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Six Customer Service Phrases to Avoid

When it comes to the things you should be saying in a customer service interaction, there’s plenty of advice out there. There are best practice tips, handy canned statements, and end-to-end conversation guides.

But what about the things you shouldn’t say? Some are self-explanatory — it’s obvious that it’s a bad idea to swear at customers, for example. But there is also a host of poor customer service phrases that are a little more nuanced. At face value, they might even seem acceptable and useful.

So, what are the phrases that enrage customers?

1. “Calm down”

Telling a customer to calm down is a sure-fire way to escalate any frustration and anger in the session.

When you tell a customer to calm down, you don’t validate their feelings. You may as well have informed them that they’re overreacting, and you won’t help them.

If a customer is angry or upset, empathize with them. They’ll calm down on their own when they see that you’re listening.

2. “That’s against our policy.”

This phrase might be a statement of fact. But the customer has gotten in touch with you to solve their problem — not have the door slammed in their face. Telling customers that the help they’ve asked for is against your policy presents your brand as inflexible, unhelpful and unappreciative.

If a customer has asked for something that your policy doesn’t allow, offer a viable solution instead.   

3. “Didn’t you…”

Starting any phrase with ‘didn’t you’ is another anger trigger. Though it might seem like a helpful question that offers a solution, it’s insulting to the customer. Either they have done what you’re suggesting, and you’re insulting their intelligence, or they haven’t, and you make them feel stupid.

‘Didn’t you…’ tells customers it’s their fault and their responsibility to solve the problem. At best, it’s Dismissive. More likely, you’re indirectly telling the customer they’re stupid for getting in touch.

4. “It’s not our fault.”

Anyone that’s taken the time to get in touch with you isn’t always looking for an admission of guilt. They’re trying to fix their problem.

Meeting the customer with a denial of liability is telling them that you don’t want to (and aren’t going to) help them. This is an enraging feeling, and then you do have a problem that’s your fault.   

So, stop worrying about whose fault it is and help fix the problem instead.

5. “What do you want me to do about it?”

At face value, this might seem like a good phrase for customer service. You’re giving the customer a choice about the resolution that best suits them.

In practice, this is another frustrating phrase. It oozes a dismissive attitude and puts the responsibility of fixing the problem on the customer.

6. “Would you like me to transfer you to a supervisor?”

This is another statement that disguises itself as good customer service. You’re being open and accessible, after all.

Reality looks less kindly on this customer service phrase. Offering to put customers through to a manager, supervisor or colleague undermines your ability to help them. It reduces you to a gatekeeper for the actual support session. So, you’re perceived as a hurdle to helpful service.

Don’t be dismissive

So, now you know some of the worst things you can say to customers, you can avoid them.

Identifying the phrases that do more harm than good isn’t always easy when you’re on the frontlines of the business. The common strain is a dismissive undertone and a theme of shirking responsibility.

To turn an enraging phrase into a helpful one, make sure that you’re offering a solution, inviting a response, and working with the customer. That way, you’ll be creating great customer service experiences in no time.

The SmallBizRising Blog is designed to be an educational content hub pulling information, best practices and practical advice for the small business owner and features topics including accounting, marketing, technology and more.  Be sure to subscribe to stay up to date with new content as it is posted.  The blog was created by The Neat Company and receives contributed content from a group of contributing companies that provide technology, services and solutions to small businesses.

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Six Customer Service Phrases to Avoid


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