5 Customer Service Phrases to Avoid (and What to Say Instead)

17 May

In May of 2018, Barbara Carroll ordered three cartons of toilet paper from Amazon. The order total: $88.17. The shipping charges? $7,455.

Carroll wasn’t overly concerned, as Amazon typically takes great care of its customers. But in this case, Carroll complained to Amazon six times and even wrote a letter to CEO Jeff Bezos. After every complaint, she received a form letter explaining a refund was impossible because the delivery arrived on time and undamaged. It wasn’t until Carroll notified a local television station (and the story went viral) that Amazon took action. Months later, she was finally reimbursed.

While this case is extreme, every company has its share of customer service flops. In some situations, the problem is no communication. In other cases, it’s inconsiderate attitudes.

Want to steer your team toward positivity? Here are five customer services phrases to avoid.

1. "No" (or) "I can’t help you with that."

Even if a customer makes an impossible request, it’s your responsibility to care for them and to steer them toward a solution.

Alternatives to try:

“This feels like an issue which might be out of my control, but let me double check . . ."

“That’s not my area of expertise, but I want to connect you with someone who can help.”

2. "I don’t know" (or) "You need to check with someone else."

If you can’t solve a problem, be as helpful as possible. Rather than abandoning someone mid-stream, work with them to find an answer.

Alternatives to try:

“I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”

“I’m not sure, but I’d be happy to look into that.”

3. "Ok, calm down."

When diffusing a tense situation, telling someone to calm down usually frustrates them more. Instead, communicate empathy and turn the focus from the problem to the solution.

Alternatives to try:

“I understand how this must have upset you, and I’ll get on it immediately.”

“That would frustrate me too.”

“I’m sorry for this inconvenience. Let me help you with that right away.”

4. "I don’t understand the issue."

People who are upset find uncertainty even more frustrating. If you’re struggling to connect, clarify the issue or soften your request.

Alternatives to try:

“OK, so let me clarify…”

“What I’m hearing is [ISSUE], is that correct?

“If it’s not too much of a problem, I would ask you to be a bit more specific…”

5. "I’m going to put you on hold."

Time is valuable, so don’t assume you can extend a service call without asking permission. If you do have someone hold, check back with a status update if they’ve waited longer than two minutes.

Alternatives to try:

“I understand your issue and if it’s ok, I’m going to ask you to hold on while I check on a solution.”

“The problem you’re describing is rather peculiar, so if you have a minute, I’d like to put you on hold while I check with my supervisor.”

“I’ll get right on it. If it’s ok, I’d like to look into this today and call back to you once I resolve this.”

Ultimately, customer service is not about the right words but the right attitudes. Remember, the biggest customer service frustration question is “why isn’t this as important to you as it is to me?” As you handle issues, address the person behind the problem. Communicate with compassion, empathy, and enthusiasm, and you will find your way through many sticky situations.

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