The business world can be challenging to maneuver. You have an awesome product, so now you have to acquire and retain customers; which is like crossing a minefield because each client has different expectations and personalities to handle. Since so many businesses are contending for sales, the tiniest mistake can capsize an enterprise.
Here are some reminders of what never say to customers, no matter how well you think you know them:
You’re the first person to complain about this.
Most people walk away without ever saying a word, so when you hear one, imagine there are many more unspoken issues like it. A customer who gives a unique complaint is doing you a favor by pointing to a potential bigger problem. Instead, say, “That’s interesting. What more can you tell me?”
It’s no big deal.
It may not be a big deal to you, but rest assured if customers brought something to your attention — a problem, concern, or question — it is a big deal to them. Be careful not to make any statement that downplays their feelings or frustration over the situation. You need to show them your interest and give careful consideration to them. Ask them to tell you more about their problem, say “Tell me more.”
Are you sure?
Customers can be wrong, but you should not point it out. It is tempting to do so, especially if you feel they are being silly or making an issue out of nothing. But doing so discounts their feelings and makes them feel foolish, which may escalate the situation. Calmly help them with their issue and move forward no matter how much you would like to do otherwise. Treat them with respect.
You don’t seem to understand.
The problem could be that you are not being clear. But by saying this, you imply that customers are think-headed. Tact is key when you are trying to explain something to a person. Often, you will run into people who do not know what they are talking about because, after all, you are the one who knows your product inside and out – not them. So instead, say, “What can I clarify?”
Listen to me.
Angry customers rarely listen. However, ordering them to be quiet and listen will come across as condescending and make the situation worse. Allow them to vent their feelings and empathize with them before offering a solution. Request what they want to know about specifically.
What you should do is…
People generally resent being told what to do. If they called you, they want YOU to fix it – not to tell them to fix it. Do everything you can and then offer customers specific follow up steps to resolve their issues. The best approach to helping an upset customer is to stay calm and and be as helpful as possible. Maintain control of the conversation, set clear expectations and always be working towards a solution.
This one phrase elicits more anger than nearly any other. Yes, customers may need to calm down in order to effect a solution, but telling them so will only make them more irate. Instead, let the customer vent, showing empathy with phrases like, “I see,” and “I understand.” Eventually, they will calm down on their own, allowing you to move forward.
Have you tried going through the Help section?
You accomplish nothing by belittling a user, except to turn that person away from your product. And this might be another valuable opportunity for you to gather important data about how your customers actually interact with your product. You might find that your product is not as intuitive as you thought. So instead, ask the customer to walk you through his thought process, so you can identify where the problem or confusion arises. This approach gives your customer a judgment-free environment to explain the problem, and it gives you a chance to learn where your product might need a smoother user experience or to become more self-explanatory. No matter how frustrated you are , do not ever talk down to your customer.
You shouldn’t have done that.
While it is true that the customer should not have thrown away the bill, disregarded the company’s email message, or made some other mistakes, telling them will not change the situation. It will, however, make the customer feel angry and embarrassed. Focus on the situation as it is and offer the best solution you have.
Let me try to do that.
Try? That sounds like your customers may not get their issues resolved, and demonstrates a lack of self-confidence on your part. If you need to ask someone else, or get approval, simply say that you are doing that. Do not sound unsure about whether or not you can help the customer – be sure you can!
I don’t know.
That is not a good response unless it is immediately followed by a promise to return with all the facts. If you follow up quickly and completely, you will build even more trust with that customer. They will know you are honest and keep your promises.
I’m not sure, but I think…
You will no know the answer to every situation, but you should not tell the customer that. You also should not give customers an answer you are unsure of, as doing so might lead them in the wrong direction. Instead, let them know you will look up some information and either put them on hold or offer to call them back in a few minutes.
I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.
If you think about this from a customer perspective, it is easy to see why this is frustrating, as it leaves customers wondering what “soon” means. Today? Tomorrow? A week from now? Be as specific as you can about your follow-up. If you do not know when the issue will be resolved, offer a call on a specific date to give an update on the situation. Much of the time, the number one thing the customer is looking for is an apology. Always start with sorry, and mean it. Even if you are not at fault, you can still empathize and feel sorry for the way the situation is making the customer feel.
It’s not my fault.
Saying to the customer that something that went wrong is not your fault will display your irresponsibility. Owning up to the faults is essential and looking for fixes will show your responsibility. It helps to retain the respect that the customer has for your company.
I’m sorry, but…
The ‘but’ in your sentence will be interpreted by the client that you cannot make the efforts. The word ‘but’ usually signifies that you give up, so instead of ‘but’ utilize the word ‘and’.
This response sounds more like, “I don’t want to.” Maybe you could say, “Have you also considered…?” Find broad agreement on a few things and expand the possibilities for final agreements.
There’s nothing I can do.
Even if that is true – and usually it is not – there is a better way to say it. Customers got in touch with you, so they expect that you are the person to handle their questions or issues. Saying something like this undermines your credibility and the trust customers may have had in you. You cannot leave a sentence like that hanging in the air with no recourse. When there is someone more qualified to help, let customers know you want the best for them and are not just casting them off to someone else. Instead, say, “I can help, but Jason is the absolute best in that area. I’d like to bring him in on this. Is that OK with you?”
