Customer Service: How to communicate effectively with your customers

No matter what line of business you are in, effective communication is fundamental to delivering great customer service. The words you use have a major impact on your customers and on how they respond. Choosing the wrong words can alienate your customers and sometimes push them towards aggressive behaviour. The best approach is to use cooperative language and avoid confrontational language. Below you will find some tips for choosing the right words when you are speaking with your customers.

Choosing the right words

  1. Use everyday words that are clear and specific. If you speak in pompous, or in what might be perceived as highfalutin terms, the chances are you will baffle and alienate your customers.
  1. Avoid jargon or technical words as far as possible. If these words are not generally understood by your customers, they will cause a breakdown in communication. If you feel you really can’t avoid jargon, then make sure you give an explanation in layperson terms.
  1. Never use slang expressions as they create a poor impression of your business and they may cause offence. They can also be misunderstood by customers from different areas or different backgrounds.
  1. Be careful with the word ‘but’ as it tends to cancel out all the words you have used previously in the sentence. For example, ‘I’m sorry but we are busy’ tends to negate the apology. Remember customers want solutions above anything else. They are never interested in hearing excuses or who’s to blame for a problem.
  1. Use positive words e.g. we can; we will; let’s see what….. Often it’s possible to create a positive spin even when you have to pass on bad news. Take care not to overdo it though, and do stick to the truth!
  1. Avoid ‘red flag’ words. These are the sort of words or phrases that tend to get people’s backs up and are likely to cause a negative reaction. For example, ‘No, it’s not our policy to…….’ ‘It’s not my job…….’  ‘I don’t know’. Instead you can say something like: ‘Normally we……’ ‘I will find out’  ‘Let me put you in contact with..…’ 
  1. Be tactful and never make accusations. It’s often said that ‘the customer is always right’. But of course there are times when customers make mistakes or do things that defy common sense. Instead of saying, ‘You’re wrong…..’ ‘It’s your own fault for not following the instructions…..’ choose more tactful expressions. For example, ‘It seems that you’ve overlooked…..’ ‘Could it be that you……’
  1. Use active words as much as possible. This is particularly important when dealing with tricky issues or complaints. Your customers will feel more assured that you are doing your best and that progress is being made. For example, you might say: ‘Let’s work together to reach……’ ‘Let’s get to the bottom of this…..’

Of course there’s a great deal more involved in communicating effectively with customers – it’s not just about the words you use. In future posts I’ll be looking at techniques for handling customer complaints; speaking on the telephone etc.

Please contact us if you would like to find out about training courses on Customer Service. We can deliver tailored or fully bespoke programmes to meet the needs of your business.