Happy man sitting at a desk on a computer wearing a headset.
Excellent customer service expectations are at an all-time high for businesses, and a hallmark of good customer service is good communication. — Getty Images/PeopleImages

Customer service has never been more important. New data gathered after the pandemic shows that more than half of those surveyed (58%) have higher customer service expectations than a year ago. When a customer has a bad interaction with your business, it’s likely you’ll lose them for good.

One way to improve your customer service is to start with communication. The way you phrase your response can make the difference between a positive and negative outcome. Here are some phrases to avoid while serving your customers — and what to say instead.

“I’ll have to get back to you”

Sometimes, a customer issue can’t be solved on the spot. Maybe you need to stop the conversation so you can consult with the rest of your team. Or, maybe the issue is with a vendor partner, and you need to do some more digging to answer the customer’s question.

Taking time before calling someone back is fine. But the phrase, “I’ll have to get back to you,” can be frustrating to hear. It leaves the customer wondering when they may hear from you again, if ever. A customer who has been waiting on hold or gone through a few different people to reach you may feel exasperated that they’ll have to go through a lengthy contact process again to get an update.

What to say instead: “Be as specific as you can about your follow-up. If you don't know when the issue will be resolved, offer a call on a specific date to give an update on the situation,” wrote Sujan Patel in Inc.

“That’s against our policy”

This phrase can actually be useful for floor staff or checkout teams that need support when dealing with returns or refunds. But for managers and business owners, using this phrase can easily irritate a customer seeking support.

If someone has reached a point where their issue has been escalated to a senior team member, they probably aren’t interested in your store policy. “They're 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,” wrote Patel.

What to say instead: “I’m sorry to hear you’re having this issue. I’d be happy to offer you X to make this situation better. We value your business and want to thank you for your patience.”

[Read more: How to Handle Negative Customer Reviews]

Empower employees to become the sole point of contact when a customer gets in touch, routing requests behind the scenes so the customer only has to deal with one person.

“This isn’t my department, let me forward you to…”

Have you ever been sent on a wild goose chase by a company trying to find the right person to resolve your issue? It’s time-consuming, confusing, and damages the company’s credibility.

When the customer gets in touch with your company, they expect the first person they talk to to be able to figure out their problem. A HubSpot survey found that 42% of customers expect the customer service process to “feel easy and without friction.” The simplest way to create a frictionless customer service experience is to train your employees on your policies, processes, and FAQs so anyone can resolve the most basic customer issues. Empower employees to become the sole point of contact when a customer gets in touch, routing requests behind the scenes so the customer only has to deal with one person.

What to say instead: Of course, there are always technical questions that not every employee can answer. Make sure, however, that in forwarding those questions, the first employee stays involved. Try something like, “I can certainly help you, but X is the expert on this and I would like to bring them into the loop. Is that ok?”

“Are you sure?”

No, the customer isn’t always right. But making them feel wrong — or stupid — is never going to help the situation. Doubting someone’s statements or feelings will only make them feel worse.

What to say instead: If you’re pretty sure there’s an error on their side, ask questions to better understand what’s going on. Try something like: “Can you walk me through that one more time so I can make sure I can take care of what went wrong?" Try to keep the interaction focused on solutions, rather than the problem.

"Can you remind me what your last name and phone number are?"

This phrase applies directly to customer service call centers or someone in your office in charge of resolving issues over the phone. If someone has reached your customer service team after going through a phone menu, chatbot, or another channel, it’s likely the customer has already provided their contact information multiple times. It’s extremely frustrating to finally reach a live agent only to have to repeat yourself again.

What to say instead: Ideally, don’t say anything — use a CRM tool that keeps track of customer information so you have the information you need to address the person’s issue right away. Look for answering software that records each person's information and pulls up a record of their history with the company each time an agent gets on the line.

[Read more: Raising Pricing? Fired an Employee? Here's How to Communicate to Customers]

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published May 09, 2022