Customer Experience News & Trends

22 things you should never say to customers

12. I am (or she/he is) such an idiot

Even when you or your colleagues make mistakes, you don’t want to undermine your true abilities or those of a co-worker. One error does not make anyone the village idiot — or stupid or incompetent or silly. It makes someone human, and customers can forgive that. Instead, say, “I (or we) made a mistake, and this is how we’re going to fix it.”

13. It’s not my/our fault

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Responsible, successful companies and individual employees dealing with customers never point fingers or look for scapegoats. They own up to their faults and pursue immediate fixes and long-term solutions to retain the respect of their customers. Instead, say, “Let’s see what can be done about this right now.”

14. … or else

This is often preceded by alternatives such as “You must do this …” “You should do that …” It’s essentially a threat. Bullies say these kinds of things, not empathetic customer care professionals. Instead, say, “What you might want to do is …” or “Can you please ….”

15. The policy stinks

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Sure, we all have to live by and enforce some policies that we don’t like, don’t understand or think are unfair to customers. But you’re the face of the company, and if you are detached from its practices and beliefs, customers will think there’s something wrong with them. Instead, say, “To ensure the best for our customers, we’ll need to …” or “It’s our common practice to …”

16. No offense, but …

Guess what? If you ever have to start a sentence with this phrase, it’s probably best to stop the sentence right there. Saying “no offense” only prepares the other person to be offended. Be certain, what is said next will offend your customer. Instead, say nothing.

17. I’ll friend you

If you want to connect with customers online, Facebook is not the place to do it. Connect on LinkedIn or industry blogs. Maintain a clear line between your professional and personal life — and know that Facebook is almost always not a bridge between the two. Instead, say, “Will you join my professional network on LinkedIn?”

18. LOL (or OMG)

You’re not a teenage girl giggling about the latest Justin Bieber YouTube video. If you use this kind of texting language with customers, you’ll appear to be unprofessional. Instead, say (or write), “That’s funny” or “Wow, I didn’t expect that.”

19. I just got dumped

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Matters of the heart are best discussed with family and friends, not customers or colleagues. If you have an occasional a bad day because of a personal situation, it might be a good idea to request to do behind-the-scenes work.

20. I haven’t had a raise in five years

Being upset and admitting it will hurt your credibility with customers and the boss. Complaining about no low pay is tacky. Instead, say nothing.

21. Oh sh!*

Cursing reflects poorly on an employee’s personality and professionalism. It suggests you need to rely on curse words to get your point across. Not to mention, it can offend customers who don’t ever use that kind of language. Instead, say, “Oh, gosh” “My goodness” or “Ah, shucks.”

22. How many blondes does it take to screw in a light bulb?

Appropriate jokes and humor are OK to use when talking to customers, and in the right context. Any kind of joke or humor that pokes fun at any one group of people will surely be offensive to that group and probably a much larger population. Instead, say, “What did one eye say to other? Don’t look now, but I think something between us smells.” Or you might want to try some other clean humor.

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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