10 Things You Should Never Say to A Customer

by Barry Moltz on March 25, 2010

Kevin Stirtz, the Amazing Service Guy guest posts today.  I love this post because so many times we say absolutely the wrong thing to the customer.

“Much of how we help people deliver better customer service is with examples. These are fun and useful because we all have them (since we’re all customers). And sometimes it helps to look at examples of things we shouldn’t say to customers. That is, if we want them to keep coming back.

So, here is my top 10 list of things you should never say to a customer:

1. “Now just calm down.”
Is there ever a situation where this has the intended effect? I can just see it: “Oh thank you Mr. Customer Service Rep. for helping me realize how crazy I was acting. Good thing you’re here to help me behave like a responsible person.” Uh, I don’t think so. More like they’ll get even more angry while they tell YOU to calm down. They’ll escalate the matter and they’ll probably become a former customer. Listen, let them vent, have them talk to someone else if they want. But never tell them to calm down.

2. “It’s not me, it’s that other department.”
Never pass the buck or blame someone else, especially if they’re part of your company. You don’t look any better or smarter by doing so. But you do appear uninterested in solving the customer’s problem. Your time is better spent fixing and helping rather than blaming and finger-pointing.

3. “Your call is very important to us.” (Said in a recorded message.)
We hear this so often we ignore it. And we should. A recorded message is not the place to tell your customers how much you value their business. Do it with a real, live, caring human being. That’s a message your customers will believe (and respond to).

4. “You made a mistake.”
We all know customers make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. But when you point it out in a direct and blatant way, you risk offending or embarrassing your customer. How would you like it? Instead focus on helping them understand the right way to do things so they won’t make the mistake again.

5. “We’d like to help, but it’s our company policy…”
With too many employees this is just an easy way to get out of doing something they’d rather not do.
If you really want to help then find a way. Don’t hide behind a company policy. And if you can’t work around the policy, offer an alternative or escalate the matter for the customer. If your customers sees you are trying to help, they’ll be less disappointed even if they don’t get exactly what they want.

6. “Please take a number.” (When you’re the only customer there.)
If I were the customer in this situation, “huh?” is about the only response I’d be able to muster, assuming I didn’t just walk out. But it happens. People get so focused on policies, procedures, systems and rules that they forget about a little tool called “common sense.”

7. “I’m sorry if you feel that way.”
People often say this as an apology. But it’s not. Because it puts the blame on the customer.
If you’re sorry then say so. Don’t qualify it. When customers hear an apology like this they understand what you’re doing. You’re saying, “I know I’m supposed to apologize but I really don’t want to.”
A better option is to just say “I’m sorry this happened” or simply “I’m sorry.”
It tells the customer you are actually sorry for the situation the customer is in without making you responsible for it.

8. “You’ll have to talk to the corporate office about that.”
If a customer has feedback, a request or a complaint, they don’t care who YOU have to forward it to. They don’t care that another person in you organization will deal with it. What they want is for YOU to get the ball rolling. It’s not the customer’s job to go on a wild goose chase trying to find the exact person who should handle their situation. That’s YOUR job.

9. “No one else has complained about…”
This one always floors me. Are we taking a survey? Are we voting on the situation? If enough other customers have a problem then you’ll listen to me (or handle my problem)? Is that really how they do things?
Of course, that’s ridiculous. But I’ve heard employees (and managers) say this all too often. The problem is they are focusing on their perspective. They should be focusing on the customer and helping solve a problem.

10. “Step 7″ (or any other step in your script that’s already been covered or is not relevant to the situation)
Because scripts and checklists are all the rage now, employees are scripted to death. Many feel (and some are told) they are not there to think but to follow the script. And often that’s exactly what they do, even when it makes no sense and wastes the customer’s time. If you have a script or checklist, pay attention to the real world too. Your customers will thank you.

These are just MY top things you should never say to a customer. What can YOU think of?
(Thanks to Barry Moltz (#2), Chip Bell (#3, #4 & #5), Lisa Ford (#1), Jim Logan (#5), Laurie Brown (#5) and Ray Miller (#6 & # 10) for contributing their helpful ideas to this article.)”

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Shirley Skinner May 18, 2010 at 12:21 pm

How about not saying ” To be honest with you”? It implies,maybe I’m not honest.

Barry Moltz May 18, 2010 at 2:45 pm

Yes, I hate when people say, “Can I be honest with you?” – what, you have not been up to now?

Clay Hill July 23, 2010 at 6:32 pm

I always cringe when I hear customer service representatives saying, “You need to…” This comes across as telling the customer what to do, and it often rubs people up the wrong way by projecting an air of authority (if not outright superiority!). How about using some diplomacy and ‘suggesting’ next steps?

Barry Moltz July 23, 2010 at 6:45 pm

As I always say- they should ask “How can I make you feel more satisfied?”

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