When I got my first job as a contact center training manager, someone shared eight things you should never say to a customer. Despite many of them being common sense, I was surprised to hear how often my employees said them to customers. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve often wanted to say these things, but we need to do better if we want to preserve customer relationships.
Over the years, I’ve taken those eight original things, made a few tweaks, and added a few more to the list. They’re a helpful reminder for anyone who serves customers and challenges each of us to consider how our choice of words affects perceptions and outcomes.
Here are the fifteen things I’d never tell a customer.
“That’s not my job.”
One of the most frustrating things customers can hear is that the person they are talking to cannot help them. Instead, your team should take ownership of the problem and work towards finding a solution.
Even if the customer is mistaken, listening to their concerns and offering a solution that works for them is essential. Telling a customer they are wrong can lead to frustration and anger.
“Are you sure?”
This is similar to telling a customer that they’re wrong. Never directly doubt their statements or feelings; you’ll only worsen an already bad situation. Instead, ask questions or seek to understand better. Saying something like, “Can you walk me through that one more time so I can make sure I can take care of what went wrong?” validates the customer’s position while helping you keep the conversation objective and solution-focused.
“I can’t help you.”
If your team cannot provide a solution, they should work towards finding someone who can help the customer.
“What you should do is…”
Don’t tell your customers what to do. Help them. That’s why they came to you.
“We’ve always done it this way.”
Customers want to feel heard and understood. If your team is unwilling to consider new ideas or approaches, it can create a negative experience for the customer.
“I don’t know.”
While it’s okay to admit when you don’t know the answer, following up with the customer is essential once you have more information.
“We can’t do that.” or “That’s against our policy.”
Maybe it is against your policy… but if the customer wasn’t aware of the policy ahead of time, who cares? Any terms or conditions not spelled out in advance are irrelevant to the customer. Imagine you’re a customer who finds out after the fact that special order items can’t be returned — how would you feel? Refer to policies or conditions when the customer was fully aware of and agreed to those conditions; otherwise, find a way to fix the problem.
“I’m sorry, but…”
Using “but” can negate an apology and create a defensive tone. Instead, focus on finding a solution and making things right for the customer.
“Let me know if you have any other problems.”
If a customer comes to you with a problem, and you think you’ve resolved that problem, great. But don’t expect the customer to contact you if other issues pop up; follow up a couple of days later to ensure all is still well. Solving a customer’s problem meets expectations; following up to see if they need further assistance shows you care.
“I’m just following orders.”
Taking ownership of a problem is crucial in customer service. If your team is simply following orders, it can create a negative experience for the customer and damage your relationship with them.
“You’re being unreasonable.”
While telling a customer they are being unreasonable may be tempting, it’s important to remember that the customer’s perception is their reality. Instead, work towards finding a solution that meets their needs.
You mean “yes,” but “no problem” still implies the customer is causing a problem. Replace “no problem” with “yes.”
“Let me try to do that…”
Customers care about results, not effort. Tell them what you will do. “Trying” creates greater uncertainty. If a client requests an accelerated delivery, say, “I’ll call our distributor and get the best schedule possible.” All you can do is all you can do. Don’t imply you’re working extra hard on my behalf by “trying.”
“I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.”
Maybe you will… but the customer wonders what “soon” means. Always specify a time. If, when that time comes, you still don’t have all the information you need, contact the customer and say so — and say when you’ll follow up again. Customer relationships are based on managing expectations; “as soon as I can” sounds good but fails to set an expectation the customer can count on.
What matters most is your willingness to help!
Effective communication is essential for building strong customer relationships. And, while there are certain things you should avoid saying to your customers, it’s essential to take ownership of the problem and work towards finding a solution. After all, people might forget what you said, but they’ll certainly remember whether or not you were there to help when they needed you!