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7 Things to NEVER Say to a Customer

by Blog

Your customers are everything. After all, without them, your business wouldn’t exist. By avoiding these seven phrases, you’ll keep your customers happy and give them the best experience so they keep coming back. 

#1: “No.”

The word “no” should never stand alone in your team’s vocabulary (and could likely be taken out altogether!). Instead of saying “no” flat-out, provide an alternative solution. For example, if a customer asks if something is in stock, your cashier should never just say “no.” Instead, they can find out when it will be in stock and even go above and beyond to reserve it, call when it arrives, or even offer delivery, if that’s an option. 

If you’re unable to give your customer what they want, give them alternative options. This puts them in control and turns your response from “no” into a question that keeps the conversation moving toward a solution. 

“No” is a closed-off response. There’s no resolution or alternative offered. Sometimes, employees can get stuck in the black-and-white of what is or isn’t in their power, and responses like this close the door to other possibilities that could keep a customer around. 

If a customer requests something that simply cannot be done, empower your employees with alternative solutions they can offer. In general, it’s good practice to stay away from negative words like “can’t” or “won’t” and instead replace them with the positive, like, “What I can do is…”

By doing this, you show that you’re on the customer’s side and actively seeking to give them what they want to solve their problem. 

#2: “Sorry, we don’t have that,” or “It’s out of stock.”

Never let a customer leave without having a clear and specific next step. Otherwise, they’ll just go elsewhere. And you don’t want that! 

Instead of saying something is out of stock or that you don’t carry it, offer an immediate solution. That could be an alternative, a special order, or a delivery.

Remember, you aren’t there to just answer a question. You’re there to provide a solution to their problem and make sure they’re taken care of.

#3: “I don’t know.” 

It’s okay if your employees don’t know every answer to every possible question asked. However, always avoid this answer. Why? Because if they don’t know, the customer will simply find someone who does. 

Remember, you and your team are the experts in whatever you sell, so saying “I don’t know” doesn’t quite instill a sense of confidence in customers seeking your expertise. 

Instead, replace this with “Let me find out” or “Let me make sure,” followed by a quick search into whatever will enable a response. Don’t guess. If necessary, they can give the customer a specific day and time that they’ll receive a response if it requires a delay. 

If you or your team don’t know, it’s too easy for a customer to find someone who does. And no independent business can afford to lose customers because they can’t take care of them. 

#4: Nothing.

I called a small store the other day to see if they had something in stock. When I asked, the line went quiet. Were they still there? Did they hang up? What happened?

The clerk had gone to the computer to search but didn’t inform me of this, so I was left feeling confused and neglected. I experienced the complete opposite at the next store, where the team member let me know they were searching and gave me two alternative options when they discovered the item I wanted was out of stock. I ended up immediately ordering what they suggested. 

When working with customers, communicate! 

Inform them of your actions, so they know what you’re doing behind the scenes to help them. That way, they know you’re hard at work getting them what they need.

#5: “I know how you feel, but…”

The word “but” negates whatever is before it. It’s adversarial. Instead, train your team to use the word “and.” For example, “I know how you feel, and we’re going to solve this, so you leave happy.” 

Saying “Yes, and” instead of “Yes, but” is a common leadership and coaching tool to remain inclusive and open to what the other is saying in conversation. Your team should be empathetic to a customer’s concerns but still solution and value-focused. They should add value to the conversation with “and”not take away from it with “but.”

At the end of the day, the customer doesn’t just want empathy. 

That’s nice and all, but really, they want their problem solved and they came to you for a solution. Listen to your customer, then swiftly move along to find a way to give them what they need. 

#6: “That’s against our policy.”

Don’t expect your customer to memorize your policies or know why they exist in the first place. Saying this makes it seem like the business is not on the customer’s side. Policies are usually there for a reason, whether they be legal requirements or internal rules that were created as a response to challenges or situations that have come up in the past. 

Instead of simply closing the door on the conversation with this line, help them understand why in a positive and uplifting way that keeps the conversation moving toward a solution. 

Sometimes, policies may need revisiting and revising. If you, your team, or even your customers find that certain rules may be unnecessary or outdated, be open to feedback and revisions.

#7: “I’m so sorry that happened to you. I’ll let my manager know.”

This is something an employee at a natural grocer told me recently. I had bought some kabobs from the meat counter for a gathering, and when we sat down to eat them, they were inedible because they were extremely salty. When I returned and mentioned this incident to the employee at the counter, this was their response. 

For one, apologizing for something “that happened” isn’t an apology at all because it implies no responsibility. And the open-ended “I’ll let my manager know” gives no resolution or even a next step toward one. 

If a customer complains, take it as a gift (we’ll talk about this more in a later blog post). They’re voicing their concern and allowing you to resolve it rather than simply never coming back or complaining to everyone else. 

Instead of the above, offer something complementary to remedy the situation. If a team member doesn’t have the authority to resolve complaints on their own (note: this is something you should consider, but we’ll save that for another time), train them to take the customer’s name and number and promise a follow-up, then stick to it. No, “I’ll get back to you as soon as I can” nonsense. This is vague and, oftentimes, angering. 

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