Customer Experience News & Trends

22 things you should never say to customers

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

Not ListeningLike 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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  • Very well said. We should use appropriate term when we talk to customers through. As customer service the main goal is to assist them, help them, pacify them and encourage them. The most important always think positive to have a positive results.

  • Efraim Kristal

    We’re looking at real estate close to hyper-priced Boston and I’m amazed at the lack of courtesy among agents and their offices, large and small. But it seems businesses are just too busy to deal with customers, other than take our money–electronically, preferably, so they don’t have to interact with us. Even on one of life’s most costly purchases, a house, businesses are too busy and too rushed to answer a serious customer’s reasonable questions. And forget about asking more than a single question, or expecting your calls or emails to be returned.

    I very much like this list (above), but can anticipate the myriad reasons business owners would disagree with the points and suggestions as unreasonable, wasteful (of businesses’ infinitely valuable time), and coddling (of annoying, obtuse, over-bearing customers). I would gladly pay a premium JUST to be treated with some courtesy; to be allowed to finish a question without a curt, dismissive, inappropriate comment patched over my inquiry; to be permitted more than a single question in a 24-hour period about a product or service a business is selling; and to have my call or email or text returned. Period. Notice no timeframe on the return. That’s because so many businesses, apparently, are too busy to return contact from a customer who’s expressed interest in buying their product or service. So if businesses are too busy to treat customers with basic civility, how can they be expected to be mindful of the subtle cues their tone and choice of language convey? Not a rhetorical question.

  • Say it ain’t so

    the best points in your list are also the reason why customers feel like they can do no wrong. “customer’s always right” is not true at all. when a customer makes a mistake and tries to pass the buck to you it’s your responsibility to point that out to them so that they in turn don’t make the same mistake twice. a lot of people want stuff for free as well, it’s your duty to tell them that you can’t give your svces for free and that they’re wrong for even thinking that. there’s a special place in hell for customers, it’s lower than the lawyers even.

    • Amanda Braithwaite

      A special place in hell for customers? Like all of them? Because literally everyone, including you, is a customer at some point in time…

      • Say it ain’t so

        Well my bad, not all of them but a huge percentage. I am a customer and i’ve been let down by customer service a few times, but i never threatened them (CSR), made myself seem superior to them nor curse them out and belittle them. I’ve always gave my opinion and does it always work out? Nope , but i can say that i’ve never made someone feel like they want to quit their jobs. So yes, most customers should go to hell. Maybe hell is just too good for them.

  • D. Terr

    23. “You look like you’re in a hurry”
    Seriously, how would you know? The last thing anyone in customer service should do is judge and mock people over their appearance.

  • I feel 18 is not a hard and fast rule.

    Those TLAs are creeping into more mainstream conversations these days; I get business emails nowadays that include them and smileys.

    We all need to be aware of when it is and isn’t appropriate to use certain terminology and the impact that it has on our communication and the relationship we have with that particular person.

  • Useful Information, Thanks for sharing