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Word Choice Matters:
Six Phrases That Will Change the Way You Do Customer Service.

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How to deliver better support by saying the right things.

As it turns out, phrasing is responsible for a lot more than funny fails.

In fact, word choice can make a huge difference when it comes to changing the way people act or feel.

Late last year, Facebook changed the “Hide/Mark as spam” option to “I don’t want to see this.

The result?

A 58% increase in the number of people who would provide feedback on posts in their feed.

Just from changing a few words!

The same principle applies in customer service: using the right key phrases in your interactions can make the difference between a poor customer experience and a delightful one.

Below you’ll find a list of six phrases to use to deliver better customer service and build deeper relationships with your customers.

Six Phrases That Work for Excellent Customer Service

1) “I Don’t Know, but I’ll Find Out for You.”

A few years ago, I was moving out my apartment in San Francisco and needed to cancel my cable service.

I called my cable company and told them what I wanted to do.

This would be a good time to note that this particular cable company has been voted “The Worst Company In America” this year by Consumerist readers… for the second time.

Rep: “You’ll need to call the Accounts department.”
Me: “Oh, okay. Can you please transfer me?”
Rep: “We can’t do that. Here’s their number.”

Feeling the love, I dialed the Accounts department…

New Rep: “Yeah, you’re going to have to call Retention. Their number is…”

I spent another 45 minutes on hold before giving up for the day, and it wasn’t until I publicly complained on Twitter that the company finally reached out to help.

The only reason I’m still a customer is that, for internet, I don’t have another choice.

For most of us, though, our customers do have a choice. And handing them off like hot potatoes is a great way to drive them from your business.

In a 2011 customer service survey, American Express asked respondents which common customer service phrases annoyed them most.

The winner?

Good customer service isn’t always about knowing the right answer. Often, it’s about finding the right answer so that your customer doesn’t have to.

2) “I’d Be Frustrated Too.”

There’s plenty of research on the importance of empathy in customer service, but the topic is best summed up by Seth Godin in a one-line blog post:

The simplest customer service frustration question of all:
“Why isn’t this as important to you as it is to me?”

We’ve all been there, whether it’s in a customer support setting or an argument with a friend or family member: it doesn’t feel good to talk to someone when you don’t think the person “gets” why you’re mad, upset or disappointed.

That’s why it’s critical to not just have empathy, but to convey it to your customer.

3) “I’d Be Happy to Help You With This.”

Researchers Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman, in their book Words Can Change Your Brain, found that using — and hearing — positive words can actually change the way we see reality.

Simply by using positive words, you can make your customers (and yourself) feel more positive.

In a world where 95% of customers have taken action (e.g. abandoned a business or complained about it to others) because of a negative customer experience, a simple tactic like adding more positive power words to your support interactions can make a big difference.

So when a customer emails you about an issue that they’re having, instead of responding with “I’ll look into this for you,” tell them that you’d be happy to help.

4) “I’ll Send You an Update by [Day or Time].”

If a customer sends an email “checking in” on the status of their support request, we consider that a failure on our part.

In testing at Groove, we’ve found that customers who proactively reach out to us report satisfaction scores, on average, about 10% lower than customers who don’t inquire.

The two things that we do to avoid check-ins are:

  1. Make sure that we proactively keep the customer posted as often as possible (at least once per day).
  2. Let the customer know exactly when they should expect to hear from us.

While you can’t always promise a solution by a given time, you can always promise an update. Delivering on that promise doesn’t just keep the customer informed about the status of their request, but it’s another opportunity to build trust.

5) “I Really Appreciate You Letting Us Know.”

According to a survey by Lee Resources International, for every customer who complains, there are 26 customers who don’t say anything.

Each customer complaint could mean that dozens of other customers are having the same problem and not letting you know.

That means that resolving the problem for a single customer could make dozens of other customers happier at the same time.

That’s a huge opportunity. And a huge gift from the customer who decided to email you about it.

In Dale Carnegie’s famous book, How to Win Friends & Influence People, one of Carnegie’s fundamental techniques is being generous with appreciation.

“In our interpersonal relations we should never forget that all our associates are human beings and hunger for appreciation. It is the legal tender that all souls enjoy.”

To build better relationships with your customers (and anyone else), never miss an opportunity to thank them.

6) “Is There Anything Else I Can Help You With?”

Despite our best efforts and intentions, we don’t always get it right.

In fact, one survey suggests that although 94% of online retailers provide email customer service, 27% of email inquiries are answered incorrectly.

While I suspect that most of you reading this blog average much better than that, the fact remains that there are times that our answers don’t end up being helpful. The problem is that research (like the AmEx survey in the section above) shows us that most people won’t speak up about problems. So if your reply isn’t helpful, some customers won’t proactively ask you to clarify or help any further.

That’s what makes this one of the most helpful customer service phrases you can use. By leaving the door open and inviting the customer to respond, you’ll give them a chance to let you know if anything remains unresolved.

Add These Phrases to Your Customer Service Repertoire Today

Incorporating these keywords and phrases into your customer service interactions is an instant win; it’ll take no time to do, and will reward you with happier, more loyal customers.

Question: are there any phrases you’ve found to be “silver bullets” for making customers happier? Or are there any commonly used ones that instantly make you cringe?

Leave a comment and let me know!

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About the Author

Len Markidan heads up marketing at Groove. He’s focused on helping startups and small businesses build better relationships with their customers.

Read his latest posts or follow him on Twitter

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