Customer Experience News & Trends

11 phrases that have no place in customer conversations

What you say to customers leaves a lasting impression of you and your company. That’s why it’s important to choose your words carefully.

A great customer experience often hinges on the words and tone an employee uses.

“Perception is everything,” says Barbara Burke, a customer service expert, author and trainer. “A poor choice of words can give a customer the impression (you) aren’t committed to helping them, (are) untrustworthy and/or incompetent.”

Here are 11 phrases you want to avoid in conversations, email and on social media, according to Burke.

1. To be honest with you

This suggests you weren’t honest prior to making the statement, which can quickly tear away at trust.

Try this instead: “Mr. Customer, I’d like you to know …”

2. I don’t know why that happened

Telling customers you don’t know something hurts credibility. You don’t have to know all the answers — customers don’t expect you to be super-human – but you do want customers to know you’re competent and will find the answers.

Try this instead: “I’m not familiar with that, but I know where to check.”

3. You owe …

Sure, customers might have an outstanding balance, but hearing it like that feels accusatory.

Try this instead: “Our records show a balance of …”

4. It’s our policy

When customers have reasonable requests, it’s best to try to find a way to accommodate them rather than hide behind policies. Consider requests from different angles before shutting down customers based on a policy.

Try this instead: “Let’s see what we can do.”

5. You’ll have to …

Directives make customers feel pigeon-holed. No one likes to be told what to do. Even when you must direct customers, you can make it feel like a suggestion.

Try this instead: “In order for me to finalize your request, you can pay with a credit card or send us the money order this afternoon.”

6. I know who did that …

When something goes awry, customers aren’t interested in the who caused it. They just want it fixed. So finger-pointing is a waste of time and in bad taste. The better bet is to take responsibility for fixing the issue.

Try this instead: “I can take care of this now.”

7. We can’t do that until …

This statement can potentially make customers feel like they’re being cast off or their needs are being put on the back burner. Turn it into a more positive statement and they’ll feel like they’re a top priority.

Try this instead: “We can have someone there to help you Thursday afternoon or Friday morning. What works best for you?”

8. You can find that on our website

At this point, most customers know they can find a lot your website. But they’ve called you because they either couldn’t find what they wanted or wanted to talk to someone. Give them the information they want, then, when appropriate, mention the website.

Try this instead: “Here’s what you need … And if you ever wanted to access it yourself, you can find it on our website. If you’d like more details on how to get it, I can give them to you.”

9. Let me transfer you to …

Customers can handle being sent elsewhere — as long as the call isn’t dropped and the person they’ll talk to next will give them an accurate, final answer. So handle hand-offs with finesse.

Try this instead: “My colleague, Julia Smith, is an expert in this area. Do you want me to see if she’s available and we can include her in this conversation?”

10. I think that’s right

No final answer should be a guess. Give customers an accurate answer or let them know when you’ll be able to deliver one.

Try this instead: “I want to confirm some details before I give you an answer. I will send you an email within an hour. Will that work for you?”

11. Hold on …

Never expect that customers have time or patience to wait while you look up information. Get their permission to hold or offer to follow up.

Try this instead: “I’d like to look that up, and it may take a few minutes. Would you prefer to hold, or should I follow up with you later?”

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