Powerful Phrases for Effective Customer Service
Communicating Powerful Phrases Customer Service
means finding the best solution for each customer, quickly, correctly, and with a helpful attitude. The above goal might be easy to accomplish when you’re handling those easy-to-satisfy, pleasant customers, but let’s face it: Many customers are not easily satisfied.
And they’re not always pleasant. In fact, they’re often hurried, stressed out, impatient, demanding, or downright rude; no one, it seems, has the time for all the niceties of interpersonal interaction anymore.
We live in a society where instant gratification is the norm.
Customers want service and they want it now.
Not later, not when it’s convenient for you.
NOW! As a service provider, it’s your job to give your customers great service, but you know that it’s often difficult to do. Dealing with customers can be challenging. They may leave you feeling frustrated, stressed out, angry, or visibly upset. They can sometimes leave you scrambling for the right words to say. They will occasionally flabbergast you to the point where you go blank and can’t think of an appropriate response.
And there are times when you completely regret the words that have flown out of your mouth. Knowing what to say when handling different types of customer behaviors is anything but easy. The truth is, the customer is not always right.
But . . . when you work in the service field, it’s your job to be courteous, respectful, and helpful, even when those behaviors aren’t exhibited by your customers. And, although customers may not always be right, it’s their perceptions of good service that matters and it’s how they’re being treated that’s important to them. You only succeed at providing exceptional service when your customers believe they’ve received exceptional service.
What if you possessed the skills to handle the less than ideal behaviors that some customers, and, at times, even you may display ? What if you knew how to quickly identify bad behavior and maintain control of the conversation ?
What if you knew the right words to say to diffuse any situation and professionally handle every customer to his or her satisfaction ? Using powerful phrases—the right words—when you communicate gives you the confidence that you’re communicating your best. As a result, your customers’ perceptions of service will be positive. It’s all about the words you choose.
What you say can make all the difference in how your customers view you and your company. Starting every customer interaction with a welcoming phrase helps put your best foot forward. By speaking courteously, respectfully, and enthusiastically, you foster an open dialogue with your customers.
Building a rapport and showing that you’re interested helps to make every interaction go smoothly. When appropriate, adding powerful phrases that convey empathy or regret indicate that you are genuinely concerned and truly understand the other person’s point of view. Ending every customer contact with powerful phrases of appreciation leaves a positive impression in any customer’s mind.
As you read this chapter, you’re going to learn helpful powerful phrases that will make every customer interaction end successfully, especially those that didn’t start that way, whether it was you or your customer who behaved badly.
Make the use of powerful phrases a habit, a part of your everyday vocabulary, and you’ll successfully handle every customer confidently and maintain control of any situation. Don’t Do This! Linda is a receptionist in a physician’s office.
Her responsibilities include greeting and checking in patients, answering the phone, and scheduling appointments. The morning had been unusually stressful for her. Earlier, the doctor was called to the hospital to perform emergency surgery and is now running approximately an hour behind in seeing office patients.
While Linda was busy phoning patients to reschedule appointments affected by the delay, she was also dealing with patients in the waiting room, many of whom were becoming impatient.
She was on a telephone call when she noticed that one of the patients who had been waiting almost an hour was standing at the window to the reception area. Linda did not make eye contact, but rather stared at her computer screen until she finished her phone call. She slid the window open. “Yeah?” she asked, with no emotion showing on her face.
“I’ve been waiting almost an hour now,” the patient responded. “Do you have any idea how long it’s going to be ?” “I told you when you checked in that the doctor’s running behind,” Linda answered in an annoyed tone. “I have no idea how long it’ll be. Do you want to wait or reschedule ?” “Well, I’m here.
The same thing could happen next time. I have no choice but to wait,” the patient replied, mocking Linda’s annoyed tone. Linda slid the window closed and picked up the phone to call the next patient on her list.
Why This Doesn’t Work Linda’s interaction with the patient didn’t work because she didn’t choose the correct words. Powerful phrases could have made all the difference! When she slid the window open, she said one word, Yeah?, in a tone that signaled she felt bothered. Linda could have used a powerful phrase that was welcoming, such as asking in an interested tone, How may I help you ? which would have gotten the conversation off on a more positive note.
