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Some of the keys to delivering exceptional customer service are big, obvious things such as:

  • Avoid being rude to customers
  • Don’t make customers wait a long time to receive service
  • Fix customer problems and address complaints

These are things that your company is hopefully already doing and, if they aren’t, they’re at least changes that are easy to implement and should bring about almost immediate results.

But what happens when you feel that your employees have addressed all of the big-ticket items and you’re STILL feeling negative repercussions from bad service? Since 80% of consumers surveyed by Zendesk reported that they would switch to a new company after multiple bad service experiences, you might even be losing large numbers of customers.

In this scenario, it’s time to start looking to address the little things that might be preventing your employees from delivering the best possible service to your customers. This includes the mistakes they may be making that seem perfectly innocent in another situation but are doing harm in service scenarios.

The Negative Impact of “Killer Words”

Although typically used with good intentions, there are a handful of phrases that have the distinct effect of damaging customer relationships when used in customer service situations. Despite being well-intended, this collection of phrases is proven to annoy and alienate clients and prospects, preventing future business relationships before they even had a chance to begin.


They can be equally damaging to existing customer relationships and potential future relationships or deals. By identifying these phrases and learning their preferred alternatives, your employees will improve the communication skills they use with your company’s customers and prospects.

The impact of these “killer words” and harmful phrases illustrates an important point: regardless of employee intent, the customer’s perception of the situation is what matters most. These particular phrases are susceptible to misinterpretation by the customer and therefore can be lethal to customer service.

According to Salesforce Research, 78% of customers will do business with a company again even after a mistake if the service they receive is considered excellent. Mistakenly using one of these “killer words” or inadvisable phrases is sure to eliminate the chance of fixing the customer’s problem and locking in repeat business.


Eight Phrases to Avoid

Have you ever been in a situation where you were interacting with someone who, for whatever reason, was upset or emotional? Your first inclination might be to tell that person to “just calm down” so that you can better understand and help them. But, if you’ve ever actually tried this technique, you’re likely aware that this is not a great course of action.

The other person might respond by:

  • Turning from merely frustrated to completely irate
  • Shutting down or leaving the conversation completely
  • Telling others about their poor experience

Very rarely does anyone respond well to being told to “calm down” regardless of how good the intentions are when using these words. This is true when trying to address a customer service problem as well.

If a customer is upset or inconvenienced enough by a problem with your product or service to take the time to contact your company, it’s highly unlikely that their problem will be solved by your instruction to change their behavior. In fact, telling the customer this is considered rude and annoying and will likely alienate them. Further, you run the risk of making the customer even more frustrated or upset by saying this to them, damaging the relationship between the customer and your company, and eliminating any chance of future business.

Suggested Alternatives to the “Killer Words”

Rather than suggesting someone “calm down,” focus your effort and energy on fixing the problem that has made the customer upset in the first place. Your customer’s behavior is likely to de-escalate when they see that you understand the inconvenience they’ve experienced and are doing all that you can to solve their problem completely. While it may be a gut reaction to gently suggest that the customer “calm down” before you can begin helping them, this is a killer phrase that is best removed from the vocabulary of every customer service representative at your company.

Addressing this one commonly used but distinctly harmful phrase is a great start; however, once you see the impact that even this small change has on your customer satisfaction and retention, you’ll undoubtedly be curious to learn the other seven phrases and their more acceptable alternatives. To find out what other “killer words” could be plaguing your company, contact a ServiceSkills representative today and request a free demo. Interested in learning more customer service skills and techniques? Check out some of our recent posts!