Things Customer Service People Should Never Say

Negative Phrases to Avoid

Customer Sevice at a grocery store
Getty Images / Joos Mind

We all know that a positive tone and language are highly important when it comes to good customer service, but many retailers still use phrases that may give the wrong image and negatively impact our customers' shopping experience.

The following phrases used in a customer service setting can kill a sale and possibly lose a customer. Here are some sayings retailers should avoid.

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I Don't Know

Customer with questions shopping for shoes in menswear store
Tom Werner / Getty Images

Customers don't expect retailers to know everything. Still, when it comes to answering a product question or other inquiry, they do expect the salesperson to be confident enough in their knowledge of the business to provide an answer.

Better: "That's a good question. Let me find out for you."

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All Sales Are Final

Your shop's policy may not allow returns on clearance merchandise or other items. It's fine to let the customer know this, but retailers need to be flexible and allow a return or exchange against company policy if it comes down keeping a customer.

Better: "Let us know if you're not satisfied, and we'll make it right."

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Calm Down

There may not be a more infuriating phrase in customer service than this one. If a customer has reached a boiling point and is ranting away, the best thing to say is nothing. Let the customer finish. Once he or she has gotten everything out, they will begin to feel better and might be more receptive to a solution.

Better: "I apologize."

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Did You See Any?

If a customer asks for a particular item you carry, chances are he/she already looked for it and didn't see it. It could mean it's out of stock or possibly still in the stock room. Even if they haven't looked for it yet, the best customer service would be to either take them to the product or get it for them.

Better: "Yes, we stock that. I'll go see if we have any."

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We're Closed

The last thing a closing-shift employee wants to do is allow a shopper in after hours. Before turning away a potential sale, keep in mind that either the customer doesn't know the store hours or possibly the customer doesn't know what time it is. Neither is a reason to be abrupt.

Better: "We close at __ o'clock and reopen at _ o'clock. Is there something I can quickly help you with now?"

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Will That Be All?

Not many customers would find anything negative about this phrase. However, not only is it overused, but the retailer is passing up a sales opportunity.

Better: "Did you see our __ that goes with this?" or "Have you tried __?"

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It's Over There

We've all heard this bad customer service phrase used by the busy or indifferent sales clerk. Sometimes they may point in the general direction. Other times they don't even lift their head to acknowledge the shopper. Make sure all store staff knows using this phrase is a big no-no.

Better: "Follow me, I'll show you right where it is."

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I Can't Do That

It is another negative customer service phrase that should be banned from all store staff. Either empower the employees or train them to take issues to a supervisor or store management.

Better: "What I can do is ___."

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That's Not My Department

It may be true, but it is also definitely something a customer doesn't want to hear. Retailers should train their staff to be familiar with all areas of the store operations or at least understand who to contact for help in various departments.

Better: "I'll be happy to get you to the person who knows more about that department."

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We're Out of That

A store will inevitably run out of a product, and customers know this. Unless you let the customer know if and when it will be restocked, they will probably buy it elsewhere. Be proactive and offer to contact the customer when it's back on the shelf. Don't ask them to call you.

Better: "That item is currently out of stock but will be back in on ___. Can I get your name/number and call you when it comes in?"

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It's Against Our Policy

In today's competitive market, retailers can't afford to be inflexible. It is important to have store policies, but it's more important to keep a customer satisfied. Use this phrase only when you feel a policy is being abused.

Better: "Our policy is __, but we want to make this right. This is what I can do..."

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I'm New Here

For some reason, many new staff members think this customer service phrase lets them off the hook. The customer doesn't care if you're new. He/she only wants to deal with someone who knows what they're doing and can get the result they want.

Better: "Please bear with me, and I'll get you the help you need."

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Hold On

This customer service phrase and all of its variations should be non-existent. There is a much softer way to say essentially the same thing without infuriating the customer.

Better: "Are you able to hold for a moment?"

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I'm Busy Right Now

Have you ever said or heard the following? "If it weren't for customers, I could get some work done." If you are in retail, chances are you've at least thought it. The truth is, without customers, retailers wouldn't have a job.

Better: "I'd be happy to help you."

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You're Wrong

No, customers are not always right, but retailers should never tell them they are wrong. Never. The best course of action is to assume the blame.

Better: "I think there has been a misunderstanding."