Mind your language

Are you negatively impacted by business-speak? It’s time to escalate

Advice for a reader in her quest for a refund

14 March 2015

9:00 AM

14 March 2015

9:00 AM

Maureen Finucane of Richmond, Surrey, wonders whether there is any branch of public service not infected by Orwellian Newspeak. In a letter to the editor (Spectator, 28 February), she explained that a museum owed her a refund and that after a fortnight she was told on the telephone: ‘The situation is being reviewed by several managers and once it has been approved will be actioned.’ She asks if I might take this up. I’m not sure I have the strength.

I can only suggest that in response Mrs Finucane might assert that she has been impacted negatively by this issue and demand that the situation be escalated as a priority. I have before me a customer-service advice sheet for people whose computers go wrong: ‘Contact the Support Engineer working on your support case,’ it counsels, ‘Please let them know to adjust the Severity’ of the case. That means, I think, that you should tell them just how bad things are. Then escalation will take place ‘to ensure we expedite the resolution’. But, for the most serious issues, such as halted deployment, the Regional Support manager will respond by ‘communicating the agreed action plans to the stakeholders’. Then ‘they will proactivelyengage the senior executives, as appropriate, to improve customer relationships’. Bully for them. Even if the machine still doesn’t work, at least you will feel your relationship is being proactively engaged in.

Acres of such stuff are put out by management specialists. People actually pay to be told: ‘Similar to risk bias, stakeholders are likely to have differing views on what kinds of decisions or issues need to be escalated.’ Mrs Finucane certainly wanted her refund-decision issue escalated.

I recently came across an English language forum discussing the meaning of this message: ‘Thank you for using the MasterCard Self-Serve site. There is currently an error with all of the downloading options. The issue has been escalated and is currently under investigation. We appreciate your continued patience.’ I suppose it boils down to meaning that the site doesn’t work, that the people who run it know it doesn’t work, and that customers will just have to wait. Note that the existence of patience is presumed. They’ll be lucky.

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  • WillyTheFish

    I had a dispute with my bank a few weeks ago and eventually received a three page letter full of such nonsense; taking ownership of the problem, etc. On the other hand they paid me £220 for my trouble so I don’t mind too much.

  • trace9

    Perhaps, Grant Shaps, is about to be – or Not To Be; That, is the current question..

    Grant Shaps
    Is one-of-those-chaps
    You’re never-quite-sure


    I’d never trust him beyond his first few sentences, if that. Bung. Or is he another personable, plausible, dodgy FoC(er)..

  • therealguyfaux

    “Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.” — Orwell’s modern-day rendering of Ecclesiates 9:11 (“The race is not to the swift…”)