Words matter. They can influence how people think and feel. A “pre-loved” car may sound more attractive to a prospective buyer than a “used” one. “Escargot” in the menu would seem more palatable than “snails.” A “frappuccino” sounds catchier than “coffee milkshake”. You get the idea.
In customer service, language and word choice are especially important. The words we use when communicating with clients can shape their opinion about the company as a whole. They also have an impact on their decisions. Sometimes, a few sentences - such as “calm down” or “it’s against company policy” - can spell the difference between keeping and losing a customer.
So choose your words wisely and favor those that would nurture customer satisfaction. Here are some of the most useful phrases you can use, along with a short explanation of what they mean for your clients. We’ve also included some variations, so you never run dry of inspiration:
There’s a reason “thank you” is one of the magic phrases we all learn in kindergarten. Showing appreciation isn’t merely a matter of good manners. It acknowledges kindness and helps strengthen bonds between people. In a customer support situation, it’s a simple and effective way of saying to your clients that you’re grateful that they use your products or services, and that they took the time to reach out to you when they encountered a problem - instead of simply going to a competitor. A proper “thank you” can be delivered in many stages of the conversation. Thank them for getting in touch with you. Thank them for their feedback (whether positive or negative). Thank them for their patience, or their honesty. You can always learn from your interactions with your customers, and that’s a reason to be thankful.
Other ways you can say thank you are:
“I appreciate your ...”
“I’m sincerely grateful for ...”
“Your feedback is valuable to us. Thank you for these recommendations.”
Apologizing to the customer
Apologize when it is called for and use the best words for them. There is nothing as powerful or straightforward as these two simple words when expressing regret. You can expound by saying what you’re apologizing for, such as “I’m sorry about the delay in the delivery of your package,” or “I’m sorry for mixing up your order.” Acknowledge the shortcoming on your part and follow this up with a solution, for instance: “Let me send you a replacement.”
A word of caution, though: Be judicious and try to use these words in a balanced manner. On one hand, some companies avoid apologizing altogether because it seems weak or sounds like an admission of guilt. There is nothing wrong with saying sorry. On the contrary, research shows that customers appreciate an apology more than financial compensation. On the other hand, saying “I’m sorry” too often or saying it for frivolous matters makes it sound cheap and insincere. Don’t overdo it. It can also sound patronizing to apologize for instances when it is the customer who made a mistake: “I’m sorry you didn’t understand the instructions.” Say these words when they are appropriate and mean them.
These phrases are also useful when expressing regret:
“I sincerely apologize for…”
“Please let us make things right by…”
This puts customers at ease and shows that you appreciate them for reaching out. There may be clients who are embarrassed about calling or messaging about small issues, and this phrase reassures them that no question is too trivial for you to answer. When saying this phrase, remember what we were taught in theater class: your body language infuses into your voice. So smile! People will “hear” it even over the phone (and it’s actually proven by science).
Here are some similar phrases:
“It’s my pleasure to be of assistance.”
“I’m glad to be of service.”
“I’m here to help.”
“I would be delighted to help.”
“Let’s make things right.”
“We’d be happy to make things better / right.”
Attending to customer needs
It’s okay if you don’t know the answers right away. There are issues that go beyond the FAQs (frequently asked questions) and may need more research to address thoroughly. Besides, we’re all human and can’t be expected to know everything. Saying this shows that we’re taking that extra step to ensure that the customer’s needs will be attended.
This phrase is particularly useful when providing support over the phone. You can ask if the customer minds waiting on hold for a moment while you check for a solution. Alternatively, you can call them back with the answer. It can also work for email and social media support. Make sure you get back to your client, though, and don’t commit to a deadline you can’t meet. If you don’t know how long it’ll take you to solve the issue, it’s better not to specify any deadline and say that you’ll get back to them “very soon” (or “we’ll do our best to get back to you as soon as possible”), rather than creating expectations you won’t be able to satisfy.
Other ways to say this are
“Let me get back to you on this.”
“Please give me a moment to double check that I have the right answer.”
“I want to make sure I give you the correct information. Would it be okay for me to get back to you on this?”
We are all customers and many of us have likely had frustrating customer service experiences before. So when speaking with your own clients, show empathy and compassion. It’s only reasonable to expect your products and services to work as advertised, and to express dissatisfaction when they don’t. This phrase conveys authenticity and shows clients that the agent they’re speaking with really cares about and understands them.
Similar phrases you can use to show empathy are:
“I understand where you’re coming from.”
“I’d feel ___________, too.
“That would frustrate / upset me, too.”
Redirecting the conversation
It’s sometimes unavoidable that we’d have to redirect customers to someone else. However, nobody likes feeling like they’re being passed around. It can also get frustrating to have to explain the issue again only to find out that the person you’re speaking with can’t actually help you. So ensure that the person or department you forward the client to is better equipped to assist them. It also helps to use help desk software that can track support tickets from multiple channels, which saves clients the hassle of repeating themselves.
Some alternatives are:
“Let me pass this call on to our specialist, Maria, who is better able to help with this question.”
“Do you mind waiting for a moment while I get our specialist on the line?”
“It would be a good idea to have our specialist involved, since she is better qualified to assist with this issue.”
“Let me forward this matter to our _________ team. They are better able to help you with this.
Confirming the request
This gives you the opportunity to restate the issue to check if you’ve understood it well and covered all the relevant points. This also allows you to iron out any potential misunderstandings before searching for a solution.
Other ways to this are:
“Let me confirm if I’ve got this right.”
“I want to make sure I understood everything correctly.”
“Please feel free to correct me if I’ve misunderstood anything.”
Reassuring the customer
This shows a commitment to resolving the issue. It is also an assurance that it is within your power to fix things. There is no need for the client to be forwarded to yet another department or to make yet another phone call. In short: the buck stops with you. But if you say this, do it. Don’t promise anything you can’t deliver.
Other phrases you can say are:
“I’ll get this sorted out.”
“I’ll fix these issues for you.”
“I’ll make things right.”
There are times when clients ask for things you can’t give at the moment. Instead of saying “no”, you can search for options that you can offer. This emphasizes positive language. It also leaves the door open to alternative solutions and shows that you’re listening to your customers’ needs.
You can also say
“While that isn’t possible right now, I can…”
“Currently, that’s a limitation. What I can do is…”
Wrapping it up
This is often used to wrap up a call and check that you’ve addressed all of the customer’s concerns. In addition, it serves as an invitation to ask more questions. It shows you have the time for them and that you aren’t just trying to end the conversation or close the ticket.
These phrases also work:
“Is there anything else I can do for you today?”
“Please let me know if you have any other questions.”
Now that we’ve got the phrases covered, let’s add the key ingredient to the mix: sincerity. You may find yourself saying some of these on a regular basis, but aim to make them worth more than mere lip service. After all, customers don’t need empty words said in a robotic manner. They look for honest and genuine human interaction.
Make your words matter by choosing the help desk software that works for you.