Talking to customers is tricky. It’s not an exaggeration to say certain words and expressions we use every day can plant the seed for discord in a relationship.
Today we’re looking into 8 things you should never say to customers, and what to say instead. Some are obvious, some are not — but we’ve all said them at some point.
“I’m not sure” or “I don’t know”
There’s no way around it — customers want certainty and reassurance. Since they hired you, they will often seek this reassurance in your words, and when they hear “I don’t know” as a reply to any question, it puts their trust to the test.
Of course it’s perfectly acceptable for you to not know something — for example, if the materials you ordered will arrive on time, or if it will rain on the day the client wants you to paint their exterior.
But when you’re not sure about something, it’s better to reply with a more straightforward: “I’ll check with my provider and let you know.” That’s much better than a vague “I don’t know.”
The same can be said for words like “Hopefully” and “Should” (as in “It should work”). They make you sound unsure of what you’re doing.
You have years of books, movies, and your own personal interactions as testament to the fact telling an angry individual to “calm down” has never worked. Ever.
When dealing with angry customers, the best course of action is to listen as much as possible. Asking them to “calm down” will only set them off further.
Be cool, and let them talk or rant as much as they want. Once they’re done, they’re much more likely to hear you out.
Having a casual tone is generally a good thing when talking to customers — no one likes talking to a robot. However, when a casual tone is used to disregard customer complaints, doubts, or suggestions, it makes for a terrible impression.
If you have to say “no”, say “no.”
Never “nope” the customer.
“It wasn’t my fault”
It doesn’t matter if it wasn’t your intention — if someone hires you for a job and something goes wrong, you have to treat it as if it were 100% your fault.
Saying “It wasn’t my fault” is too evasive. Remember: it’s your client. They hired you. If something went wrong, of course they will want to take it up with you.
Once you accept the fault is yours, it becomes much easier to have a real conversation with an unsatisfied customer.
“There’s nothing we can do” or “That’s not possible”
Many of the phrases we’ve been looking at in this article are bad because they mean something other than what you’re saying… and the customers can tell.
“There’s nothing we can do,” for example, means: “I don’t want to do anything.”
There’s always something you can do. Sometimes it’s worth going out of your way for a customer, especially if they are displeased with the service you provided. Whatever differences you might have, they will surely appreciate your effort to make amends.
The same can be said for the use of “Unfortunately.” No one likes to hear that.
“No offense, but…”
Another phrase that has never worked in the history of anything ever, yet people keep saying it.
What “No offense” really means is: “I’m about to say something very offensive, please don’t be offended by it.”
Despite popular belief, prefacing something offensive with “no offense” doesn’t make it OK.
The best thing you can do in this situation is simply not say anything offensive to the customer in the first place.
“This has never been a problem before”
You might say it when taking a defensive stance when facing a new problem, but this is a dangerous sentence because it undermines whatever the customer is saying.
To you it means “This is a new problem.”
For them it means “I am the problem.”
Naturally, no one would be happy to hear they are the problem when they thought they were making a fair point.
Whenever a new problem shows up, don’t imply anything about it being exclusive to this particular client — simply try to solve it.
This is a tricky one.
We use this expression all the time and most people see no problem (no pun intended) with it… But take a closer look and it falls apart.
First of all, both words are negative. It’s a simple case of word psychology — even when trying to say something positive, we fall victim to negative words and expressions. In most cases, it’s quite easy to replace them with something positive that carries the same meaning.
And second, it’s the way we use it. Whenever someone asks you to do something and you reply with “no problem”, what you’re really saying is: “I could have a problem with that, but I don’t.”
And the worst part?
It’s really hard to let go of saying “no problem.”
That’s probably why we use it so much. It’s very easy to say it in many situations, but because of that, it becomes a vapid, generic, standard response that doesn’t mean anything. We can be more creative than that.
A good place to start is: don’t say “No problem” when you should be saying “Thank you.”
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