They say sticks and stones will break our bones but words will never hurt us, but that isn’t true. It’s a fact that words have power. In customer service, the types of words and phrases that we use can either make or break a customer’s perception of the service that they received. It’s important that we use positive language when interacting with clients.
The following comments show empathy and let callers know that you are attentive and can relate to what they’re saying:
- “I’ve been there.”
- “I can appreciate where you’re coming from.”
- “I appreciate how patient you’ve been through all this.”
- “I agree with you completely.”
- “I don’t blame you for being frustrated (upset, confused, angry).”
- “I understand your position.”
- “Of course.”
- “The information that you’ve given us has been very helpful.”
- “That’s definitely a confusing situation. I can see how you came to that conclusion.
Although negative words can easily come up during conversations, it’s important to be careful of the way in which you phrase comments. Negative comments can encourage a feeling of helplessness, which is something we definitely don’t want the customer to feel. Here are some examples of negative phrases you DON’T want to say:
- “I don’t know what to say about that.”
- “That’s not really our job here.”
- “I don’t know why, it’s just our policy.”
- “I’ll try and see what I can do.”
- “I was going to say…but then that might not…”
- “Wow! That really sucks.”
- “We’re sorry for giving you bad service.”
You can be empathetic to customers and even friendly. But be sure to provide answers and solutions to their problems.
DON’T Do This
Tom is a manager at a small neighborhood grocery store. His days are active with routine responsibilities. However, with the holiday weekend fast approaching, things are unusually busy. Tom seems to be running himself ragged with irate shoppers, employees that he has to oversee and shipments that are delayed. It’s been a long day that seems as if it will never end and Tom is tired and frustrated.
A customer makes a call to the grocery. They have already called the store several times in a row, hoping that someone would pick up to answer their questions. Due to how busy things were, no one answered. Tom finally answers the call himself, just to stop the phone from ringing over and over again.
“Hawthorne Grocery!” he nearly yells into the receiver.
His loud and curt tone causes the customer to hesitate for a moment. This only seems to irritate Tom and he repeats his greeting again. This time he sounds condescending while enunciating each word slowly, “Haaawthoorne Grooocerrry!”
The customer responds, their voice already showing signs of frustration and annoyance.
“Yes, I’ve been calling for some time now. I wanted to know if your store sells a certain type of cheese that I need and price it if possible.”
“Look Ma’am,” Tom says with a sigh. “It’s been a really busy day and I don’t have time to go looking for cheese. If you’d like to know if we have it, just come by our store and check. If we don’t, maybe there’s something else that you can use in its place. In the meantime, I have to go, we’re swamped here.”
Of course speaking this way to the customer makes them feel indignant and even more hot under the collar.
“Hey! If you don’t want me calling your store for information, I’ll just take my business elsewhere!”
Tom replies with a sarcastic chuckle, “Well Ma’am, if that’s your decision, not much I can do about that. Besides, there’s already plenty of customers here, so it’s not like we’ll miss the business.” And with that he simply hangs up.
What’s Wrong in This Scenario?
Tom allowed how he was feeling to dictate how he treated a customer, which is unacceptable. No one ever said that servicing customers was an easy job. There are times when you might feel just as Tom did: tired, overworked, stressed, etc. But when handling customers, you should remember that they have no idea of what’s happening in your life, nor do they care. Their concern is their issue at that moment. Your job is to make sure that they have a great experience and that things end on a positive note.
And in regards to being positive, if Tom would have used positive/supportive statements from the moment the call began, the conversation could have taken a completely different path and been successful.
Instead of answering the phone in his loud and snippy tone, he could have said something inviting such as:
- “Thank you for calling _____. My name is _____.”
- “How may I help you?”
- “Good morning/afternoon/evening.”
- “What can I help you with today?”
- “Sure! I’d be happy to help you.”
When the customer made mention that she had been “calling for some time now,” Tom should have acknowledged that, letting the customer know that her call was important. He could have said “I understand how that must have been frustrating,” then followed up with a statement of appreciation to let the customer know that she mattered. “I appreciate you being so patient.”
The old saying about catching more bees with honey was right. No one has ever kept a customer by being rude and impolite. Sadly, not only was Tom bad-mannered and insulting, it’s pretty safe to say he definitely lost that customer. He could have been more courteous during the conversation. Here are some phrases that could have been used:
- “Thank you.”
- “Will you hold for a moment while I check on that?”
- “Thank you for waiting.”
- “Your satisfaction is our top priority.”
- “I can take care of this for you in no time at all.”
- “You don’t have to wait, I can take care of you now.”
- “I’m not sure, but let me find someone that can help you.”
- “This is a little out of the ordinary, but I’d be happy to handle it for you.”
Knowing exactly what to say in various situations isn’t easy. Customers are often absorbed in their own concerns and can sometimes be rude. It may leave you feeling completely overwhelmed and dazed. But if you have the skills needed in knowing the types of positive language to use, how to diffuse bad behavior and smooth situations over, you will make your job easier and your customers happier. Hopefully the information above gives you a head-start on how to speak to your customers with courtesy and positivity.
“If we don’t take care of our customers, someone else will.” — Unknown