4 Phrases NOT to Use With an Unhappy Customer

Some words and phrases have the potential to move a situation from bad to horrendous.  When you have a disappointed, frustrated or upset customer on the phone or in front of you, four phrases you definitely want to avoid are:

  1. ” As I told you…”  Use this one and your customer may respond with “So, what you’re saying is I’m an idiot?” Even if he doesn’t say the words out loud, you can be sure he’s thinking it.  The customer heard you just fine. He just doesn’t like what he heard.  It may have been the option or the way the option was presented.
  2. “You need to calm down.” Telling someone who is upset or angry to calm down is like throwing gas on a fire.  Instead of telling someone to calm down, give them some time to vent and then say something like “I’m sorry you’re frustrated (or upset or angry or disappointed). I’d like to help.
  3. “I don’t understand you.”  This sounds rude and refers to the person instead of the message.  Saying “I’m not quite sure I understand” is better. Even better is to simply start asking clarifying or probing questions to get the detail or information you need in order to understand.
  4. “You’re going to have to…”  If you’re prepared to hear “I don’t HAVE to do anything” back, go ahead and use this one.  No.  Actually just avoid it altogether.  A disappointed, upset or irate customer does not want to hear what they have to do.  They want to know what you’re going to do.  Saying something like “I need …” is much more effective.

What are some phrases you’ve heard (or perhaps used) that escalated a situation, instead of diffusing it?


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