7 Phrases You Should Never Say to a Customer

7 Phrases You Should Never Say to a Customer


There are just some words that get people annoyed.  Words that just bug us or leave feeling a certain way. I have some words that really make me feel uncomfortable. Moist is one, soiled is another.

We live in a world where things can go wrong and people will complain.  Nothing is perfect and we need, especially in sales and customer service to be aware of the words we use, as these can create a feeling in the customer that we may not have intended; and there lies the problem, as the saying goes, “it is not what you say it is how you say it”.


When you are with a customer, have a think about the following words or phrases, and think about how you would feel if you were to hear them.


  1. This is one of the most powerful words in our language as it is a complete blocker; it says that this is as far as we go, no negotiation.  It is a harsh word, however, let me ask you this, when you say ‘no’ do you mean ‘no’ or just ‘not now’ and does ‘no’ mean never?  Try replacing the word ‘no’ with the word ‘unable’, it softens the context and opens up options, leaving the customer thinking “well what else”. In fact if when dealing with customers you say, “we are at this time, unable to offer that, however we could offer XXXX” that sounds better.


  1. Can’t, Shan’t, Won’t and Don’t. Four words for the price of one here.  These simply limit options, so if you drop these into a conversation they can really restrict things and shut a customer down.  Not what you want. Similarly to ‘no’ think of ways to soften things and keep the conversation moving.  Ask a question back, rather than an immediate response of “I won’t be able to do that”. Ask instead. “What else would be looking for?” or “Can I look at this for you in a different way?”


  1. Company Policy. If you ever want to stick it to your client, quote company policy or something about a contract.   Nothing says autocratic like this. It really is one of the most irritating things to say to a client. “It is not in our company policy to offer this.” Think about the number of times someone has said this to you.  Never quote company policy in customer situation, you will only alienate them, and they will never use you again.


  1. We have never heard that before. Have you ever taken something back to a shop or made a complaint and the sales person has said, “Oh that is strange, we have never heard that before” or “this is the first time we have had any of these returned”. The intention is that they are trying to understand, the words are saying “you are a different, strange and unusual”.   Never alienate or isolate your client this way, in fact it is the one time where you can tell a white lie, to protect the customer. Say “I understand how you feel, we have had other clients who have felt the same way about this product, and what they have found, is by exchanging it for the other size that it will fit better.”  Notice the words feel, felt, found. This is powerful technique, which demonstrates understanding and empathy.


  1. We don’t have time. This is one of those sentences that can really irk someone. Think about what you are saying here.  You don’t have time? Well this person is a customer and you need to make the time, if you don’t then your competitor will.  Make the time, schedule things in and inform the client of progress. Always call a client with an update, even if there is no update, just keep in touch. Customers like that and they like to feel connected


  1. It’s not our fault. Fault is big no no.  This word apportions blame and can stimulate a customer to become very reactive.  What happens then, is the conversation gets heated and filled with emotion-based language that can quickly get out of control. By stating that something is not your fault you are stating that it is actually someone else’s fault. Even if the customer is not at fault, then they can feel that they are, and that the problem is getting bigger.  Use sentences such as “I will need some time to look into this a little further, and I will come back to in the next hour.”


  1. We apologise for any inconvenience. Nothing distances a customer from a business more than this type of corporate line.  It really sanitizes everything making the client feel like a number rather than a valued customer.  When something is wrong, you need to say what the customer wants you to say, quite simply “we are sorry”.  Sorry works, sorry is the correct thing to say.  The thing you should always be mindful of when saying sorry is to follow it with the word ‘intention’ this helps to remove blame. “We are sorry that this has happened with your delivery, it certainly wasn’t our intention to get it so wrong, let us get this replaced for you straight away.”


If you want to be the best you can be in sales or customer service, then use the right words in the right way.  It makes a huge difference and secures the customer in your business.

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