The 5 Worst Things You Can Say to a Customer
Almost nothing leads to a customer service meltdown more quickly than the use of one particularly offensive phrase. You know it. Heck, we all know it. I don’t really even need to write it. However, just in case you’ve been hiding-out, here it is:
‘That’s our policy.’
I’d wager that even as you read those words, you flashed-back to a past personal experience in which someone spoke them as if they were a magic wand that would miraculously make you go away. But, of course, you didn’t go away. You just became more frustrated, and more convinced that particular company had little interest in your eventual satisfaction.
In seminars, I call it “TOP,” and it is a phrase that is less than useless. It is destructive. TOP is the customer service equivalent to “That’s tough” or “You’re out of luck.” It’s primary purpose is to shut down a conversation. TOP only accelerates the transformation of current customers into former customers, and was undoubtedly crafted by someone completely oblivious to the value of customer retention. Even worse, for some customers it’s a declaration of war. Every dispute-gone-viral tracked by my firm has involved some version of that terrible text.
Whenever someone tries TOP on me, I respond with a carefully crafted policy statement of my own, “Your internal policy decisions have nothing to do with my expectations of customer satisfaction.” And that’s the point, customers should not accept contract verbiage as an excuse for a less-than-promised product or service. “That’s our policy” might save a current sale, though all future business will likely be lost.
Instead Offer Alternatives: Rather than simply citing policy, we suggest explaining why you can’t do what it is the customer is asking, and then offering a list of alternative actions that you can help with. For instance, you can say, “I apologize, but unfortunately we can’t give you cash back for that item. I can give you store credit or let you exchange it, though. Which would you prefer?” This phrasing not only explains your policy in a polite way, but also puts the customer in control by allowing them to choose the next course of action.
‘There’s nothing I can do’
Your soon-to-be former customer replies, “Then why did I spend the last forty-five minutes on hold with you?” Plus, there’s always an option—returning the customer’s cash.
Instead, Find a Solution: Focus your team on problem solving rather than problem diverting. Give them the freedom to find creative alternatives. For instance, they could provide an additional discount on a similar product or extra loyalty points toward a future purchase to those customers whose request can’t be directly resolved. These options show that your company values their business and may help to diffuse their anger. Reward employees for innovative solutions and brushfires doused.
‘Would you mind holding for a moment?’
Of course they mind, and what if they say “No.”
Instead, Be Specific and Direct: Say, “I’m going to put you on hold while I speak with my supervisor, and I’ll check back with you in a minute or so if I haven’t received an answer by then.” Sure. It’s long-winded, but considerably more satisfying for your already frustrated customer.
‘You’ll have to go to our website.’
This is just another way of saying “I can’t help you.” Don’t make your customer hunt around with their browser after they’ve already waited on the phone.
Instead, Give Them What They Need: Take the time to email them a link directly to the page or necessary file, then follow up with them to ensure they found what they needed. This extra step doesn’t take much effort on your part and can go a long way in showing a customer that you care.
‘That’s the manufacturer’s responsibility.’
Or, as it’s sometimes put: “Our business partner will have to help you.” You’re telling your customers that while you’re happy to take their money at the time of sale, you’re not willing to back them in a crunch. The underlying principle is that your customer doesn’t have a financial relationship with your partner, supplier, or manufacturer… and therefore no leverage in negotiating a remedy.
Instead, Find a Solution: You took the customer’s money, so, whatever the problem is, it’s your responsibility to fix. Tell the customer that you’ll need to contact the supplier or partner directly to resolve the issue and get back with them by a certain date or time. Then, follow up with them by the arranged deadline.
As a retailer, what are words or phrases you try to keep your team away from? Share your customer service strategy in the comments section!
|Print article||This entry was posted by sschaefer on April 5, 2012 at 4:00 AM, and is filed under Tips and Tools for Retailers. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback from your own site.|