Ten Things Your Customers Don’t Want to Hear

Here are 10 phrases that any Customer Service Representative (CSR) should avoid:

  1. "I‘m new at this…" Sure, the customer may pretend to be nice and give you empathy, but what they’re really thinking is "pleeeeease get me to someone who know what they’re doing!".
  2. "Oops"… No way to recover from this one. The customer immediately starts wondering what you screwed up and how much it’s going to cost them in time, money and/or convenience.
  3. [silence] "Dead Air" is a killer of customer confidence. You’ve got about seven seconds of unexplained dead air before the customer begins to wonder what’s wrong, what in heaven’s name you’re doing, and if you have a clue what you’re doing. Try explaining to the customer what you’re doing in the system.
  4. "You have to…" Customers like to have a sense of control, and telling them what they "have to" do is never a good idea if you want to keep them satisfied. Try "If you could please …" or "What I’m going to ask you to do is…"
  5. "You’re wrong…" It may be the truth, or it may just be the CSR’s perception, but there are much better ways to address the customer’s misunderstanding without taking an already difficult situation and making it worse.
  6. "I don’t know…" While this phrase can easily be softened with an immediate follow up of "but I’ll find out for you", it’s still a confidence buster. Why not try "That’s a great question, let me check with…" Instead of pleading ignorance you’ve complimented the customer for asking a great question.
  7. "I can’t…" Customers don’t want to hear what you can’t do – they want to hear what you can and will do – even if it’s giving them options or agreeing to check into a problem. Try "What I can do is…"
  8. "It’s not my job…" You may be right, but your job is to get the customer to the right person or department. Try "I’ll be happy to get you to the department that handles that."
  9. "They…" When you refer to other people or departments in your company as "they" the customer thinks – "but ‘you‘ are ‘they‘!" Try "we" and "our" instead.
  10. [fill in the blank] What did I miss? Click on "comment" below and share yours. If you’re an e-mail subscriber, click on the post title above which will take you to a permalink of this page where you can scroll down and add your two cents.

  16 comments for “Ten Things Your Customers Don’t Want to Hear

  1. November 6, 2006 at 8:48 pm

    “I’ve never had that happen before.”
    “No one’s ever asked me that.”
    “Wow, that’s a new one…”
    I don’t think these are the worst thing you can say, at least they are not too bad if you immediately follow them up with a plan to fix something.
    There is always that fine line between making the customer believe you are a normal human and not reading off of a script, but also don’t come off as a flake. Have a plan, or at least make something up as you go along until you can ask someone.
    As far as asking people to do something, I always liked the “I’m going to need you to do this…” as a way to approach it. Anything to make people think that they are doing something to help you.
    I probably fight with dead air more than anything. Even if you are just typing for five seconds, they think you are gone. It gets a little old after while. I know, I’ve been on the other end of the phone, but if there was one thing I could change about my customers, this would be it. Oh and while I’m dreaming, they would all be women with that cute French accent that my Quebecois customers have…

  2. November 6, 2006 at 11:18 pm

    If I may add, too.
    “It’s company policy.”
    “I’m just new here.”
    “S/He is not here, can you call back later?”
    “We have not done this before, so I don’t think it will work.”

  3. November 7, 2006 at 6:36 pm

    QAQnA Shares 10 Things Not To Say To A Customer

    Tom Vander Well of QAQnA shares 10 phrases that customer service reps should avoid saying. The one I dont like to hear is It’s not my job… I have to come clean and say that I have said this before…

  4. November 8, 2006 at 10:41 am

    When a customer asked to be transferred/escalated to a manager: “There is nobody higher than me.” (A customer service rep really said this to me.)
    “The CEO doesn’t have a phone number.”
    “We don’t give out the manager’s (or VP or CEO) office number or address.”
    “We value your business.” This after they’ve told the customer the customer is wrong, and yes, they are keeping the customer’s money even if they didn’t provide the contracted service.” Oh and then they usually end with, “Call me if I can be of further assistance.” (Yeah, like you were sooo helpful this time!)

  5. November 8, 2006 at 10:53 am

    What NOT to Say to Customers

    Busy day, but wanted to pass this post along, from Tom over at QAQNA: Ten Things Your Customer Dont Want to Hear
    However, Id prefer a service rep say something like Oops or Im new at this&#8…

  6. November 8, 2006 at 3:34 pm

    Sometimes it’s not about WHAT you say, but the fact that you MEAN it. The fact that reps are actually reading a script (instead of just ‘following’ it) makes me feel like talking to a machine.
    I had a situation once with Comcast where the rep couldnt help me without following the whole script, but at least she was sincere explaining that to me and, although I was very upset with the situation, I accepted it, because I felt she meant it(you can read the post at http://standing-out.com/2006/not-all-your-customers-are-equal/)
    The bottom line is, although some experiences are frustating, it helps if we feel that we are talking to a human being and not some kind of robot…

  7. November 8, 2006 at 4:36 pm

    Same should apply to doctors. Bedside manner and phone etiquette are somewhat similar in this respect. Nice list, everyone!

  8. Lisa Kelly
    November 9, 2006 at 11:38 am

    “Give me…” instead ask, “May I please have your…”
    “I’m not trained on that…versus let me connect you with a representative who could better assist you.”
    Tentative answers like, maybe, probably, it looks like, I believe.
    My system crashed.

  9. November 9, 2006 at 11:47 am

    Wow! I spend a couple of days away from the blog and it RAINS comments! Thanks to everyone for your excellent additions to the list as well as some very apt commentary.

  10. November 14, 2006 at 9:33 am

    Absolutely under no circumstances should you ask “Who did you speak to?” or “who told you that?” Believe me, they’ll give you the name if they wrote it down.
    But the problem is, most of the time, they don’t write it down (who does this?), because most of us are foolish enough to assume that we WON’T have problems, or be lied to, misinformed, or just waylaid, by your product or service.
    However, I’m starting to think I should keep a phone log of everybody I talk to from now until the end of time. But that’s just me.

  11. Julie Ingebrigtson
    November 17, 2006 at 1:20 pm

    “No”- without any other option.

  12. November 17, 2006 at 1:44 pm

    Great addition, Julie! Thanks for stopping by and giving us your (more valuable than) two-cents worth.

  13. blair
    November 18, 2006 at 9:47 pm

    “calm down” is a horrible thing to say to a customer, in any field. trust me on this; they will NEVER calm down if one says this.

  14. November 18, 2006 at 10:19 pm

    Blair, you certainly sound like the voice of experience in this. Anything particular stories you’d like to share?

  15. November 22, 2006 at 6:00 pm

    Hi Tom,
    I came across this blog posting on TMCNet that fit right in with your “things that you don’t want to hear” topic, thought you’d be interested: http://blog.tmcnet.com/blog/tom-keating/personal-and-humor/mbna-call-center-agent-training-what-not-to-do.asp

  16. November 22, 2006 at 8:55 pm

    Thanks, KF! Great post – thanks for sharing and a Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

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