Every hour your business is open, well-meaning employees sabotage your customer service experience and drive customers away. And they do it without any inkling that they’re doing anything wrong.
The culprit isn’t “entitlement,” tattoos, piercings or creativity with facial hair.
It’s much simpler and more insidious than any of that.
It’s language: the thoughtless use of words and phrases that leave a bad taste in customer mouths.
Which is why, in setting up customer service systems and designing customer experience frameworks for consulting clients, I work so hard to shape the words and turns of phrase that employees deploy in the course of doing business with the customers they serve.
There can be hundreds of interactions between a single customer and the employees who serve her in a service-intensive business (for example, a full-service hotel, a hospital, an outpatient clinic, a restaurant, a financial services institution, a law firm). So many of these language and interaction guidelines I set up for a client business are situation- and industry-specific.
However, some of the most important language guidelines apply across the board, regardless of industry. Here are five of the most persistently problematic from my hall of shame, along with an alternative for each of them that is more effective and less offensive.
1 “You need to _____” [fill out the application form, show your ID, whatever it is].
(A better alternative:‘‘We find it works best when you…’’)
When you tell a customer “You need to…” it makes customers resentful, thinking ‘‘I don’t need to do jack, buddy—I’m your customer!’’) Of course, customers do need to do things (pay their bills, show proper ID when required, and so forth). But there are many other ways to get this point across without baldly ordering a customer around.
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Forbes / Entrepreneurs