There are dozens of things you can say to customers that come across as condescending, flippant or tacky – things that will destroy the customer experience instantly. No matter how you communicate with customers, you want to avoid these words.
Nearly 70% of customers quit doing business with an organization because they felt they were treated rudely or with indifference, according to one study. Most of the employees who treated customers that way probably never even realized it.
Right or wrong, many customer-facing employees don’t even know when they say a word or use a tone that offends customers. Even professionals who pore over the copy they present to customers overlook phrases that can potentially turn off customers.
The worst part: Most customers aren’t going to tell you that they were offended or bothered by what was said. They’ll just resent the experience and not come back.
Choose your words carefully
That’s why it’s important to choose words carefully when dealing with customers.
Keep on peppering conversations, email exchanges, text messages and promotional copy with the words they love to hear — their names, “thank you,” “please,” “our pleasure” and “problem solved.” Front-line employees want to share a smile, laugh or even a story.
But by all means, avoid these sentences, words and phrases in customer communications:
1. It’s no big deal
It may not be a big deal to you, but rest assured if customers brought something to your attention — a problem, concern or question — it’s a big deal to them. Instead, say “Tell me more.”
2. Don’t worry about it
You don’t know how any customer handles anxiety or personal and business issues. Worry may be healthy for one person. It may be a sign of weakness for another. The key is to never tell customers how to feel. Instead, say, “I will take care of it.”
3. You sound just like …
Whether you compare one customer to another customer, your mother, colleague, husband or best friend, by saying he is similar to others is a form of dismissing his concern, idea or question. Instead, say, “I can help with this.”
4. You’re the first one to complain about this
Most customers walk away without ever saying a word. That’s never more apparent than when customer loyalty is down, but complaints are stable. Many customers don’t complain, so when you hear one, imagine there are many more unspoken issues like it. A customer who gives a unique complaint is doing you a favor by pointing to a potential bigger problem. Instead, say, “That’s interesting. What more can you tell me?”
5. You don’t seem to understand
The problem could be that you aren’t being clear. But by saying this, you imply that customers are think-headed. Instead, say, “What can I clarify?”
6. I don’t think you’re listening to me
Like you, customers are distracted during conversations by a multitude of things. One of those things could be the way you’re presenting the information – perhaps at a scripted, dull pace or in a condescending tone. Instead, say, “Please tell me what’s not clear.”
7. That sounds good in theory, but …
This suggests yours is a real-world perspective and the customer’s view is totally off base. That may be how you see it, but customers will be insulted if their theory is quickly scoffed at. Instead, say, “I see your point, and please bear with me while I share mine.”
8. I know how you feel right now, but you really shouldn’t because …
Customers may tell you outright, “I’m angry,” “I’m elated” or “I’m frustrated” so the first part of this sentence is correct. You do know how they’re feeling. The problem is, it’s never a good idea to tell customers why they should or shouldn’t feel one way or another. Instead, say, “I can understand why you’d feel that way. Let’s see what we can do now.”
9. I’m not the best person to deal with this, so I’ll send you to …
Customers got in touch with you, so they expect that you are the person to handle their questions or issues. Saying something like this undermines your credibility and the trust customers may have had in you. When there is someone more qualified to help, let customers know you want the best for them and aren’t just casting them off to someone else. Instead, say, “I can help, but Hector is the absolute best in that area. I’d like to bring him in on this. Is that OK with you?”
10. That’s another department
Customers don’t know the ins and outs of your organization. They just want a quick answer or solution without having to hear your company protocol. So when they hear, “I don’t do that” or “It’s not really my job,” they often assume that people pass the enveloped rather that actually do their jobs. Instead, say “I know who can help with this.”
11. Don’t tell anyone I said this
When sales or service pros work at one place long enough, they will get chummy with customers. But that never gives them license to talk negatively or gossip with customers about their workplace or other people in it. If you don’t think what you want to say should be heard by others, keep your mouth shut. Secrets never stay quiet. Instead, say nothing.
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