5 Phrases That Make Customers Think Your Employees Don’t Really Care

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I was trying to check in for my American Airlines flight on my phone. I was able to get one boarding pass, but not the other. After several failed attempts, I called American and explained my problem. I was transferred quickly and the person I ended up with looked into my itinerary and then said,

“Ms. Golden, this is a system error. You are checked in all the way through to Tulsa. I don’t want you to worry at all. Your flight is confirmed and you are checked in. You have a few options for getting your boarding pass (she gave me 3 easy options), but I want you to know it’s all good. You’re confirmed and checked in.”

I don’t want you to worry at all.

“I don’t want you to worry at all.” was exactly the right thing to say to me. The employee at American zeroed in on my concern that my flight wasn’t confirmed and she perfectly used the right words to acknowledge my concern and put me at ease.

Every interaction your employees have with customers is an opportunity to make the customer experience easy, helpful and friendly. The words your employees use make all of the difference. The lady at American used the right words. The wrong words can cause dis-ease in customers, or leave customers thinking you don’t care. In this article I’m sharing 5 phrases that cause dis-ease and make customers think you don’t care.

1. “The only thing I can do is…”

Customers, especially if they happen to be angry, need options. Never make a customer feel pushed into a corner. Even if you know, for example, that you have no appointments available for a customer today, pretend to check before telling them no. Do it this way. “We work on an appointment system. Let me check to see if we have openings today.” Then, “I can get you in tomorrow at 1:00pm.” That took a few more words than, “The only thing I can do is…” but it sounds so much more helpful.

2. “I can let you talk to my supervisor, but she’s just gonna say the same thing I’ve already told you.”

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The Issue Is Not the Issue. How the Issue Is Handled Becomes the Issue.

Glazed Donuts by Myra Golden
Glazed Donuts, a photo by Myra Golden on Flickr.

My son is home sick today so I went to a donut shop to get him a little treat. I got to the first window and ordered a dozen glazed donuts and a chocolate milk. When I got to the second window, I was handed a box of glazed donuts and a small box with one chocolate frosted donut. The lady at the first window clearly thought I said “a chocolate donut” instead of “a chocolate milk.” Easy mistake. I probably didn’t articulate well enough.

I explained the error and the employee’s reaction surprised me.

Well, it’s gonna be a different price. You’ll have to wait while I get a manager.”

What followed was even more surprising.

Her expression, tone, and words told me I’d really put her out.

About a minute later a manager appeared and asked for my receipt and then he disappeared. Three or so minutes later the employee returned and told me the difference between the chocolate donut and chocolate milk was 45 cents. I had no cash, so I handed her my debit card. She disappeared for another several minutes.

While I waited to have my debit card hit for 45 cents, I noticed there were now 6 cars in line behind me.

I’m thinking, is it really worth having me wait nearly 5 minutes for this simple transaction and back the drive-thru line up by at least 6 cars? If I owned this donut shop, I would have wanted my employee to either be empowered with the knowledge to instantly take the additional charge and send the customer on her way OR make the little exchange and just eat the 45 cents.

After another 2 or 3 minutes passed, the employee emerged again and said the manager couldn’t figure out how to just charge me the 45 cent difference.

So he refunded the chocolate donut and charged me for the milk. Ok, whatever. Again, was the 45 cents worth having me and 6 other customers wait? Did the little mishap at the first window really warrant the aggravated tone, expression and words?

When it comes to problems, the issue is not usually the issue. How the issue is handled becomes the real issue.

The simple misunderstanding of a chocolate donut instead of chocolate milk is no big deal at all.

The way the employee handled this made it a big deal for me. Her tone, words and the lengthy wait made a lasting and negative impression on me.

Everybody thinks to train employees on the company’s products/services and to give them basic phone skills. But very few people in customer service actually get the training they need to handle problems in such a way that they immediately restore customer confidence.

But you can give your employees the training they need to make sure the way an issue is handled never becomes the real issue. Start training your people on how to handle issues in such a way that they delight customers and create moments of magic –and not moments of misery.

P.S.

In my customer service online training I dedicate a full module to how to handle problems and complaints: 5 Keys to Restoring Customer Confidence After a Problem Occurs.

In that module I share a problem response letter I received from American Airlines. This is one of the best letters I have ever received from a company! The letter restored my confidence in American Airlines. It got me literally saying, “Wow” and it is the picture-perfect model of how to respond to a problem.

If you’d like to see this perfect problem response letter from American Airlines, just come on over to this page where I discuss the letter in a 6-minute video taken from my online learning suite.