Customer service is not for the faint of heart. In fact, research has revealed that almost 100% of the time, customer service representatives on support calls need to deal with angry and unhappy customers. A single inappropriate word from the agent could snowball into an avalanche of negativity that could have far-reaching implications for the company involved. Of course, that does not mean that agents should simply try to humor or placate the customer. Apologizing repeatedly or promising a quick fix–especially one that doesn’t work–will only worsen the situation.
Every word a call center representative utters must be weighed carefully no matter what the situation might be. Studies have revealed that almost 70% of customers stop supporting a company if they feel they’ve been treated indifferently – even those that match the company’s ideal customer profile. Should bad customer service be coupled with high customer acquisition cost, the business is likely to implode.
Here are seven phrases and words to avoid on the phone during a support call:
1. You are Wrong
According to fan experience expert Ruby Newell-Legner, it takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved bad experience. Telling a client that he is just plain wrong is perhaps the worst thing that a customer service rep can say. It is akin to questioning the customer’s capabilities and perspective. It would be a tall order to convince him to stay after that blunder.
Even if a customer is truly wrong, customer service language should always be kept respectful and diplomatic. The best response would be to encourage him to explain what he has been doing, and then emphatically walk him through the right method step-by-step.
2. That’s not something I can help you with
The main reason why customers call the support line is to get help in solving a problem. Saying that there is nothing the agent can do to help defeats the purpose and will just make the customer feel as if he wasted several minutes of his life.
Customer service representatives always have to offer some form of assistance to the client, even if it is just offering to listen and understand his or her concerns. If the customer is asking a technical question and it is already beyond the agent’s understanding, the agent should first explain that he is not an expert, and then recommend someone within the organization who will be able to solve the problem. Another option is to forward the concern to the rep’s superior.
3. That’s our policy
Talking about company policy is like saying, “There’s nothing more we can do. Either you take it or leave it.” It closes the conversation when, in fact, customer service is all about opening the communication lines so that both parties will see eye to eye. Plus, customers simply don’t care about company policy; don’t make it their problem.
What the customer is interested in is how the situation can be resolved satisfactorily. Instead of saying that the request is against company policy, call center representatives should practice resourcefulness and think of practical ways to help a customer beyond the company rules and regulations.
4. Listen to me
Angry customers rarely listen. Hence, customer service trigger words like “listen to me” might easily come across as condescending and impatient, leading to an escalation of emotions that could make the situation a lot worse.
Instead of forcing a solution down a client’s throat, allow them first to vent their anger and frustrations before offering a solution in a cool, and calm manner. Never impose your beliefs on a customer.
While it may seem that being apologetic can pacify a customer, “sorry” is actually an example of what not to say to customers due to two things.
First, it might come across as inauthentic. The agent is often not the cause of the situation, so he does not have to imply guilt and further infuriate the customer. Second, it does not do anything to fix the problem.
If the agent makes an honest mistake during the support call, then it’s fine to apologize. But it should never be used as a filler for effective communication. Customer service reps should focus on providing a solution rather than apologizing profusely, as this will make the customer feel that the agent is genuinely trying to help.
6. I don’t know
Every call center agent knows that “I don’t know” is one of the forbidden phrases in customer service. It implies a lack of knowledge on the part of the service agent, reflecting badly not just on him but also on the company the agent is representing.
Unfortunately, it seems that incompetent customer service agents are a lot more common than one would hope. A study by Harris Interactive revealed that customer service representatives fail to answer clients’ questions almost 50% of the time.
It all boils down to proper training. Every service agent should be trained to tackle almost every query that comes their way. The appropriate response should be, “I’ll find out the answer for you.” It might not be what the customer wants to hear, but it shows the agent is both prepared and willing to help.
7. Thank you for your feedback
Though often included in customer service agents’ scripts, this line should rather be included in what not to say to a customer. It comes across as robotic and insincere, as almost every representative out there is using this phrase to end the conversation.
According to a study by the E-tailing Group, an impersonal tone–such as the one brought about by this ubiquitous phrase–can make companies miss an opportune moment to connect with current and prospective customers.
Agents should thank customers in their own authentic way instead. The formality of the script should not hinder reps in expressing sincere gratitude.
So, aside from making sure that clients get top quality goods and services, providing helpful customer support is a great way to satisfy clients’ needs and maintain the success of a business!
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