When she failed to empathize with the patient about the lengthy wait and then spoke in a chastising manner, the patient became annoyed. Choosing powerful phrases that show regret and compassion, such as, I’m sorry that you’ve been waiting so long.
I understand that you’ve probably got other things to do today, and then following up with a statement of appreciation, such as I appreciate your patience, would have shown the patient that she cared. Had Linda incorporated powerful phrases into the dialogue, she would have paved the way to a successful interaction. Linda’s choice of words left the patient less than pleased, and she likely didn’t feel very positive about their conversation either.
Phrases of Welcome The first words you say to customers can welcome them into your business, giving them a sense of warmth and friendliness, or they can make your customers feel so uncomfortable that they want to leave. The temperature of your words can either be warm and inviting or cold and unwelcoming. It’s your choice.
When you choose phrases of welcome, you open the door wide and increase your chances of successful customer interactions. Sample Phrases of Welcome Offering a warm welcome to your customers helps break the ice, helps your customer begin forming a positive impression of you, and helps to create an atmosphere of comfort.
•“Hello/Hi!” •“Good morning/afternoon/evening!”
•“Welcome to _____!”
•“Thank you for calling ______. My name is___.”
•“Hi, Mr./Ms. _____. It’s great to see you again.”
•“I’m pleased to meet you.” (When introduced to a customer)
•“My name is _____.” (Offer when appropriate)
•“How may I help you ?”
•“What can I help you with today ?”
•“Can I help you find something ?”
•“May I help you with that ?”
Incorporating Phrases of Welcome Always be the first to greet your customers; they should never have to greet you first or ask for help. Offer a warm welcome to show your customers you’re happy they chose your business. Include in your welcoming phrase an offer to help.
For example: “Hi. Welcome to Pete’s Patio Shop ! How can I help you today ?”
If your company has a standard greeting, add a phrase of welcome to personalize the greeting. When you use these phrases and speak enthusiastically, it indicates your eagerness to help. Sound like you truly are interested in being of assistance. Show that you’re pleased the customer chose your business.
Even when their demeanor or facial expression is less than congenial, it’s your job to welcome them into your business and make them feel comfortable. Using phrases of welcome can improve even a negative person’s attitude.
Powerful Phrases Make the Difference Phrase: You walk into a store and spot a clerk behind the counter. She looks at you and asks in a bored tone, “Do you need anything?” You can’t help but wonder why she bothered asking. Powerful Phrase of Welcome: You walk into a store and spot a clerk behind the counter.
She looks at you, smiles, and enthusiastically says,
“Hi! How are you ?” You reply,
“I’m doing great, thanks.” She smiles, nods, and asks,
“How may I help you today ?” You return the smile, feeling comfortable that you came into this store. Phrases of Courtesy After welcoming customers into your place of business, how you handle the remainder of your interaction indicates how you view your customers, as well as how you view yourself.
Customers appreciate being treated courteously, so when you interject words and phrases of courtesy appropriately throughout your conversations, you show your customers that you respect them. Using phrases of courtesy can also help you promote a positive first impression and keep you on track to build a rapport with your customers.
When you form the habit of using these phrases, they’ll become a natural part of the vocabulary you consistently use. Sample Phrases of Courtesy Below are some examples of common courtesies that should be a part of your normal vocabulary with customers as well as with all others.
•“Please.” •“Thank you.”
•“You’re welcome.” •“Excuse me/Pardon me” (When you didn’t hear or when you need to ask the person to move.)
•“I apologize. I didn’t hear/understand what you said.”, or “I’m sorry,
I need to pass by.”
•“Will you?” rather than “You will.”
•“Yes,” rather than “Yeah.”
•“I’ll check and be right back.”
•“Will you hold for a moment while I check on that ?”
•“Thanks for waiting.”
•“Mr./Mrs./Ms. ______.” )
Address by first name only if you know that’s appropriate) Incorporating Phrases of Courtesy Using please, thank you, and you’re welcome shouldn’t need any explanation, yet it seems these words, especially thank you, are seldom used anymore.
