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Five FORBIDDEN Phrases of Customer Service

Imagine this scenario: your employees have mastered the Service Mentality. They’re using excellent listening skills, and they’ve got the hang of effective questioning techniques. All of the customer service-related boxes are being checked, right? But your company is STILL experiencing some customer service blunders. What can you do?!

Could it be that five unassuming and commonly used phrases are causing some of this trouble?

What ARE the Five Forbidden Phrases?

The Five Forbidden Phrases are likely not ones you would expect. After all, your highly skilled and well-trained employees would know to avoid being outwardly rude or offensive to customers. These are phrases that slip into everyday conversation and, in many other non-professional settings, would not cause much harm.

At face value, they even seem honest and are often used in an attempt to be transparent and helpful with customers. These are phrases that are used in any customer service situation, whether that be over the phone, on email or face-to-face. When examined, however, it becomes apparent why these particular phrases can actually come across as unfriendly or even harmful when used in a customer service context.


Customer Service Challenges

Despite being aware of the need for above-average customer service, you or your colleagues and employees may be using one or all of these phrases. For instance, have you ever said (or heard someone else say) “I don’t know” during a customer service interaction? While saying this phrase to a friend wouldn’t raise any red flags, the stakes are different with a customer. These are three words that seem harmless and may in fact be true but can have a negative impact on your customer’s experience with your company. Let’s explore why.

Why should I remove the Five Forbidden Phrases from my vocabulary?

When a customer service representative replies to a question or request by saying, “I don’t know,” the customer might think a number of things including:

  • “That was rude!”
  • “If they don’t know, who will?!”
  • “What a waste of time!”

The other Forbidden Phrases are equally unassuming; however, once you become aware of them, you’re able to see how frequently you or your colleagues are using these phrases in customer interactions as well as exactly what the implications of this can be. Removing these phrases from your speech will improve the way you communicate with customers in an important way – communication will become significantly more positive.

Improved communication will have important effects on your company’s bottom line. After all, most of your competitors are unlikely to know the powerful negative impact of phrases as seemingly innocuous as “I don’t know.” According to research from Qualtrics XM Institute, 89% of companies with “significantly above average” customer service generate more money than their competitors. These slight changes could be the difference between good and excellent customer service – particularly when compared to a competitor who doesn’t have the advantage of knowing these Five Forbidden Phrases to avoid.

Solve Customer Service Challenges

What can I do if I’ve been using one (or all) of the Forbidden Phrases?

These phrases are so important to be aware of because of how frequently they are used. If you or your colleagues have been known to use any or all of the Forbidden Phrases, you’ll benefit from learning the alternative options. These less harmful counterparts are different ways of communicating a similar message, but they’ll do so in a way that demonstrates to customers that you’re willing and able to help solve their problems.

For example, instead of replying, “I don’t know” to a customer’s question, try, “That’s a great question. Let me find out for you.” The underlying meaning is the same: you’re not quite sure of the answer to their question or request. Instead of providing a helpless reply, however, this alternative option tells the customer that you’re taking action to find an answer for them. It demonstrates ownership over the situation and makes the customer feel as though they’ve contacted the right person and company to handle their problem.

Customers who have excellent service experiences, which includes feeling like the company’s representatives were competent and enthusiastic in solving problems and answering questions, are more likely to be repeat customers who spend more during each transaction, according to research from Bain & Company, Inc. Swapping out the Five Forbidden Phrases for easy, helpful and positive alternatives will help your organization deliver excellent customer service, retain customers and increase company earnings.

To find out the rest of the Five Forbidden Phrases and their preferred alternatives, request a complimentary demo code.