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The five phrases customers don’t want to hear

Friday, 7 November 2014 | By Fiona Adler

There’s no doubt that customer service can be difficult. Things inevitably go wrong, service staff are not always in the best mood, and there are also some customers that can be (a lot) more challenging than others.


But no matter what happens, there are some things businesses should never say to customers. Here are the top five phrases to avoid saying to customers:


1. “I don’t know”


No one can know everything about the product or service, but a question that stretches you a bit provides an opportunity to do something extra for the customer. “I’m not sure, let me find that out for you” is better, or try “Wow, that’s a great question. Let’s find out.”


2. “There’s nothing I can do”


In some cases this may be true, but saying this is a sure way to disappoint your customer. Think of some ideas that the customer could try or that you could help with. If you’ve already done that, re-iterate the options the customers can choose from. There are always other options.


3. “That’s our policy”


If you want your customers making voodoo dolls in your image, then keep saying this because that’s the response you’ll get. This phrase has no place in your customer interactions. It’s a cop-out and it only infuriates customers because it implies that it’s too bad and they should have read the fine print.


4. “It’s not my fault”


Customers don’t want excuses and are not interested in hearing you blame your supplier, manufacturer, colleague, delivery service, or computer system. What they want is someone to help find a solution – be that person! Try: “I’m so sorry but our delivery hasn’t arrived. What I can do is organise an express delivery to your home as soon as the stock arrives.”


5. “It’s your fault”


It should come as no surprise that accusing your customer of causing the problem does not pave the path to customer loyalty. Often this is said fairly subtly, but the customer still hears what you’re saying. Instead of, “I know you’ve been waiting for half an hour, but you arrived late for your appointment.” Try something simple like, “I’m so sorry about the wait, it shouldn’t be too much longer. Would you like another latte?”


Instead of defaulting to these destructive phrases, listen, be empathetic, and find a real solution. It’s not rocket science but it can make all the difference.


In an age where customers are free to share their experiences in online reviews, never before has customer service been more important for businesses. Customers are savvier than ever and will check reviews before using you (or find a business using reviews as a guide).


A good reputation is a sure way to attract lots more customers, but likewise, if you annoy too many customers with phrases like these, you’ll soon find customers choosing your competition.


Fiona Adler is CEO of WOMO.com.au

Image credit: Flickr/ukCWCS


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