1. I’m sorry you feel that way. The problem with this statement is that it doesn’t validate the customer’s complaint. It comes off sounding dismissive and irreverent rather than sincere and caring, and it will likely only increase tension, not diminish it.
Try saying this instead: “Oh, gosh. That does sound frustrating, and I’m sorry you’re going through this. Let me investigate further and see what solutions we can come up with.”
Why this is a better strategy: You’re acknowledging the customer’s complaint. This simple validation—I hear you—can go a long way in defusing a customer’s anger. Plus, you’re showing the customer that you’ve really heard his complaint by offering to investigate further.
2. Sorry, but we can’t do that. We understand that the customer might be asking for something unreasonable, impossible, or both. So saying “sorry, but we can’t do that,” (and nothing more) might sound perfectly acceptable to you. But put yourself in the customer’s shoes. A response like this could come off as flip and unhelpful. If you work in customer service, your job is to help the customer, not frustrate her more. What she wants might not be something you can do. But you can gently and compassionately explain why and offer some other options, right?
Try saying this instead: “Oh, boy…I wish I had better news, but, unfortunately, we can’t do that, and here’s why.” (Then offer a reasonable explanation). “But here’s what we can do.” (Offer an alternative.)
Why this is a better strategy: You’re essentially saying the same thing, but you’re softening the delivery, and you’re offering solutions to the problem.
3. You’re wrong. Let’s face it: no truer statement might have ever been spoken. But we guarantee you’re not going to defuse a customer’s anger by saying it.
Try saying this instead: “Let me investigate this further for you. Can I call or email you back within the hour?”
Why this is a better strategy: The person who is yelling at you on the phone needs to get it out of his or her system. Chances are good that in an hour, the person will have cooled down a bit. (Yes, there are always exceptions.) Plus, this “cool down” gives you time to truly investigate further (in other words, the offer to look into things shouldn’t simply be lip service).
This extra time might allow you to gather objective evidence—an invoice, a web page on your site that outlines policies, and so forth—that will support your position (i.e. this “evidence” will demonstrate that the customer is, in fact, wrong, but without you have to bluntly state it).
4. There’s nothing I can do. There’s always something you can do, right? The customer might not like what you have to offer, but at least you’ve made a genuine effort.
Try saying this instead: “Let me regroup and see what we can do. I’ll email you options by the end of the day.”
Why this is a better strategy: First, it shows you’re making an effort on the customer’s behalf. You’ve heard the customer, and you’re acting on it. As we mentioned above, this is often the main thing the customer needs: to be heard. Second, by moving the conversation to email, you create a paper trail, you have more control over the conversation (upset customers can escalate quickly on the phone), and you put the ball back in the customer’s court. You’re providing options, now the customer needs to make the “final” call.
Sure, you will sometimes encounter a customer who won’t be satisfied with any of the options. That’s when you can say, “Unfortunately, those are the only options available right now.” (This is still softer than saying, “There’s nothing I can do.”) At this point, the customer might decide to walk away (or you might decide to essentially “fire” the customer, which is fine). But whatever you say, say it with respect and authenticity.
5. Is there something else I can help you with? Sounds like a friendly statement, doesn’t it? But have you ever dealt with a customer service rep who doesn’t help you—at all—with your main complaint, talks in circles, and then has the gall to ask “is there anything else I can help you with?” (As you probably guessed, we’ve had this happen to us.)
Try saying this instead: “You called about X. Have I taken care of all of your concerns with that?” (LISTEN to the customer, including the person’s tone of voice. And ask yourself if you’ve really helped the person. Be honest with yourself.) If the person says yes (and you believe her), then you can ask, “Is there anything else I can help you with today?”
Why this strategy is better: What’s the point in asking if you can help more when you haven’t even helped the person to begin with? Don’t rush to end the conversation (in call centers, closing cases is important, but we believe it’s even more important to close them successfully, meaning the customer is satisfied and won’t call back). By asking the customer if you’ve indeed helped her with her initial problem, you’re clarifying—to her and yourself—whether you can move on to your next question.
Agree or disagree with our suggestions? Are there any other no-no’s you’d add to this list? Share away in the comments!