Customers need to know you are listening, and they require respect. Many businesses lose great and loyal customers because of the way they communicate. Worse, they often won’t know the reason—a customer who feels offended, disrespected, patronized, or treated with indifference will just go elsewhere and not come back. Help yourself and your employees to avoid these things you should never say to a customer to increase your chances of retaining your repeat buyers.
You Need to…You Should…You’re Not…
A customer with a problem isn’t interested in what they are supposed to do. They want to hear what you or your employees are going to do to fix the problem. Change “you” statements to “I” or “we” statements whenever you can. Instead of saying, “You have to make an appointment,” try, “I’d be happy to make an appointment for you.” Replace “you have to be here by 6” with “we close at 6, and your item will be ready before then.” And never say, “You’re not listening,” or “You seem confused,” or “You don’t understand.” Use affirmative, active listening techniques, such as, “I just want to be sure I understand so I can help you: You need to return the item, but you have lost the receipt? OK, here’s what I can do…”
There is Nothing I Can Do…That Would Violate Our Policy…Calm Down
There is no quicker way to alienate and anger a customer than by telling them that your hands are tied by policies or lack of authority. Telling an angry customer to calm down guarantees the opposite result. Instead, hear the customer out with affirmative acknowledgments: “I can see how that would be very upsetting!” or “I’m very sorry to hear that,” and when they have yelled themselves out enough, offer solutions: “Here is what I can do about that.”
Don’t Let Anyone Else Know, But…
Oversharing makes customers uncomfortable and can feel genuinely creepy. Your business may be a treasured presence in the community, but that doesn’t mean your patrons want to share your personal issues. Don’t tolerate employees complaining within earshot of customers or gossiping about the company or coworkers. Customers don’t come to your business to serve as your shoulder to cry on. If you have hit hard times or are just ready to move on and have decided to sell your business, never, never tell a customer about it. There really isn’t any such thing as a secret once you speak it out loud, and confidentiality and professionalism are critical to maintaining your business’s viability.
Other things you should never say to a customer are simply bad verbal habits, like saying, “sure” or “no problem.” Customers hear those throwaway words and lose confidence in your ability to address their concerns. Instead, be specific and say, “I’d be happy to take care of that for you,” or “I can have that ready by 3 p.m. tomorrow,” instead of “as soon as I can.” If the customer wants immediate action, find a way to give them something now that will tide them over until you can address the underlying issue. Addressing customers in a responsive, respectful, and accommodating way shows you care about them and want them to be satisfied.