As a popular adage goes, you can always catch more flies with honey. That’s certainly the case when it comes to interactions with customer service representatives. You might be frustrated, disappointed, or angry because of a certain product, service or the company itself, but making empty threats or using profanities will only add fuel to the fire.
To help you keep your cool, be mindful and solve your problem instead of making it worse, here are 16 things that customer service specialists warn against saying to customer service representatives. You might be familiar with some.
“You know, you people…”
You might be dissatisfied with the services of a certain company but that’s not reason enough to take it out on the customer service representative at the other end of the line. After all, it’s not their fault you can’t get any reception, or your order hasn’t arrived yet. They’re just the middlemen, so avoid using inappropriate language and words such as ‘you’ or ‘your’ when complaining about the company, suggests Dane Kolbaba, founder of Watchdog Pest Control.
“If they’re personally insulted for an issue they had no direct hand in, it’s completely human to feel less helpful, and these representatives are no different,” he says. You can catch more bees with honey than with vinegar, so, if you want to solve your problem faster, avoid hostile confrontation, and keep your language friendly and polite.
“I’m calling because I’m angry.”
Starting a conversation with something negative is not going to help you solve your issues faster. Obviously, you’re calling customer service to report a problem. No need to tell them how angry you are right from the start.
“When you’re calling customer service, chances are you’re annoyed because a product or service isn’t working properly and there might have been a long wait time on the phone to boot,” says Kolbaba. “When you do finally get someone, it’s completely understandable if you sound angry; however, make sure you’re not directing your anger to them, as this would very likely make them feel defensive, and sets the tone of the call to ‘hostile’ for both parties.” Speaking of things you should avoid saying, here are 15 Things Parents Should Never Say to Their Children.
“I hate your product because…”
Customer service is there to help you solve a current problem, not listen to you complain over and over about a product they have no control over. Sure, dealing with the same problem over and over again can be frustrating and annoying, but throwing an avalanche of complaints will not make things easier.
“When you’re communicating what the issue is to the representative, know that they’re taking notes and paying close attention so they can get to the root of the problem,” says Kolbaba. “The more you say, the more information they have to process, so whenever possible keep things simple and short.”
“Your company made the mistake, it’s your job to fix it.”
No matter how upset you are, you need to remember that the customer service representative at the other end of the line is not there to be the scapegoat. The company might have made a serious mistake, but you shouldn’t take it out on the one person that can help you solve things.
“Any form of abuse (e.g. verbal, emotional, etc.) should be completely avoided,” says Sarkis Hakopdjanian, director of strategy for marketing consultancy The Business Clinic, specialized in employee training services. “These are human beings that are trying to do their jobs as best as they can. Sometimes a customer is upset about something another employee did, or about a company policy, and they, unfortunately, take it out on the rep trying to resolve their problem.”
“I’m taking my business elsewhere!”
You might think that you’re using your ace up in the sleeve and get the problem solved faster. In reality, you’re only making an empty threat that will take you nowhere. The only one affected by this stunt, if you do decide to take your business elsewhere is you. For one, the customer service representatives “are likely an employee on an hourly wage that’s just doing their job,” says Hakopdjanian. More than that, no matter how difficult or annoying is working with a certain provider, vendor, or company, finding a new, flawless one can be twice as difficult.
Therefore, if you don’t already have another vendor in mind, it’s better to try to work things out with your current one.
“Is there someone there who speaks better English?”
Customer care representatives are usually hired for their good communication skills. Many companies also outsource their customer services to other countries, which means the employees have to speak English fluently. Just because you notice some sort of foreign accent, doesn’t mean the customer services representative you’re speaking to does not understand what you’re saying.
According to Hakopdjanian, “many companies also hire first-generation immigrants that may have an accent. Unfortunately, some customers will discriminate against other people based on their ethnicity. If a customer service rep was hired by a company, speaks English well, and has a good understanding of the company’s products, they’re perfectly qualified to help solve a customer’s problem or process their transaction. There’s no need for racial discrimination.”
“You’re not listening to me.”
Yes, they are listening to you, you’re just not giving them an opportunity to process the information and reply to you. Repeating the same thing over and over again in angrier tones will not help you much. “We understood you the first time—trust me, we did,” says Drew DuBoff, a growth strategist and outsourcing expert. “You’re just getting heated for no reason. Instead, try listening to the response and ask a clarifying question.”
The right tone makes the right music. Same here. Keep it warm and friendly to achieve better results.
“Let me speak to your manager.”
This line is as cliché as it can get and some people still see it as highly efficient. In reality, instead of helping you sort things out, it can quickly backfire. “This will immediately make the agent you’re speaking with uneasy,” says Ollie Smith, serial entrepreneur and CEO of energy comparison site EnergySeek. “If the manager does show up, they will develop a negative opinion of you before they speak with you and will be less inclined to go the extra mile to resolve your issue.”
Telling the customer service representative that they’re of no help to you is not going to earn you extra points. Instead, try to manipulate the rep into calling the manager themselves by asking questions such as “What other options do we have to solve this?” or “Is there anyone else who might be able to help us?”. Make the agent your ally instead of your enemy.
