Remove all the dissatisfiers: FORBIDDEN PHRASES

“Customers perceive service in their own unique, idiosyncratic, emotional, irrational, end-of-the-day, and totally human terms. Perception is all there is!” Tom Peters.

Your Number One work responsibility is to WOW new customers and have customers return loyally, raving to others. So how do you do that? Be the customer. The customer pays for his experience, not yours. To him, image is everything, perception is reality, and feelings are facts. He buys with emotion and justifies that decision with reason. So he seeks the best emotional value in his experience, not your logical best price, service, or product. When your customer interacts with you, you are not a representative of the company. You ARE the company. And, as the company, you cannot begin to satisfy customers until you remove all the potential dissatisfiers. That means removing Forbidden Phrases. Forbidden Phrases are those which could potentially give a customer a bad impression of you and your company. The customer seeks his best value and, bluntly, one of the Forbidden Phrases is a poor one. Here are just a few:

“I’m new here.” “I’m in training.” “It’s my first day.” Be the customer. If you’re going to pay your hard-earned money, do you want to be served by a rookie? Your customer is no different. Saying that you’re new is your experience. The customer is seeking the best value for his experience. When you say you’re in training, your service is a poor value for his experience. Even more, he doesn’t care about your experience. All he cares about is his experience. 

“You’ll have to go to (call) …” The customer pays for his experience, not yours. He doesn’t HAVE TO do anything.

PROPER: You may have said, “Could you go to (call ) …”, but he might have a “pass onto pass onto pass onto …” negative experience.

It is best to say, “Let me walk you to (call) …” and do it quickly.

“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. You’re not lying to him because you haven’t said anything. And the best value for the customer’s experience is one that is quick, easy, and painless. 

“That’s not my job.” Be the customer. “Well, it looks like you work here. Why isn’t it your job and why don’t you find the person who does?” 

“I don’t 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 great question. Let me find out for you.” The best value for the customer is an experience when he feels he has a great question.

“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.” Or he is hearing “Okay,” which means “good.” So your customer feels your service is good, not better, just average. Nobody raves about average. 

“No problem.” Your customer has every expectation that his experience will be problem-free. No customer ever calls or walks into your establishment to proclaim, “Here I am. Here’s my money. Dissatisfy me now.” 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 the star of the show. And you are asking something so small that it is no problem.” Not exactly being customer-centric are you?

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

PROPER PHRASE: “Certainly.” His experience is not just “okay” or good, without a problem or just satisfactory. It’s “certainly” better.

“That happens all the time.” For example, “The hotel key you just gave me doesn’t work on my door.” “Oh, that happens all the time.” Here is what the customer wants to ask, “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 …” Be the customer. 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 explanation 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? The customer wants action, not excuses. At the very least, it should be that you are giving him an apology.

PROPER PHRASE: Simply say “I apologize.” with no excuses and do whatever it takes to work towards a resolution, even if it means recommending him to your competitor. Don’t “fire” the customer. Simply ask him to “resign.” “I apologize, but we can’t find a solution for you. Could I recommend this company (your competitor)? I could call them if you like.” Both are happy. The customer is happy because you found a quick fix. He has an emotional connection. The more emotional the connection, the more memorable the experience, the more loyal the customer. Ideally, the customer will remember later and return. The competitor is happy because you referred a customer to them. The competitor may refer a customer to you when they can’t fix a problem. A Mutual Admiration Society of sorts. 

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 problem-free, exceptional experience for them.

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Filed under Customer Satisfaction, Customer Service, Hospitality, Training

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