8 Things You Should Never Say to Customers

Last Updated Sep 15, 2011 11:38 AM EDT

Great customer relationships: Hard to establish, easy to ruin -- especially when you say the wrong things.
Here are eight things you should never say to customers (even if you would secretly love to):
  1. "No." A boss once told me, "Never tell a customer no. Always say, 'Yes, we can. Here's what that will cost.'" If you absolutely can't provide a certain product or service, you can't, but often you can't simply because you don't want to. (In the example above I didn't want to. What the customer had asked for was certainly possible but would have been a real pain to pull off.) Price unusual requests accordingly: If you can make a decent profit, why not? Making a profit is why you're in business.
  2. "Are you sure?" Customers are often wrong. Too bad. Never directly doubt their statements or their feelings; all you'll do is make an already bad situation a lot worse. Instead ask questions or seek to better understand. Saying something like, "Can you walk me through that one more time so I can make sure I can take care of what went wrong?" validates the customer's position while helping you keep the conversation objective and solution-focused.
  3. "What you should do is..." Don't tell me what to do. Help me. That's why I came to you.
  4. "That's against our policy." Maybe it is against your policy... but if the customer wasn't aware of the policy ahead of time, who cares? Any terms or conditions not spelled out in advance are irrelevant to the customer. Imagine you're a customer who finds out after the fact that special order items can't be returned -- how would you feel? Refer to policies or conditions when the customer was fully aware of and agreed to those conditions; otherwise, find a way to fix the problem. Unstated policies are your problem, not the customer's.
  5. "No problem." Maybe this is just a pet peeve, but I'm always irritated when, say, I ask a waiter for dressing on the side and he says, "No problem." I know he means "yes," but "no problem" still implies I really am causing a problem. When I'm the customer, I'm favoring your business with my patronage; your business isn't doing me any favors, so never imply you are. Replace "no problem" with "yes."
  6. "Let me try to do that..." Customers care about results, not effort. Tell me what you will do. "Trying" creates greater uncertainty, and uncertainty is the kiss of death to a customer relationship. If a client requests an accelerated delivery, say, "I'll call our distributor and get the best schedule possible." All you can do is all you can do. Don't imply you're working extra hard on my behalf by "trying."
  7. "Let me know if you have any other problems." If a customer comes to you with a problem and you think you've resolved that problem, great. But don't expect the customer to contact you if other issues pop up; follow up a couple days later to make sure all is still well. Solving a customer's problem meets expectations; following up to see if they need further assistance shows you care.
  8. "I'll get back to you as soon as I can." Maybe you will... but in the meantime the customer is left wondering what "soon" means. Always specify a time. If, when that time comes, you still don't have all the information you need, contact the customer and say so -- and say when you'll follow up again. Customer relationships are based on managing expectations; "as soon as I can" sounds good but fails to set an expectation the customer can count on.
Related: Photo courtesy flickr user gcfairch, CC 2.0
  • Jeff Haden On Twitter»

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    Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business from managing a 250-employee book manufacturing plant. Everything else he picked up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest CEOs and leaders in business. He has written more than 30 non-fiction books, including four Business and Investing titles that reached #1 on Amazon's bestseller list. Follow him on Twitter at @Jeff_Haden.

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