That’s another department.
Customers do not know the ins and outs of your company. They just want a quick answer or solution without having to hear your company protocol. So when they hear, “I don’t do that,” or “It’s not really my job,” they often assume that people pass the envelope rather than actually do their jobs. Instead, say “I know who can help with this.”
That’s not my job.
As you may have noticed, the theme here is that these statements are probably true and accurate, but the truth hurts a little too much for customers. In this particular case, when someone asks you about something outside of your expertise, you still have to at least give them a good answer or connect them with someone who can help them.
That’s our policy.
It is just like saying, “There’s nothing I can do.” And it will escalate a customer problem. If company policy stands in the way of handling a service problem, look for a workaround. Customers are forgiving if they feel that you are trying. And a well-handled complaint actually builds loyalty. But throwing up your hands and saying “That’s our policy.” shuts down discussion. It essentially tells the customer that you are finished and that there is no amenable solution. You may be finished but your customer is not. If you cannot change policy on the spot, at least try to come up with a solution. Because the problem does not end just because you want it to.
That’s against our policy.
Maybe it is, but customers are not interested in your policy. They are interested in how their situation can be resolved to their satisfaction. Rather than saying their request is against policy, offer what you can do to solve the problem. Dealing with angry customers is all about retention through relationship building.
It’s a dumb rule, but I have to follow it.
Now you are sounding like a prisoner in your own company. There usually are valid reasons for rules. Some are legal requirements and some are internal policies set in place to prevent previous problems from reoccurring. However, you are representing the company and if you speak in a detached manner about the company policies and beliefs, the customer might start wondering if there is something wrong with the company. Help the customers understand and work with them to make their experience as positive as possible.
I will let them know.
Even if you agree with the customer’s frustration, you never want to call the company you work for “them”. To the customers, you are the company, so be careful to say “we” when referring to your company. If you do not, you will lose credibility and risk coming across as avoiding responsibility.
I hate my job.
Let us face it, nobody likes whining. Harsh words and complaints about your job, your company, your co-workers, or your boss should never be directed to or within hearing of a customer. It is the start of a downhill slide that will affect everyone around you. It does not even matter whether you meant what you said.
What do your company do?
To establish relationships with customers, it is important that you ask appropriate questions and listen to the answers accurately. However the questions you are asking must not indicate that you have not done any advance preparation. So do your research to know what your customer’s company does and you can then ask question to know more details.
Your current supplier is horrible.
You are, after all, your product’s biggest champion, and a strong belief in your product’s superiority can be a good thing. And hey, this sentiment might even be true. But it is not something you ever want to say to your customers. Ultimately, trash-talking your competitors only lowers your own credibility. Never speak ill of the competition regardless what you think or know about the company since you will not pan out well. It could appear like sour grapes.
No, you don’t want that, what you want is this.
Always provide customers what they want. Regardless what they state, people typically believe what they want is right. Stating that they are wrong might just anger them and make them take their business to someone else who will give them exactly what they want. You should always propose more choices for them to consider, however, you may want to present it casually. Eventually, it is the customer’s decision and you could live with the outcome if they can.
What’s up? (Or any other slang.)
It is one thing to use slang when you talk co-worker to co-worker. It is quite another to direct it toward your customers. Using slang like “Hey, what’s up?” instead of a more traditional “Hello, how are you?” may leave your customers feeling disrespected. Other slang expressions may leave your customers wondering what you said, you should just keep it out of work.
When are you due?
It is not appropriate to make assumptions about a customer’s relationship or physical state. If you assume that a customer is expecting as you observed it through her physical condition or assume the other person accompanying her must be related to her and you comment on your thought to the customer, chances are you might be wrong and that breaks a personal connection.
Can I offer you a lift in my new Porsche?
You may want your customers to believe you are the best at your job and you are very successful. However, you do not want them to start thinking that they are overpaying to support your luxurious lifestyle. If the customer is not driving an expensive car, he would not want to know that you do. Your customer may imagine that perhaps the reason you could afford such a pricey car is that you are overcharging him for your services.
Did I ever tell you about my insane, inebriated weekend in Las Vegas?
There is bonding and then there is sharing too much information (TMI). Of course, the customer may laugh heartily at your story but then he will question your professionalism and discretion. Even if you have a quasi-social relationship with your customer, do not chat up too personal too soon. It is okay to ask about family or vacation, but do not burrow too deeply. And do not talk about sex, politics, or religion.
Don’t tell anyone I said this.
When people work at one place long enough, they will get chummy with customers. But that never gives them license to talk negatively or gossip with customers about their workplace or other people in it. If you do not think what you want to say should be heard by others, keep your mouth shut. Secrets never stay quiet. Instead, say nothing.
I heard your colleague is filing a divorce.
Do not gossip. Ever. This reveals an absence of discretion and if you talk easily about another individual, a customer may presume that you likewise discuss about him. If you need to talk about people that you both are acquainted, look for something affirmative to say. You will appear as professional, friendly, and upbeat – someone that people wish to be around.
The golden rule is actually very simple: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Or plainly: Keep your mouth shut and a smile on your face.