Less Quacking, More Problem Solving

quackWe all know the feeling too well when a customer service person utters any of the following phrases:



“It’s not possible”

“Policy doesn’t allow it”

“We’ve never done it that way before”

“I can’t do that”

All of these are essentially excuses as to why we can’t or don’t want to help a customer solve a problem.

I was in my car after coaching a group of university librarians on alternatives to such phrases, when an excerpt by Ken Blanchard in the book “The Transparent Leader” struck me as profound and hilarious at the same time. Blanchard shared a story where he arrived at a hotel before his check-in and was able to leave his bags at the front desk. When he tried to cash a traveler’s check however, the hotel employee said they could not cash the check because he did not yet have a room number to charge it to.

It’s likely that the customer service person used any number of the above phrases.  Blanchard likened this sort of language to that of a duck.  After each excuse he inserted quacking.  “I’m sorry I can’t do that….quack, quack, quack…it’s against policy…quack, quack, quack…and cannot be done…quack, quack, quack.”  You get the point.

Now I’m not suggesting that you begin quacking the next time a customer service agent put up the wall and says “No,” but I guarantee you’ll never look at this the same way. For those of you in customer service, practice solving more problems and leave the quacking to the ducks.


Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Experience at FCR, the premiere provider of outsourced call center and business process solutions. He has more than 17 years of experience as a customer service and experience professional. He is co-founder of the Customer Service Life blog and a regular contributor. Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.


  • I strongly dislike quack quack quack and even though I know companies have policies and procedures in place, quack quack quack takes me to a whole new level of frustrated. Instead, words like, “I will make this happen, let me start working on it now” are much more soothing to my ears. Great post and great stories. Congrats on your speaking engagement. xo

    • Doug, thanks for the comment. I haven’t a feeling you don’t do much quacking in your business…but I bet your competition does. Am I right?

  • Hello, Jeremy, and thank you as always for the insightful post.

    I completely agree with you that no one should tell a customer “No” or “I can’t” right off the bat, but I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on what to say to them when you’ve absolutely exhausted all of your options, or if they’re asking for a something that your company doesn’t provide? Would you still consider “Unfortunately” a no-go? Do you have any other recommendations?

    • Hey Alicia, thanks for the comment! I think you can always avoid unfortunately. There’s a great story in the book, “Raving Fans” where a business owner doesn’t have an item a customer needs. Instead of sending the customer to another store, he goes and buys the item and then sells it to the customer at the price they were expecting. This is an extreme example but shows how the business owner found a way to do business with the customer.

      I do think that if you have exhausted all of your options, I would always get a second opinion from someone in your organization and if the answer is still no, do a bit of research to send them to another company that can help meet their needs.

      • Thank you for taking the time to reply to my comment, Jeremy. I’ll try implementing your advice about REALLY doing everything I can to help out the customer (even if that means sending them elsewhere) in the future!

        • That’s awesome, Alicia! Let me know how it goes. As you know, it’s not perfect and depending on the customer, it can be messy. But, having this mentality definitely works more times than not.

  • Hi. I am trying to locate “The Transparent Leader” book for someone. Can you please tell me the author? I apologize if I missed the author’s name in the above article.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *