Remove all the dissatisfiers: Forbidden Phrases

Your Number One work responsibility is to attract and retain customers. So how do you do that? Be the customer. When your customer interacts with you, you are not an individual. To the customer, you are your company. And as the company, you cannot begin to satisfy customers until you remove all the dissatisfiers. That means removing forbidden phrases. Forbidden phrases are those which could potentially give a customer a poor impression of you and your company. Here are just a few:

“I’m new here.” “I’m in training.” “It’s my first day.” Think like the customer. If he is going to pay you his hard-earned money, does he want to be served by a rookie?  If you were the customer, you would want to be served by the most knowledgeable person within the company. Your customer is no different.

“To be honest with you . . .” What is the customer hearing? “. . . because I lie to you the rest of the time.”

PROPER: Simply do not use any of these phrases.

“That’s not my job.” “I don’t know.” Think like the customer. “Well, it looks like you work here. Why isn’t it your job and why don’t you know?”  When you say “I don’t know.” you are saying to your customer, “I don’t know. They didn’t train me well and this company always keeps me in the dark.”

“I think . . .” or “I believe. . .” “What time does the mall across the street open on Sunday?” “I think 11 a.m.” Here is what the customer is hearing you say, “I have no clue, but here is my best guess. . . “

PROPER PHRASE: “That’s a very good question. Let me find out for you.”

“Okay.” Your customers may be parents. When they asked their six-year-old, “Are you going to clean your room before dinner?” and the child said, “Okay,” what were the parents thinking? When the parents asked their sixteen-year-old, “You’re going to be home by midnight, right?” and the teen said “Okay,” what do you think the parents were thinking? “Okay” to them means “Maybe. Maybe not.” So when you say “Okay” the customer is hearing “Maybe. Maybe not.”

“No problem.” Your customer has an expectation that his experience will be problem-free. No customer ever walks into your establishment and says, “Here I am. Here’s my money. Now dissatisfy me.”  When you say, “No problem.” your customer is thinking, “Why? Was there a possibility that it would be a problem? At the same time, “No problem” means “no problem to you.” What you are saying to your customer is, “Of the two of us, I am more important than you.” Not exactly being customer-centric are you?

“Okay” and “No problem” are saying to the customer, “We will meet your minimal expectation”. And since you are intent on delivering outstanding service, should anything simply be “okay” or “No problem”? Of course not.

PROPER PHRASE: Certainly. My Pleasure.

“That happens all the time.” For example, “The hotel key you just gave me doesn’t work in my door.” “Oh, that happens all the time.” Here is what the customer is hearing, “Well, if it happens all the time here, why don’t you fix it?”

PROPER PHRASE: I apologize. (More on this below.)

“Our policy is  . . .” What is the customer hearing? Here is what he is hearing you say, “What I am about to tell you will cover us. You’re simply not going to like it. But that’s your problem.”

PROPER PHRASE: Explain what the policy is but don’t use the word “policy.”

“I’m sorry.  We’re a little understaffed.” or “Someone called in sick today.” or “I’m sorry” plus any reason why you were unable to deliver.

The customer did not expect to be dissatisfied when he walked into your establishment. Any reason you give about why you did not meet his expectation is not being heard as a reason. It’s being heard as an excuse. He doesn’t want an excuse. The customer is paying for his experience, not yours. “I’m sorry” is your experience. Bluntly he doesn’t care how you feel. What’s in it for him? At the very least, it should be that you are giving him an apology.

PROPER PHRASE: Simply say “I apologize.” with no excuses and work towards a resolution.

QUI TAKEAWAY: Are there any forbidden phrases that are specific to your industry? “Checking in? or “Checking out?” for hotels. “Just one?” or “Are you done with that?” for restaurants. Identify and eliminate them from conversations with your customers and you will be on your way to delivering a better experience for them.

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Filed under Customer Satisfaction, Customer Service, Hospitality, Training

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