Customer service is definitely a tough gig. As sales and customer service people, we’re constantly challenged to keep our negative emotions in check in order to avoid being abusive to customers. The contradiction is that we also have to show endless empathy or risk offending a customer, losing their business and having our reputation indelibly damaged.
Here are 5 utterances you should never make when communicating with a (happy or angry) customer:
1. “I don’t have the answer to that question.”
The customer is asking you a question, giving you single chance to get their loyalty and business. Don’t mess it up with this very negative answer!
Saying you don’t have an answer is telling the customer they aren’t valuable enough for you to spend time finding that answer.
“Let me do some research to give you the most accurate answer. I’ll call you back with an update by 5 pm. Is that okay?”
2. “I can’t help you with that.”
This is just as bad as number one, but it can sting particularly hard depending on the issue you can’t help with. For instance, refusing to lend support to a product you sold them.
Obviously, this doesn’t apply to illegal activities or inappropriate requests but remember that saying “no” is saying no to current and future business.
“We don’t typically don’t install yellow widgets, but since you’re asking I’m going to figure it out and get it done.”
3. “You DID NOT order product A with XYZ features, you DID order product D with ABC features.”
Using CAPS in blog writing and sales letters can add punch to what you’re saying. Doing so in customer service emails and chats will surely belittle and offend. Even worse, pointing out a customer’s mistake does nothing toward getting their future business. If you make them feel like a dumb failure by acting defensive, they’ll move onto greener pastures. When speaking, remember that OVER-EMPHASIZING certain words can be just as demeaning and overwhelmingly negative to the person you’re communicating with as using all caps in your writing.
This happened to me the other day. I ordered a product to repair chipped teeth on Ebay and mistakenly ordered a package that was missing an etchant and curative agents to help the product bond to teeth. I messaged the seller and asked them if they sold the complete product. The responded with a message containing carefully placed CAPS to let me know the mistake was mine (obviously assuming I was looking for a refund or exchange, instead of confirming they had the actual product I needed).
“I’m sorry you didn’t get the widget you were hoping for. If you could kindly return the blue one, I’ll send you the red one immediately.” (Consider what Amazon does: Emailing the customer a printable return shipping label, free of charge.)
4. “You said XYZ when we were talking…”
Your middle name must be “passive aggressive.” Guaranteed, it’s not a pleasure to do business with you. If a customer is unhappy and yet still talking to you about their dissatisfaction, they’re giving you a chance to make it right.
Whether it’s their miscommunication or yours, they’re not going to respond well to being called a dope by your defensive self. Swallow your pride and fix the issue. If mistakes happen again and again with the same customer, then you might consider correcting them but do so carefully and with the knowledge that you might lose their respect.
“I’m really sorry, I completely heard you wrong. I’m going to mail out the correct widget right now.”
5. “Sorry.” “Sorry.” “Sorry.”
There’s a saying that really gets to the heart of the impression you give a customer when you yammer out sorry to every complaint they make: “An apology is a great way to get the last word.” Sorry isn’t very effective because you’re not qualifying WHY you’re saying the word.
Customers want to feel valued and heard. They want to feel like they’re going to get the last word in the conversation — Ie., the problem will be solved and their need will be satisfied.
“I’m so sorry you were disappointed with the way the installer put that widget in your house. I’m going to send someone out right away and I’d like to call you afterward to make sure you’re 100% satisfied. Is that okay with you?”
The 5 negative service utterances listed above are among the most common made when dealing with customers. Remember to always put the customer’s satisfaction at the forefront of all communications. Just because they made a mistake — or asked you to do something you don’t normally don’t do, doesn’t mean you have to point it out — or deny them what they’re asking for.