“Customer service, this is Kelly. Oh my God, I’m so sorry. That is so messed up. Everyone here is so upset; you have no idea. Rest assured, your voice has been heard. OK, I’ll be thinking about you all day.”
On the sitcom “The Office,” this is the line that customer service representative Kelly Kapoor says to each and every customer that calls her line at the company Dunder Mifflin. The character shows false sympathy for her customers, but not true empathy. And she provides individualized service either because she doesn’t really listen to their complaint or even try to help them.
Aside from not saying “I’m sorry” repeatedly, here are some other phrases your customer support team should never say.
Most customers who call for support aren’t calling to say how happy they are with a product; they’re calling to say something is not working and they probably aren’t happy about it. Though so many customers can be level-headed, others can be downright rude, angry, and irate. However, even if a customer service rep is being yelled at over the phone, they should never tell a customer to calm down. Instead, they should show empathy and say something like, “I understand how difficult that must be. Let me see how I can help you with that.”
“I can’t help you with that.”
Sometimes customers have problems that can stump newbie and veteran service agents alike. But instead of telling a customer, “I can’t help you with that,” your customer support agent should say, “Let me find out how I can help you with that.” This makes a customer feel confident that no matter the problem, a solution exists and will be given to them.
“I didn’t make the company policy.”
Since customer support teams represent the front lines of the business, they are often the ones who bear the burden of customer frustrations that may have risen from a top down policy change. Still, verbally passing the buck by saying, “I didn’t make the company policy,” doesn’t make a customer support agent look good at all.
“I don’t know”
If there’s one thing a customer service agent, should never, ever say, it’s “I don’t know.” This statement not only makes the customer service agent look incompetent and ill-equipped to do their job, but it also makes it seem like the company has a poorly trained support team. Instead of saying, “I don’t know,” the best customer service reps say something along the lines of “I’ll check on that for you.”
“Just look on our website.”
Telling a customer who has just hunted down the customer service number, dialed in, and probably went through a lot of automated phone prompts to get a real-live person to “Just look on our website” can be infuriating to the customer on the other end of the line. Nowadays, chances are the customer probably did have a look at the website but couldn’t find the answer they needed, which is why they’re calling to speak to someone. Or perhaps the customer is elderly and doesn’t use a computer or has a hard time navigating websites. Either way, this statement makes the customer service agent look lazy and uninterested in helping the customer, which is a big no-no in customer support. Instead, the agent should look for a solution to give to the customer over the phone.
While a member of the customer support team may in fact be new, telling an already angry or frustrated customer this truth will probably make them more anxious than they already are. In response, they’ll probably demand to be transferred to be a supervisor. To avoid this, new customer support agents should say, “I need to check with a colleague about this, will you please hold?” This statement makes them seem competent and capable of doing their jobs, despite their newbie status.
In the case of customer service, saying something positive is better than saying nothing. A customer should not have to feel a sense of panic, worrying if they’re still connected or on the line with the agent they’ve been speaking to. If a customer support agent is unsure of what to say in a given moment, they should either ask the customer if they’re willing to be put on hold or explain that they need to find out the answer to that particular question.
“I’ll have someone call you back in a few minutes.”
When a customer hears these words, a sense of dread most likely washes over them, even if the customer service agent intended for them to feel relief. When someone says they’ll call back in a few minutes that can actually mean a few minutes, but it could also mean an hour from now or two days from now. If someone else does need to call the customer back, it’s better for the agent to leave out any time specifications, so the customer can go about their day and not keep nervously checking the phone or sticking around a landline waiting for a call so they don’t miss it.
“I’m not sure, but I think…”
When customers call in for help, they expect to be greeted with an expert who is knowledgeable about the service or product they’re having problems with. So when a customer agent says, “I’m not sure, but I think,” it lessens the customer’s trust in the agent and the company. Instead, the agent should say, “Let me find out what would be best for you to do.”
“Are You Sure?”
Asking someone if they’re sure about something shows that you don’t trust them to be able to make up their own decisions or opinions, and puts them in a defensive mode. In customer service, you never want to do that or invalidate how the customer is feeling. Instead of saying, “Are you sure?” customer service agents should accept what the customer is saying as truth, and help them accordingly.