Your customers will appreciate hearing these courtesies and a heartfelt thank you will go a long way. When you don’t understand someone, Huh ? will make your point, but saying Pardon me, Excuse me, or I’m sorry, I didn’t hear what you said, comes across more professionally.
Likewise, if you need to move by someone, prefacing your request with Pardon me or Excuse me indicates courtesy. Choose yes rather than yeah because it sounds better. Sir and Ma’am are signs of respect, but make sure to say them in a respectful rather than a condescending tone.
When you need to leave the customer to check something or place the customer on hold, explain what you’re doing. When you return, thank the customer for waiting. Lastly, people enjoy hearing their names, so if you know your customer’s name, interject it into your conversation.
Powerful Phrases Make the Difference Phrase:
You’re in a home improvement store and can’t find what you’re looking for. You ask an employee, “Do you carry electrical boxes ?” The employee looks up and says, “Huh ?”
You repeat the question. He replies, “Yeah, they’re in Aisle 2,” then turns and walks away. You walk to Aisle 2 and, still having a problem locating what you need, wish the employee had shown you where to find them.
Powerful Phrase of Courtesy: You ask an employee,
“Do you carry electrical boxes ?” The employee looks up, smiles, and says apologetically, “I’m sorry, I didn’t hear what you asked.” You repeat the question, to which he replies, “Yes, we do carry them.
You’ll find them in Aisle 2 next to the wiring supplies. In fact, I’m going that way. Why don’t I show you where to find them ?”
Phrases of Rapport When you welcome customers into your business and show respect by using phrases of courtesy, you set the stage to establish a rapport. This means finding common ground, or a starting point, for a conversation about something you and another person can relate to.
Show your customers from the start of your conversation that you’re friendly and interested in them. They’ll see that you’re approachable and that you want to help. They’ll likely respond in a positive manner. Pick up on the clues you receive from your customers, and you’ll find ways to begin building a rapport with them.
Sample Topics and Phrases of Rapport You can begin establishing a rapport in many ways. Below are some sample subjects that can be used to find common ground with others.
•Current events—subjects other than politics and religion.
•Weather—“How do you like this heat/cold/snow/rain ?”
•Sports—your customer is wearing a team logo—“Great game last night,
•Entertainment—if you can think of something relevant either to customers
or your interactions with them.
•Compliment—if you like something about your customer’s appearance,
offer a sincere comment—“I like your jacket.”
•Nonverbal cues—flustered mom with crying toddler—“I’m a mom and have been there. I’m going to take care of this as quickly as I can for you.”
(This also includes a powerful phrase of empathy, and displaying empathy is a great way to build rapport).
•General—if you can’t think of anything to say or can’t find common ground, smile warmly and ask—“How are you doing today ?” Incorporating Phrases of Rapport When you welcome your customers, listen to their opening statements, pay attention to nonverbal cues, try to pick up a clue or two to begin building a rapport.
Stick to safe subjects, such as the examples above. If your customer doesn’t appear to be friendly or receptive, avoid launching into what may be an unwelcome conversation.
Subjects that are always and absolutely taboo are politics, religion, and giving or asking overly personal information. Keep in mind that the purpose of establishing a rapport is to help your customer see you as a warm, empathetic person. When you can’t find common ground, it’s always a safe bet to offer a warm smile and ask,
“How are you doing today ?” Powerful Phrases Make the Difference Phrase: You walk into a trendy clothing store and feel slightly ill at ease because you’ve heard the merchandise can be pricey.
The salesperson standing behind the counter looks quite snobby. She says, “Good Morning. Let me know if I can help in any way,” in an icy tone. You look around for a very short time and, feeling uncomfortable, make a quick exit. Powerful Phrase of Rapport: Feeling slightly ill at ease, you walk into this store.
