Powerful secrets behind phrases (part 2)

15 February 2018Myra Knoesen

In part one of the article we delved into the world of words and the impact they can have on client interaction. In part two of the article we will take a look the phrases you need to use, in other words, what to say and what not to say.

Lynette Gil, Associate Digital Content Editor of, recently wrote an article in which she shared the nine negative phrases to avoid with clients (and what to say instead). The phrases apply to anyone, really.

Say this, not that

  1. Phrase number one: Don't say: “let me look into that.” Gil believes this is too vague, and makes the customer feel put off. Instead, provide a clear plan of action, and when the customer can expect a solution. What to say instead: “I’m going to do some more research. I will call you back with a solution by 3pm today.”
  2. Phrase number two: Don’t say: “unfortunately, no…” Gil believes there is always a better way to say no, besides just saying no. When people hear “no”, they instantly tune you out. What to say instead: “Although we cannot provide that, here’s a better/simpler option.”
  3. Phrase number three: Don’t say: “there’s nothing I can do.” Gil believes there is always something you can do, even if it is offering a listening and understanding ear. What to say instead: “I understand your frustration. What can I do to help?”
  4. Phrase number four: Don’t say: “let me correct you on that.” Gil believes this statement makes you sound like you are on the defence, which automatically sets you up to be the bad guy. What to say instead: “I must not have explained that correctly, my fault!”
  5. Phrase number five: Don’tsay: “there must have been a miscommunication.” Gil believes this is a passive aggressive way of placing the blame back on the customer. It will escalate the situation, and does nothing for problem solving. What to say instead: “I totally misunderstood your request. Let me fix it!”
  6. Phrase number six:Don’t say: “I’m Sorry, I’m Sorry, I’m Sorry.” Gil believes if you made an honest mistake apologise. But don’t use this as a filler for effective communication. Instead, work towards a solution. What to say instead: “I’m sorry you had to experience this, but don’t worry, we’ll make it right.
  7. Phrase number seven: Don’t say:“I have another call coming in, can you hang on?” Gil said that this should be avoided whenever possible, as it makes the customer feel like his or her problem doesn’t matter. What to say instead: “If you don’t mind, I’m going to put you on hold while I figure out a solution.”
  8. Phrase number eight: Don’t say: “I don’t have any record of your purchase/account.” Gil believes this statement will easily make the situation ten times worse. What to say instead: “Did you order under a different name/address/phone number? While I look for your account, how can I help you today?
  9. Phrase number nine: Don’t say: “that’s not something I can do.” Gil advises if a solution is outside your scope of involvement; quickly send the call to a superior. What to say instead: “I can’t make that call, but I know my supervisor will be happy to help. Let me transfer you right now.”

Distinction between success and failure

If you want to turn customer complaints from negatives to positives, you need to create processes and strategies for handling complaints as they arise.

The way companies handle grievances can mean the distinction between success and failure. Businesses that turn complaints into opportunities for building closer relationships with customers are the ones that are most likely to survive and prosper.

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