10 Phrases that Will Always Make Me Cringe

Kyra Deprez

Every day customer service representatives face situations – when WHAT they SAY – will make or break a service interaction. Scary thought, right?!

Below are ten phrases that should never be used because they frustrate and anger customers.

  • “No.”
  • “I don’t know.”
  • “That’s not my job./That’s not my department.”
  • “You are right – that *is* bad!”
  • “Calm down.”
  • “I’m busy right now.”
  • “Call me back.”
  • “That’s not my fault.”
  • “You need to talk to my supervisor.”
  • “You want it by, when!?”


Do you have customer service representatives?  You’ll want to print & laminate this tip sheet STAT!

No

Everyone hates the word “no”. It’s de-motivating, discouraging, and disinteresting. You’ll hear this word throughout your life as a customer and as a service provider. “No” is tantamount to “bad service.” “No” is easy, cheap, unproductive and negative – it means failure. Unfortunately, “no” is the word we most often hear when a new idea, request or concept is introduced.  Sure, there are times when you’ll have to say “no,” but focus on what you can do for the customer (accentuate the positive) and not the negatives of the situation. Better to say “What I can do is…” and demonstrate that you care and want to provide quality service despite your current limitations.

I don’t know

Good service means never saying, “I don’t know.” When a customer hears “I don’t know,” they hear, “I don’t feel like finding the information you need.” Better to say, “I’ll find out” or “Let me look into this and get back to you ASAP.”

That’s not my job/That’s not my department

Oooo…This is one of my favorites!  When a customer asks you to do something that you do not know how to do or do not have the authority to do.  All you need to do is lead the customer to the person or department who can help him/her solve the problem, but stay on the line until you know that the client is being helped. Better to say, “Let me transfer you to the person who can immediately help you will this problem.”

You’re right – that *is* bad!

Many inexperienced customer service representatives think that by sympathizing with the customer’s plight, he/she will win over the customer rather than actually doing something to solve the customer’s problem. If a customer expresses annoyance or frustration, do not make it worse by commiserating with him/her. Empathize with the customer,  but try to solve the problem.

It doesn’t do your company or organization any good to criticize co-workers or other departments within the company or to the customers. Everyone ends up looking unprofessional and inept.  Try your best to accommodate the customer. Don’t promise anything you can’t deliver, but do try to serve the customer well. Better to say, “I understand your frustration, let’s see how we can solve this problem.”

Calm down

When customers are upset or angry let them vent (within reason) and they will eventually calm down. Telling them to “calm down” is belittling, and often serves only to infuriate them further. Better to say, “I’m sorry.” This is one of the ideal phrases for customer service – it helps to placate the angriest of customers and allows you to begin the process of solving a customer complaint or request and “meet him/her half way.”

Apologizing does not mean you agree with the customer, but it is a means to empathize and move beyond the emotion of the moment and negative impact.

Being too busy is tantamount to saying that you do not care, and they are not important. Click To Tweet

I’m busy right now

It’s not easy to juggle customers. You are often helping one customer when another calls or visits your service area. Asking a customer to be patient or politely asking them to wait is very different than putting them off and saying you are too busy to help. Leaving them standing there or on hold are two of the mortal sins of customer service.

“Being too busy” is tantamount to saying that you don’t care and they’re not important. Let the customer know they are important and you are aware of their presence. Better to say, “I’ll be with you in one moment” or “Please hold and I’ll be right with you.”

Call me back

This expression conveys that you have little-to-no interest for the needs and wants of the customer. You should always call the customer back because you want their business and are responsive to their requests. Being proactive is part of good customer service.

That’s not my fault

If an angry customer accuses you of creating a problem, rightly or wrongly, the natural reaction is to defend oneself. But this isn’t the best course of action. The customer has a problem that needs to be solved. By resisting the need to defend yourself, and focusing on the needs of the customer, you can resolve the problem faster and with less stress and confrontation. Better to say, “Let’s see what we can do about this problem.”

You Need to Talk to My Supervisor

So cliché right?  This phrase has angered and frustrated customers for decades. Customers often ask for things outside the scope of your work or authority – maybe even outside the services/products provided by your company. While passing off these requests to your manager is a tempting option, it’s better if you attempt to solve the problem yourself or directly go to the supervisor yourself and get a solution.  Become a service hero for the customer and the supervisor. Better to say, “Let me find that out for you.”  Delight them!

You Want it by, When!? (snicker-snicker)

Customers often make unrealistic demands, especially when it comes to time. Your first reaction may be annoyance and you may want to make a snide or sarcastic comment. However, the best approach is to hold-off on displaying a negative attitude and making a poor impression. Better to say, “I will call you right back after I find out if that’s possible.”

Are they any phrases I missed? Or are you sufficiently horrified!?

If you would like to read more about my take on customer service do’s and dont’s, download our Customer Service Handbook.

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