The Best (and Worst) Phrases to Use in Your Customer Service Responses

Written by Guest Blogger on August 5, 2013

Posted in Human Resources

Post last updated on February 16, 2016. Note: The author’s company, DDVskills, was named DDV Training when this post was originally published.

In an economy where the customer is becoming increasingly demanding and the competition has already become that much stronger, it is vital to stand out and deliver something nobody else does. Research has shown that customers value good customer service more than the quality of the products or services themselves. If you get it right, the customer will become an ambassador for you and your company. If you get it wrong, all the hard work you’ve been doing is for nothing.

It takes much longer to rebuild a name than to build one. As a customer service specialist, I am probably the worst customer you could imagine. I get extremely frustrated when asked to spend money for below-par standards. Both a quick win to deal with a customer like me and a step in the right direction is the use of positive language.

Do you know how to answer customer service questions with positive language? Here are  some phrases you should practice using (or avoiding) in your customer service responses:

don't say, do say

DON’T: I don’t know.

What do you mean, you don’t know? When a customer hears this phrase, any positive thoughts he or she may have previously had about your skills are immediately down the drain. After all, you are a paid specialist, and you don’t know!

DO: That’s a good question. Let me find out for you.

You are saying the same thing: “I don’t know.” The difference here is that you have managed to enhance the customer’s positive thoughts by boosting his or her self-worth. After all, you are a paid specialist, and the customer has come up with a question that even you don’t know how to the answer!

DON’T: I can’t.

You always can, but sometimes you don’t want to. Customers won’t accept “I can’t” for an answer because they will think you don’t value them enough to make the effort. Why should they spend their money with you when you can’t be bothered to earn it?

DO: I wish we could.

What a positive way of saying you can’t. When hearing this phrase in your customer service responses, your customer believes that you want to try everything possible, but you know through your experience that it cannot happen. Now, you will get a customer who believes in the effort that you are willing to invest.

DON’T: You’ll have to …

… complete more paperwork, get me those documents first, etc. Ordering customers to do something is paramount to telling them to deliver the service that you are selling. Never tell customers that an action is their responsibility. The only thing the customer has to do is pay for the service that you are supposed to be providing.

DO: We need to …

This is a much better way of communicating that actions need to be completed but cannot be completed by you alone. In fact, help the customer complete those documents. Prepare all you can so that there is little left for your customer to act upon.

DON’T: Just wait a second. I’ll be right back.

Your customer might have to be somewhere and doesn’t have the time to wait. What is so important that your customer must wait for you? Even if that errand is essential, you are communicating that the customer is not your number one concern.

DO: Are you able to wait a minute?

Asking your customers if they have the time to wait communicates that they are your first concern, as the decision on how they spend the time is given to them. If the customers genuinely don’t have the time, they will tell you and allow you to reschedule to a time where they don’t feel pressured to rush. In most cases, of course, clients will be pleased to wait because you have given them control of the decision.

Bonus Tip: Always Avoid “No”

Never start a sentence with “no.” The word “no” is, without doubt, the most negative word available. All dog trainers will tell you that you should never combine “no” with the name of your pet. If a dog hears the negativity, please do not expect your customers to be any different. When considering how to answer customer service questions, try to think of all the words that are negative in nature and replace them with positive words. You may be surprised at how difficult it is. I can assure you that it will become natural with a little self-awareness and practice.

Customer Service Excellence

Now you are taking a few steps in the right direction and are growing in your understanding of customer service excellence. Get educated and invest in your professional development. I can promise you that those who do will create loyal customers that will go out of their way to market your services for you.


About the Author

Customer Service Expert Davy Davies-Vaneetvelde

Davy Davies-Vaneetvelde (@DDVskills) lives in South Africa and runs a successful business called DDVskills. DDVskills is a training provider in professional skills, focused on customer service and sales. Davy provides training services at lower prices in order to reach the smaller companies that normally don’t have large budgets set aside for training purposes. It’s Davy’s belief that we all need to have access to tools to improve ourselves professionally.