Customer Experience News & Trends

4 powerful phrases for difficult conversation

You won’t always have the right words for customers. But if you have a few “power phrases” ready for potentially difficult conversations, you’ll likely hit a right chord and create a good customer experience. 

People who communicate with confidence are calm and in control,” says Liz Uram, a trainer, consultant and author of Communicate Like a Boss: Every Day Leadership Skills That Produce Real Results. “They strive to be positive and helpful in order to get a good result that benefits everyone. However, it can be hard to keep your cool if you aren’t equipped with the right tools.”

Those tools include a few powerful phrases that can reduce frustrations, calm anger and show empathy – regardless of the reason behind a difficult conversation.

Uram offers these power phrases:

‘That sounds really hard’

Some customers just need to let it all out. So they go on and on about the inconvenience or in-depth on unnecessary details. In the end, they actually don’t want your advice.

They aren’t telling you about their problem because they want a solution. They just want you to listen. They are looking for empathy, not advice,” Uram says.

When you say, “That sounds really hard,” you validate their feelings, give them room to say their piece and move on.

‘I agree’

These two words can stop aggression in its tracks and eliminate arguments.

You don’t have to agree with everything the customer is saying. Just find a nugget to agree with and you can save face.

For instance, “I agree this is frustrating” or “I agree we need to do something.”

Once you agree, the customer will likely stop the rant and you can suggest solutions.

‘I need your agreement’

Sometimes you need to tell customers things they don’t want to hear. Or you need them to do things they’re reluctant to do. So you have to create the difficult conversation.

But if it doesn’t happen, something worse could happen – such as a break in the relationship, a product failure or a dangerous miscommunication.

Avoid saying to customers, “You need to …,” “You must …” or “You have to …”

Instead, gain their acceptance to an idea they don’t love by saying, “I need your agreement to …”

‘I noticed …’

“The words you use to start off a potentially difficult conversation are the key to a positive or negative outcome,” Uram says.

Instead of using quantifiers such as, “You always …” or “You never …” address what’s negative with “I noticed …”

For instance, “I noticed you were late with your last three payments. Is there something we can work on with you to help with timely payments?”

“If you choose the wrong words and the other person immediately gets defensive you might as well end the conversation and come back to it later,” Uram says.

Subscribe Today

Get the latest customer experience news and insights delivered to your inbox.