The salesperson walks toward you, smiles and says, “Good Morning. Welcome to Joseph’s Boutique.” Then she says, “I love your pink top. That’s a great color on you.” Her smile and compliment put you at ease. After thanking her and mentioning pink is your favorite color, she asks,
“We have some great tops in pink. What can I help you find today ?” You reply that you’re going to look around and the employee makes casual conversation as you leisurely browse. Phrases of Enthusiasm Welcoming your customers, using phrases of courtesy, and establishing a rapport are important components in any interaction because they serve a critical purpose:
Making your customers feel comfortable and at ease in your place of business, whether they are standing in front of you, holding a telephone to their ear, or communicating with you online. But let’s be honest: your customers don’t come to you for the purpose of feeling comfortable and making small talk.
They visit, call, or email you for a reason. They may want to make a purchase, have a question that needs to be answered, have a problem that needs to be resolved, or merely visit your business to browse. Responding to their needs enthusiastically will further their feelings of comfort when interacting with you.
Sample Phrases of Enthusiasm These are some examples of ways in which you can show your enthusiasm when responding to your customers.
How many more can you think of ?
•“I’ll be happy to help!”
•“Let’s try it!” •“I like that.”
•“That sounds great.”
Incorporating Phrases of Enthusiasm Words and phrases of enthusiasm are meant to show your eagerness to help. There’s something powerful about sending an enthusiastic, positive message: they make the recipient feel good.
It’s difficult saying words like definitely or absolutely in a bored or monotone voice. These and other enthusiasm words lend themselves to voicing a confident, self-assured manner.
When your customers state their needs, whether it’s to solve a problem or to get help finding a product, always respond with a phrase of enthusiasm to convey that you want to provide the best customer service possible.
Continue use phrases of enthusiasm throughout your interactions, as appropriate. Powerful Phrases Make the Difference Phrase: You were recently in the hospital for minor surgery.
This morning you opened your bill and can’t make sense of the ten pages of charges. You call the hospital’s billing department to ask for an explanation. The employee responds, “What’s your account number ?” You can’t help but wonder how well you’re going to understand the bill after speaking with this employee. Powerful Phrase of Enthusiasm:
You ask for help understanding the charges, and the employee answers, “I’ll be happy to explain the bill to you! May I have your account number please ?” Phrases of Assurance Many of your interactions with customers will be typical. That is, they need a product or service, and you provide what they want in the time frame and manner that suits them.
Your customers then leave your place of business satisfied with their experiences. But what happens when you handle customer complaints or problems—any situation in which customers feel they have been mishandled or mistreated, experienced a miscommunication, or are just confused ?
In these types of situations, you want to convey something more than an enthusiastic offer to help. You want to communicate a sense of urgency and let the customer know that the buck stops with you—that you’re going to take care of the problem.
Offering a statement of assurance keeps you confident and in control of the conversation. Sample Phrases of Assurance In those instances where you want to respond in a way that shows you paid attention to your customer and conveys your understanding of the problem, use one of the following phrases. •“I’m going to take care of this right now.”
•“I’m going to correct this for you immediately.”
•“Let me check on that right now.”
•“Let me see what happened so that I can correct it for you.”
•“I’ll check with my supervisor.”
•“I’ll get my supervisor for you.”
•“I’m going to get you to the department that can help,
and I’ll stay on the line until they answer.”
•“I’ll make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
•“I’m going to refer this to my supervisor to make sure it doesn’t happen in the future.”
Incorporating Phrases of Assurance Whenever a customer comes to you with a problem that needs to be resolved, the first words out of your mouth should always include a phrase of regret, along with a phrase of assurance.
You want to say something like “I’m sorry that happened” and follow it immediately with an assurance that you’re going to help. Speaking in the affirmative, “I’m going to take care of this right now,” will diffuse an upset or angry customer.
When you don’t know what to do or if the customer adamantly refuses your help, you have no choice but to get your supervisor involved. You may either ask your supervisor to make a determination or have the supervisor speak to the customer, whichever action is appropriate.
At times, you’ll need to refer a customer to another employee or department. If doing so by phone, always stay on the line, introduce the customer, and explain the customer’s request to the other employee before you hang up.
After handling any problem situation, closing with a statement such as “I’ll make sure that doesn’t happen again” tells the customer that you care enough to take measures so this type of problem does not recur. Powerful Phrases Make the Difference