Canned responses aren’t indicative of good customer service

[ 0 ] Sunday, 3 January 2010 |

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I’ve commented before about companies hiding behind what they refer to as “customer services” when in fact the very “services” offered by such a department are, in most cases, far from beneficial to any customer.  What I’ve not discussed before are canned responses.  We’ve all been on the receiving end of a canned response, whether it’s someone in a call centre following a script / flow chart and saying pre-written phrases or responses, or in the majority of cases, contacting a company via a written form and getting something totally impersonal in response.  I did actually touch very briefly on this subject when I posted about how I felt a certain company was offering an unfair upgrade program, but I didn’t go into any real detail.  My latest interaction, this time an eBay seller, is what’s brought about the subject.

A short background into my latest encounter then: My Dad is interested in buying a pair of computer network adapters that allow you to use your electricity mains ring as a makeshift network.  They are quite expensive, especially if you want some capable of handling the volume of traffic that high definition content will utilise when streamed.  We’d looked around several reputable companies before turning to eBay to see if a bargain could be had.  A quick search returned several results.  The most professional looking and reasonably detailed auction seemed to fit the bill apart from one detail.  The product code they’d used implied a pair of adapter when within the auction listing, just one adapter was pictured.  I simple thing to verify, so I contacted the seller via eBay’s messaging system.

Hi there,

Could you please confirm, is this auction for a pair of the connectors or just a single item please?

It’s not clear since the product code implies a pair but just one is pictured on your auction.

Kind regards

I felt this contained all the necessary information without clouding my question, so was a little surprise to receive the following email today:


Many thanks for your interest

All of the available info on this item has been listed, you may find further details from the manufacturers website

Many have technical teams ready to answer most queries


This is a perfect example of a retailer not being concerned with any level of customer service.  It’s a blatant canned response.  A number of things could have occurred in the responders head:

  1. They scan read my question and felt it was technical so responded with a pre-written statement
  2. They didn’t understand my question and didn’t have the consideration to contact me to say so
  3. They don’t give a monkies about their customers and send the same message to all queries

Anyway I responded to the seller with the following comments:

Thanks for the canned response – you’ve just lost a customer.

I didn’t ask a technical question. I asked a simple question – are there 1 or 2 adapters supplied in the box?

The manufacturer code you’ve used implies two adapters but you’ve displayed just one which is why I wanted to check.

Shame really.

Now, I admit I was petty with my response.  I could have been a lot more constructive, but on this occasion I felt there was no point and they were never going to convince me to use them for a purchase regardless of what they came back with.  If they couldn’t handle a simple query effectively, I wasn’t going to gamble on buying the product (even if it was the right quantity) since I wouldn’t have confidence in their ability to handle a return should there be a fault with it.

Canned responses serve no purpose other than to irritate and frustrate the recipient.  I do not understand why companies insist of preparing and using them.  Yes, it is necessary to have a uniform response but that uniform response should be a template that whoever is making responses has the ability to and responsibility of editing appropriately so that it can answer and meet customer queries properly.

Have you been on the end of a particularly frustrating written exchange with a “customer service” department?  Have you had an infuriating conversation with someone at a call centre blatantly following a flow chart for their responses?  Tell us about it and get it off your chest!

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About the Author ()

Tech meddler, Architect, mental health advocate, founder / editor of, married and father of two.
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