“I completely understand.”

Do this and see what happens: Call a large company where you’re a customer and ask them to fix something they did wrong.

Somewhere within the conversation, a customer service representative will start a sentence with three magical words.

“I completely understand…”

But as you and I both know, this is simply a cheap psychological trick to try to get you to forget all about being wronged and focus instead on being heard.

This tactic must work to defuse some tense run-ins with customers, or else they wouldn’t be trained to use it, but has this sentence ever ended in some kind of positive outcome for the customer?

In my experience, not very often. Instead, customers typically hear a lot of excuses about why the wrong wasn’t actually a wrong, but a new kind of right, one the company just invented to not shake down loyal customers even further.

In the end, then, it becomes all too clear that they “understand” your frustration but won’t lift a finger — virtual or otherwise — to do anything to make it right. It’s nothing but a polite version of a vulgar hand gesture.

What about you? Do you tell your customers some version of “I understand” when they come to you with problems (or even ideas to make your products or services better)?

Do you do what you can to listen and respond in an appropriate way, either on the spot or after taking the feedback back to your team? And, for bonus points, do you thank the customer for their feedback and even call them back to share what the company is doing differently as a result?

Amazing customer service isn’t complicated. Providing terrific value to customers isn’t complicated. But doing either of those things is impossible when you hear your customers but don’t really listen to what they’re saying.

No one likes to be brushed off with a request to “fill out an online survey” — they want to be treated, well, like a customer who helps pay your mortgage and put food on your table. Is that really too much to ask?

This post originally appeared on my LinkedIn blog.

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