10 Phrases Customer Service Reps Should Never Use

Would you want to hear any of these phrases from a customer service rep? No. And neither do your customers.
March 17, 2014

Effective training of the customer service staff (or anyone that interacts with customers) is critical for small-business success. This means ongoing coaching on what to say and, perhaps more importantly, what not to say when a customer calls. What are some examples of things reps shouldn't say, but often do?

1.“No problem.” This is becoming the standard reply when a customer says thank you. Why? It’s silly, because why should helping a customer ever be “a problem”? This phrase is lazy and thoughtless. Instead use: “You're welcome, thanks for coming/calling.” This shows direct appreciation for the customer patronizing the company.

2. “Please hold.” Putting a customer on hold optimizes the employee’s time. Why should the customer wait to be helped after the phone call has been answered? Instead use: “Thanks for calling, how can I help you today?” Have systems that tell holding customers how long the wait time will be or what number they are in the wait queue.  

3. “You will have to speak with … Can I transfer you?” One of the top reasons that customers are dissatisfied with a company’s customer service is that they are constantly being transferred where they have to re-explain their problems. Instead use: “I can help you with that.” Educate anyone answering the phone to be able to answer 95 percent of customers' concerns. For the other 5 percent, record the customer’s name and get back to them within 24 hours.

4. “All sales are final.” If a customer is dissatisfied with a product or service, why should it ever be final? Most small businesses don’t want a disgruntled customer to tell other prospects about their experience, especially through social media. Instead use: “Why are you returning the product?” List a specific return policy and then be lenient on the enforcement of it. Find out why the customer is dissatisfied; you may learn something valuable about your product or service.

5. “Please calm down.” This always makes the customer angrier. Let them blow off steam if that's what they need to do. After, they'll be able to deal with a solution better. Instead use: “I can understand how you can feel that way.” Empathy is the No. 1 thing dissatisfied customers want when they call.

6. “I don’t set the company policy.” The customer sees everyone inside a business as one entity representing the company. They don’t differentiate between departments and levels. Instead use: “This is our company policy, but let me see if I can work something out for you.” Employees must understand that they represent the entire company when a customer calls and behave accordingly. Companies need to be willing to make exceptions; better yet, empower your customer service reps to make those exceptions.

7. “I don’t know.” This really doesn't help the customer and doesn't portray the employee as knowledgeable. Instead use: “I'll find out the answer for you.” Even if the answer is not what the customer wants to hear, the employee made an effort to help  them.

8. “To be perfectly honest.” Does this mean that the employee was not previously being honest with them? This is another figure of speech that does not add credibility to the company. Instead use: Don't say anything, you don't need to … just stop using this phrase.

9. Just go to our website.” Every small business needs to assume customers have gone to the website before calling since it's a quicker way to get an answer. Instead use: “Can I email (or tell) you the link where that is on our website?” In a retail environment, this is equivalent to an employee showing a customer where something is instead of pointing to it.

10. “I'm sorry.” While this isn't bad to say one time, being “sorry” over and over again as a way to placate the customer will eventually enrage them. Instead use: “I promise to try to fix this problem.” Being solutions-focused always helps customers.

Now that you know what not to say, try these five phrases to help boost your customer service.

What phrases would you omit from your customer service script? Share with the community.

Read more articles on customer service.

Photo: Getty Images