Stupid stuff employees say to customers

You’ve spent years building your company’s reputation and invested huge sums of money trying to stand out in the marketplace. Unfortunately, all that frequently falls apart when one of the folks near the bottom of your org chart opens his or her mouth.


Each contact a customer has with one of your employees shapes his or her opinion of your company more than all the advertising in the world ever could. Yet many companies allow their least-trained staff to handle most of those contacts. And, because most customers will simply switch to a competitor without bothering to complain, you may not discover just what those employees cost you in business.


Your employees probably aren’t stupid. You wouldn’t have hired them if they were. But I’ll wager that they say some things that are downright dumb. They aren’t deliberately trying to sabotage your efforts; they just don’t realize what their poor choice of words actually says to a customer. Do you or your employees say stupid things like these common examples?


“This checking account costs $500 to start.” No, it doesn’t. After I open the account, the $500 I’ve deposited still belongs to me. But if you’re planning to charge a $500 fee, I’ll take my business to the bank across the street.


“Uh, I’m not sure what happened here.” You’ve just told me you’re either incompetent or haven’t been properly trained, so my trust in you has just vanished. Instead, politely ask me to wait a moment while you check something with your supervisor.


“Sorry, but you’re wrong.” I don’t believe that the customer is always right, but that’s a pretty blatant statement. Saying something like “I’m not entirely sure that’s correct, and here’s why” sounds much more friendly and respectful.


“What you need is over there.” It’s normally accompanied by a halfhearted gesture that implies I should walk over that way. Compare that to: “Let me show you where that is” or “I’ll get that for you and be right back.”


“I don’t know.” That may be an honest answer, but it suggests ignorance and incompetence. “Let me find out for you” is much more positive and encouraging.


“They don’t offer that.” Unless I’m mistaken, you’re on the company’s payroll, so the company should be a “we” and not a “they.”


“You filled that part out wrong.” Thanks for reminding me that I’m not perfect, but I would feel much better had you asked something like, “May I give you a hand with that?”


“Your business is very important to us, so please keep holding.” No, if my business were important to you, A) you wouldn’t have to tell me, and B) you wouldn’t keep me on hold. I’d come to that conclusion based upon the service you provided.


“Oh, so you don’t care about saving money?” If I ever face homicide charges, it’s likely that this question will have prompted the crime.


“Would you like our senior discount?” I may be an AARP member, but I hope it isn’t that obvious to complete strangers.


“What do you need?” A few million dollars, a Learjet, and a case of single-barrel bourbon would be a nice start … oh, you’re referring to what your company offers. Maybe your question should be more specific, investigative, and suggest a genuine interest in my needs.


“What do I have to do to get you to buy this today?” This is a favorite of car dealers. The only way you’ll get me to buy is to stop acting like a stereotype and start treating me like a valued, intelligent customer.


“What are you willing to pay?” and “How much do you think we should make?” are two more idiotic favorites of car dealers. When I refuse to play along, many become confused or angry. Tell me what you’re willing to sell the car for, and I’ll tell you whether I think it’s a fair price.


“Awesome!” If you’re a 16-year-old, that’s probably an acceptable answer. If you’re old enough to have a 16-year-old, probably not. Same goes for the overuse of “like,” “y’know,” “my bad,” and “Dude!” Referring to women as “you guys” is a no-no, too.


Also beware of the very simple yet deadly word “but.” When your employees utter “but,” customers immediately assume that whatever is going to follow won’t brighten their day. And they’re usually right.

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