“The customer is always right…right?”
No, the customer isn’t always right. In fact, most people who usually use this phrase know quite well they are in the wrong, they are just trying to put the blame on someone else. “Customers are not always right,” says Alexandra Sakellariou on her list of “Awful Things Customer Service Workers Know to Be True.”
“The customer is more than often mistaken or confused. Whether they misread the price tag of a product or don’t understand the small print of your return policy, whenever a customer is unhappy, it generally has to do with a miscommunication or error on their end.”
Even if you feel like you have reached your boiling point and wouldn’t mind saying a thing or two to the person at the other end of the line, cursing the customer service representative and using bad language will only put you on their blacklist. “Using profanity, curse words, or expletives do not help your case,” says DuBoff. “In fact, they communicate to the customer service representative that you’re aggravated and that you’ll be hot to deal with.”
Instead of trying to help you solve your problem as soon as possible, you might be given time to calm down. This might mean it could take several hours or even days before any agent will respond to your call again. “These customer service reps are human beings doing the best job they can,” adds Hakopdjanian. “Swearing at them never motivates them to work faster or try harder. It’s actually counterproductive. When a person is being yelled at or bullied, they’re less motivated to want to help and may even look for ways to be firm with the company’s policies.” So, watch your language, no matter what!
“I’m going to sue you.”
If the conversation with a customer service representative seems to spiral downward, you might find it tempting to pull out the big guns, like threatening with a lawsuit. But, trust me, that’s not the path you want to take, no matter how angry you feel at that moment.
“Threatening legal action won’t necessarily have the impact you intend,” warns Teel Lidow, an attorney and founder of the consumer claims service Radvocate. “Companies have legal departments to handle actual legal actions. Raising the possibility of a lawsuit is a good excuse for an individual customer service representative to say, ‘Not my problem,’ and end the conversation.” Speaking of suing, here are 11 Ordinary Things You Do Everyday That Could Get You Sued.
“I won’t pay for that!”
Your cable bill might seem bigger than usual and there might be something in there that you haven’t included in your subscription services. Still, informing the customer rep that you won’t pay for something before you even get to the bottom of things is not the most effective way to eliminate those costs from your bill.
“In most cases, the individual customer service representative doesn’t gain anything if you do or don’t pay,” says Lidow. “These companies aggressively pursue unpaid bills—they won’t hesitate to send you to a collections agency or hit your credit report, even if you claim the bill is wrong.”
“No, it’s ok for me to talk now.”
You might have no problem reaching out to customer service and talking from a crowded and noisy area like the mall or the park, but that’s not really helpful to your situation. Explaining your problem and receiving some useful information from the customer service representative is not going to be easy with cars honking or other people talking in the background.
“The biggest pet peeve of our customer service agents is when people call in, and they are in an extremely noisy environment,” says Sean Pour, cofounder of car-purchase site SellMax. “For example, if your dog is barking constantly in the background or you have a baby crying very loudly, it makes it much harder on the customer service rep. When you make someone’s job more difficult, they usually don’t do as good of a job.”
“Let me tell you about my…”
When you call customer service, you need to remember to keep it simple and clear. You called for a reason. So, if the rep asks how you’re doing, don’t take it as a signal to start chit-chatting like you’re some old pals. It’s their job to be polite and friendly, but it’s not their job to listen to you rambling about all sorts of things that are not related to the actual problem you’ve called about.
“Sometimes customers start rambling on about details that are completely irrelevant to their business transaction,” says Hakopdjanian. “Unfortunately, many people are lonely, so sometimes having a conversation with a customer service rep may be one of the few forms of social contact a person may have.” To be polite, save the personal stories, and let the rep move on to their next call or customer in a timely fashion.
Overloading the customer service representative with too many personal details is definitely not going to fix your problem anytime soon. On the other hand, giving too little information will also not work in your favor.
“Saying too little might leave them to make guesses or assume things,” suggests Kolbaba. “While a seasoned agent will know what to ask and probe, some might make assumptions and offer solutions that might have worked except for a little additional piece of information that would then change the solution entirely.”
“Your voice is really sexy.”
Some customers are polite to their customer service representatives, some are a bit angrier than they should be while others…well, others think it’s ok to flirt with the person at the other end of the line. Newsflash! It isn’t!
It’s alright to thank and commend someone for a job well done or for helping you, but it’s not alright to cross the line and make all sorts of awkward compliments. “Do not tell someone that their voice sounds nice,” says Pour. “We get a variation of that a lot where they are essentially flirting on the phone, and it’s a bit awkward.”
Also, customer service is not the place to start looking for a date, no matter how friendly the rep might seem. Again…it’s their job to be cordial, it doesn’t mean they’re flirting with you. “At the very least, it makes the situation unnecessarily uncomfortable,” Hakopdjanian says. “At the very worst, it makes the rep feel unsafe or in danger, especially if the customer doesn’t respond well to rejection.”