Written by Ian Landsman on Jun 21, 2016 in

5 Phrases Every Customer Service Rep Should Know (and Use)

We’ve all had bad customer service experiences. The ones where the representative on the phone said the wrong thing, or misinterpreted how we were feeling, or didn’t seem to pay attention to what we needed.

Maybe you’ve heard this saying before:

Trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair.

This same notion can be applied to a customer’s opinion of your support efforts. You build up trust with your customers, but if your service representatives let the customer down or say the wrong thing during a call, that feeling of trust - and interest in prolonging the relationship - may never be the same again.

To continue and build trust with customers, arm your team with these key customer service phrases they should remember on a daily basis. In your training, reiterate the intent behind each of these simple phrases and how using these can help prevent escalated situations.

”We’re glad you reached out.”

This needs to be said at the beginning of the conversation. Make them feel comfortable at the start with their decision to approach you. Remember, their decision to contact you (whether via email, live chat, phone, in-person or otherwise) allows you to:

  • Learn more about the questions, concerns and needs of your customer base
  • Prevents your customer from trying to solve their problems themselves - and doing so poorly
  • Limits the amount of time your customer cannot take full advantage of your services
  • Allows you to build trust with a customer, helping to boost long-term retention

Framing the conversation from the beginning with reassurance that you are open to their contact, now and in the future.

“We absolutely understand and want to help.”

Customers contact you for a variety of reasons. They have concerns! Wants! Problems! And needs, questions, opinions, ideas… the list goes on.

They’re contacting you to tell you something they think is important. You must indicate that you understand their feelings and their actions.

When they act with urgency, you will also act with urgency, because you understand they need answers quickly.

When they have questions, you understand why they have these questions - and you’re prepared to help answer.

When they are upset, you understand why they are upset and disappointed with your product, service or a situation they are facing.

Making them feel understood is making them feel heard, reassured, and confident you care about providing the right response. But don’t just say “I understand.” Don’t placate them. Said it with empathy and elaborate on what you understand and how you feel about their situation. “I completely understand. We’ve heard this before and we’re working on a fix right now.” Or, “I understand how you feel, and what has happened is completely unacceptable.”

“I want to give you the best solution – please give me a moment and let me see what I can do.”

This is a line that provides a great segue into any need for time to resolve the issue.

We hope you’re prepared to answer the vast majority of customer questions, but sometimes, you need to ask someone else or do some research.

There’s a few things to think about if you ever use this line:

  • Don’t start with “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure.” Looking unaware of this one answer can weaken the customer’s perception of your ability to answer their other questions. Instead, use language that evokes confidence and your commitment to providing not simply the easiest answer, but the best answer.
  • Wanting to discuss the question or concern internally with your team is fine, if you continue to showcase an act of urgency with the customer. Remember, you understand their interest in speaking with you, and it’s equally important to you to continue the conversation with them.
  • Set expectations. Tell them when you expect to have an answer. Will it be 3 minutes, and you can keep them on the phone? Or will it be by 1 p.m. and you’ll call them back? By setting expectations - and meeting them - you don’t leave the customer guessing at when their inquiry may or may not be addressed.

Your customers have questions, and from time to time, you might have questions, too. By communicating your desire to provide the best, most accurate and effective solutions, you’ll be able to allocate yourself the appropriate amount of time to quickly do research, speak to colleagues, and problem-solve.

“Is there anything else we can do for you today?”

This one is simple:

As important as it is to act with urgency, it’s equally important to not make the customer feel like you’re in a rush to get the conversation over with in order to move on to a different (“more important?”) customer.

The conversation isn’t over until the customer is confident in the issues, questions or feedback addressed and any solutions proposed.

If they had a great idea for your business, tell them that. And then ask if they had any other ideas.

Note: Unless perfectly fitting in the context of their question, this is not the appropriate time to be upselling - especially if they contacted you with a concern or complaint. Only mention bonus features and options if it directly pertains to the questions being posed.

If they had a concern or question about how something works, explain, and then make sure to show you’re open to answering any other questions they have. Your goal is to make sure they feel comfortable and confident in their purchase, and you won’t rest until they are!

“Thank you! I hope you enjoy the rest of your (Tuesday, afternoon, weekend).

Your customer doesn’t owe you anything.

  • They don’t have to purchase your product, or subscribe to your service.
  • They don’t even have to consider you.
  • They don’t have to answer your customer survey.
  • They don’t have to spread awareness of your brand to their friends, family members and coworkers.
  • They don’t have to make that customer service call with questions or comments, educating you about the customer experience.

… but they do these things, anyway. They’ve chosen to interact with you, because they’re interested in what you offer. Something you’ve said or done has intrigued them, and now it’s up to you to follow-through on your promise to provide what they need. You have competitors. Your customers may appreciate what you offer, but you need them more than they need you. So, thank them.

  • Thank them for taking the time to provide feedback. This will help inform your team as they iterate on your product or service in the future.
  • Thank them for taking the time to ask questions, and allowing you to clarify.
  • Thank them when they refer a friend to your service, and provide them with a reward for doing so.
  • Thank them for their initial purchase, and for their long-time customer loyalty.

This is a thank you for more than just their business. It’s for their trust, their commitment, and their decision to take time out of their day. Showing your appreciation for their actions and communications will make them feel like it was the right decision to choose you originally and contact you now.

And show some personality! The business of your conversation is winding down. End with an acknowledgement of the customer personally. You know the customer’s NYC location, and it happens to be right in the heart of a baseball town? Maybe you’ve even talked baseball, already? End with “Let’s go Mets!”

At a minimum, end your conversation, email or other correspondence with “Have a great rest of your Tuesday” – acknowledgement of the timeliness of the communication shows your response isn’t canned.

You might have provided helpful solutions, but the impression you leave on a customer is sealed within the conversations’ final moments. With that in mind, an expression of gratitude is certainly much better than an abrupt,

“Okay, goodbye.”

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About the author

Ian Landsman of UserScape

Ian is the founder of HelpSpot and also podcasts at Bootstrapped.fm.

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