By Nancy Friedman, Customer Service Expert; President, Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training

For a few seasons I was hooked on American Idol. Not sure if that was good or bad. But I do know it was a whole lot of fun on a Tuesday night for a while. The three judges, Randy, Paula and Simon, were quite a team. They reminded me of the 3 Little Bears.

If you’re not familiar with the program (and there are some who aren’t, including my husband!), please keep reading. I’m thinking what we’re talking about here will make sense to you.

On the show, when one of the judges rips into the contestant with negative remarks on how poorly they’ve done and tells them they can’t even imagine how they got this far in the contest and beats them up pretty bad, the contestant usually just said, “OK.” And often times ‘thanked’ the judges.

OK? It’s OK I stink? They are approving a negative. What’s wrong with that picture? You and I know they are crying on the inside – mortified and hurt.

If your boss told you that you weren’t going to be paid this week, would you say, “OK?” I doubt it! What do you think you’d say? You’d most probably ask, “WHY?” or “What happened?” And, you’d be justified in asking.

I’m amazed at the number of people who approve a negative. They say “OK” so quickly without any thought.

In customer service when a customer is complaining or wants to cancel an order, watch how many times the person helping you says, “OK.” It is simply NOT “OK.” We need to find out the ‘why’ part. And, like the contestants on American Idol, we have a right to know.

Think of any question or statement someone might ask or say to you. Something like, “Your outfit is ugly.” Are you going to come back with “OK?” I doubt it. You’d probably defend your purchase somehow, some way. And even if you didn’t defend the purchase, you might say something to salvage the conversation other than “OK.” “OK” is probably not even on your radar screen under those circumstances.

Now, take this entire process into your work area. When customers complain, they don’t need or want to hear “OK.”

They need and want to hear, “Oh my, I’m so sorry that happened?” or words to that effect that are appropriate at the time.

Many years ago, I was a member of an association; had been for over 10 years. I decided to cancel my membership. And when I called into the organization to cancel and explained I’d not be renewing my membership, I received a perfunctory, “OK, thanks.” That was it. No one called to find out why. No one wrote to find out why. My PERCEPTION was no one cared.

Recently at a bank, I called to let them know the last statement I received was not correct. Without missing a beat, the employee says to me, “OK.” I told her it wasn’t OK that my statement was wrong. Why approve a negative?

Sometimes “OK” just rolls out of our mouth way too fast. And we think it might be the appropriate thing to say. Trust me, it’s not. “OK” is a great answer when someone wants to take you to lunch. “OK” is a wonderful statement when the news is positive.

It’s not a great word when the statement or conversation is negative. Or when the customer has an issue that concerns them.

It’s also a pretty weak word. The other day someone asked me where I was from. I said, “St Louis” and they said, “OK.” As though they were approving where I lived.

Sort of a semi-useless word, don’t you think?

Nancy Friedman

Nancy Friedman

Communication and customer service expert Nancy Friedman, The Telephone Doctor, founder and chairman of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training, is back in the saddle again. Well, back into live onsite programs, and still offering her ZOOM programs, in a cost saving manner. Whichever you choose, onsite or Zoom, you’ll be glad you did. The reviews are excellent, and audiences have loudly applauded her in either area. Sales, customer service and communication skills are her area of expertise, and she welcomes calls, texts, or emails. You can reach her directly at; through the website at, where you can sign up for her newsletters; or call/text directly at 314-276-1012 central time. Bring it on. Whether you need a keynote speaker or workshop/breakout speaker on customer service and communication skills, you’ll make a great choice.