What not to say to a Customer

By October 6, 2014 March 19th, 2019 Evolve Insights

“What is your problem?” “Hang on a sec.” If you had read our company policy….” “Calm down!” “You will have to wait.” “No one else has complained.” “It is not my job.” These and many more are phrases that when used can be disastrous to customers’ interactions. They not only damage our credibility and that of the companies we represent but they leave our customers with a bitter aftertaste of the service experience.

In the past month, I have taken time to evaluate many common phrases with participants at customer service training programs. The main aim has been to build positive customer communication skills. What has been most interesting is that many of the frontline staff and managers alike admit to using these phrases either unknowingly or deliberately. The use of these phrases they confirm ends up turning simple customer conversations into somewhat ugly interactions. I am certain that you may have heard these phrases in your daily interactions with service providers. The phrases negative connotation is obvious. Their implied meaning though arguable in certain cases is an avoidable source of customer disgruntlement.

Most of these negative phrases are very impersonal and they create uneasiness during conversations with customers. A phrase such as “I don’t know” when used to respond to a customer query indicates non-committal. A frontline staff that gives this response is usually not ready to help, won’t take action and does not want to be held responsible. Other phrases are too authoritative; recently an airline staff responded with “it is against our company policy for customers to check-in valuables” what this signified was either their way or the highway. They were not interested because the customer was on the wrong and they have probably dealt with it before. When a customer complains that her food is not fresh and the response received is that no one else has complained, the customer will not take it kindly. The implied meaning is that the customer is either lying or a likes complaining for no good reason. Isn’t there always the first person to complain? Avoiding the use of such phrases helps build strong customer relationships. When communicating with customers both internal and external and even with family and friends we need to make us positive communication.

Smart Companies are those that take time to enlighten their staff not only on what to say to their customers but what not to say. They acknowledge that company-wide positive communication is critical in fostering a customer friendly environment. Most of these phrases can be easily made positive. Instead of refusing to extend a helping hand by saying “She is in a meeting.” one could instead say “She’s in a meeting now and she will be back in the office by 3pm. I will ensure she receives your message.” Instead of saying “It’s not my job” consider “I am certain that I will be of assistance, please let me get further details…..” If one consciously focuses on choosing what to say wisely then we will see the difference it makes to interpersonal relationships and to customer loyalty. The customers will not only want to come back for more but they will be ready to refer others to you in addition to making the workplace more positive.