Customer Experience News & Trends

9 things you should never say to angry customers

The right words can sooth an angry customer and settle a tense situation. The wrong words (these words) will fuel the fire and damage customer relationships. 

So choose your words carefully.

It really does matter. Nearly 70% of customers have quit doing business with companies because they felt they were treated with indifference, one study found. Certain words and phrases come across as “indifference.”

Here are some of the worst offenders — plus alternatives for the times you need to convey the sentiment and must find better words:

1. ‘That’s not right’

You likely know not to say, “You’re wrong” to any customer at any time. This phrase — “That’s not right” — is its evil twin. Trying to convince customers that they’re wrong or have done something wrong will make them defensive and unhappy.

Instead, focus on facts that you can agree on, and when you must talk about something that’s wrong, say, “There must have been a miscommunication,” and talk about the known facts.

2. ‘Calm down’

Nothing gets a person more riled up than being told to calm down. First of all, frustrated customers probably don’t see themselves as acting over-the-top. Secondly, “Calm down” sounds condescending.

Instead, let customers vent their frustrations (as long as they don’t become abusive to you) and respond with empathy: “I can understand why you’d be frustrated.”

3. ‘Let me speak’

You don’t want to interrupt customers who need to vent, and you definitely don’t want to do it by saying, “Let me speak.” Instead, your silence signals you’re listening, which can help simmer the situation sooner.

Even if you do have to interrupt (because they’re rehashing or are getting way off base), you want to ask for permission. Say, “Can I say something now?”

4. ‘It’s not my fault’

Very few situations that upset customers are caused by the person whom they’re talking to — and they likely know that. But they’ll only get more frustrated if the person they’re talking to points a finger.

Instead, you want to take responsibility for the resolution without blaming anyone or anything for the problem. Say, “I’m sorry this has happened. Here’s what I can do now to make things right.”

5. ‘There’s nothing I can do’

The way customers see it, when there’s an issue, it’s your job, and you and your company’s responsibility to do something — anything — to make them feel better. So there’s always something you can do.

Sure, there are times when you can’t do or provide exactly what they want, but you can find an alternative.

Instead, focus on what you can do. Say, “It wouldn’t be possible for me to … because …. But here’s what I can do for you immediately.”

6. ‘Why didn’t you …?’

No one likes being second-guessed, and saying, “Why didn’t you …” sounds like an accusation. Customers don’t want to hear they’ve failed to do X or would’ve been better off doing Y.

Instead, gather facts on what’s happened and avoid asking questions on why things didn’t happen. Focus on questions that start with, “What …?” “Where …?” “When …?” “Who …?” and “How …?”

7. ‘You should have …’

What’s done is done. Similar to questioning what wasn’t done, telling customers what they should have done sounds accusatory. Even if there is a critical step they missed, don’t harp on it.

Instead, say something like, “It looks like the issue was caused by … In the future, you’ll want to …” without referencing an exact thing they did or didn’t do.

8. ‘Seriously?’

If there’s one thing angry customers want, it’s to be taken seriously. So you never want to question their level of frustration, perceived issue or the impact an issue has on them — even when it seems like they’re being dramatic.

Instead, confirm what they’ve said in a professional manner. Say, “I’d like to make sure I have this right. You …?” Or, “Let’s make sure we’re on the same page. You want …” or, “To clarify, you expect …”

9. ‘I’ve heard enough’

Upset customers may go on and on, and you may have to reel them in, but you don’t want to shut them off by telling them you’ve heard enough. One of the best ways to turn around an upset customer is to show interest in solving the problem. So rather than cutting them off, change the focus.

Say something like, “I think we have enough information to start working on the solution.” Or, “You’ve given me lots of details, and I have some solutions we can consider.”

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