perceived as presumptuous, even insulting.
In an effort to be polite, the person communicating these platitudes may actually offend the customers they are trying to communicate with. They are thanking the customer for something over which he or she has no choice.
This is a seemingly minor communication faux pas, but it’s now endemic in our culture. The internet server is down, the flight is delayed, an urgent service call is put on hold for an inordinate amount of time – these are all cases where you can gain or lose a customer simply by how you communicate. Thanking someone for their patience when they cannot communicate with clients, reach their destination in time for a meeting, or have sewage leaking into their home can seem insensitive.
Is there a better way to handle these situations? Here are some suggestions:
- Indicate that you know how inconvenient the situation is and that you will keep them updated. (Then follow through.)
- Apologize for the inconvenience and assure the customer that you are working to resolve the problem as quickly as possible.
- Give the customer a time estimate when the problem will be resolved – or if they are on hold, what the “wait time” is.
Many companies are already doing this, and customers do appreciate it. Most people understand that “stuff happens,” but when it affects important aspects of their lives, they just want as much information as possible about what’s going on and when things will be resolved. That’s how a company shows respect for its customers.
Posted by Lisa Dimond Vasquez