Customer Experience News & Trends

The 11 worst things to say to customers

Your relationship with customers is fragile. Say the wrong words (these words), and the relationship will crumble.

If customers don’t like what they’ve heard or how they were treated during a conversation, almost 60% will try another brand looking for a better experience, an American Express survey found.

Some words are more offensive than others. Even when front-line employees don’t intend to be rude or uncaring, some phrases cause them to come across that way. And no matter the words used, a tone of indifference can hurt any customer experience.

Here are 11 of the worst things you can say to customers — plus, better ways to express your thoughts:

1. ‘Didn’t you read the … ?’

This implies a lot — and none of it good. Customers hear any one of these: “You did something wrong.” “You didn’t understand something that’s simple.” “You were lazy.”

Instead, skip the assumption. Say, “Let me walk you through this.”

2. ‘Sorry’

An apology is an important element in customer relationships. Recognizing and owning up to mistakes, oversights or slights speeds up the recovery process after a problem. But the word “Sorry” alone is insincere.

When apologies are necessary, say, “I’m sorry …” and identify the reason why you are sorry.

3. ‘We’ll be able to do that soon’

When customers have an issue, they don’t care about what you can do in the future. Sure, it’ll be great down the road when you have the new software, tools or manpower to fix things, but they want you to do whatever you can now.

So don’t tease them. Just say, “This is what we can do about that now ….”

4. ‘Let me see when we can get to you’

This tells customers that you’re more concerned about what’s convenient to you than what’s convenient to them. Even if you have limited availability, you can still make customers feel like they’re in control of the situation.

Try saying, “We’re available to do that next Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. Tell me what’s best for you, and we’ll set it up.”

5. ‘As I told you before …’

This implies that you either think customers aren’t listening or didn’t get what you have told them. Either way, it won’t be a welcomed comment.

The easy fix: Just go over the information again without making that point. If you feel you’re going over something unnecessarily, say, “If I’m repeating myself, tell me to stop.” That way, customers can decide if they need to hear information again.

6. ‘It’s pretty bad …’

Customers don’t want to hear bad news about the industry, economy, road conditions, your job or colleagues.

You don’t have to paint a rosy picture when there isn’t one, either. Customers know what’s bad, but they don’t need a reminder.

Keep conversations positive and professional.

7. ‘Hmm, that’s different’

Most customers don’t want to hear that their request, order, method of operation, preference — you name it — is out of the ordinary. Why? If you tell them it’s different, they’ll hear, “It’s difficult” and figure it will be too complicated to fix, answer or handle.

Instead, when you do hear something out of the ordinary, say, “Let’s see what we can do.”

8. ‘You can see the answer at …’

When you direct customers to a website, manual or online video, they take it as a shove-off. Fortunately, you can still direct them to another tool for thorough answers, but you want to make it an option, not a directive.

Say, “I can explain it, if you’d like. We also have that information available at …. How would you prefer to hear about it?”

9. ‘That’s the policy’

This phrase has a long history of hate. Customers have never wanted to deal with inflexible companies and people on the front line.

It’s understandable that you have policies, and they’re in place to keep customers and employees safe. But they don’t have to be an excuse for what anyone can’t do. Instead, focus on what you can do, only hinting to some restrictions.

Say, “I believe we can find a way to accommodate what you need. Let’s look into the possibilities.”

10. ‘It should’ve been there yesterday’

“Should,” “could” and “would” are soft words. When you can, give customers concrete information and move forward.

Some examples:

  • “According to my records …”
  • “I see in your account history …”
  • “The tracking shows …”

11. ‘…’

Silence is very seldom golden when interacting with customers. Whether they’re on the phone with you, have emailed or contacted you through social media, they want to hear what’s going on.

Give updates as you key in or pull up information during phone conversations or in person. Acknowledge electronic messages and give updates via the same channel as you get what they need.

Keep going: Now that you know what to avoid, check out the 11 best things to say to customers — so you can use those phrases more often.

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