customer service phrases to avoid

7 Common Customer Service Phrases to Avoid

The quality of your customer service can make or break your business. This applies even to the customer service phrases you use when communicating with customers.

To help you navigate the complicated area of customer communication, we’ve compiled a list of 7 common customer service phrases to avoid.

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7 customer service phrases you should never say

1. “I don’t understand”

Communication is hard. Our language is imprecise and we’re sometimes bad at explaining ourselves.

But it’s your job to help the customer define their problem by asking specific questions.

Saying “I don’t understand” will make them feel like you aren’t listening or that you’re implying there is no actual problem.

Which customer service phrase to use instead:

  • “OK, so let us clarify this one more time…”

  • “If I’m not mistaken, the problem seems to be that…?”

  • “If it’s not too much of an issue, I would ask you to be a bit more specific…”

2. “Calm down”

Telling an upset person to “calm down” almost always has the reverse effect. You might as well tell your customers that they’re overreacting.

Nobody likes to be told how they should be feeling. The way you calm down a customer is not by words, but by solving their issue.

That’s how you win over angry customers.

Which customer service phrase to use instead:

  • “I understand how this must have upset you, and I’ll get on it immediately.”

  • “I’m sorry to hear about your frustration. Let me help you with this right away.”

3. “There’s nothing we can do / I can’t help you”

Sometimes customers may complain about something unrelated to your direct area of responsibilities.

They might overlook that the warranty has expired, or that their not insured against the issue they’re having.

Still, you can’t just ignore their problems and tell them there’s nothing you can do.

Even if there’s no way to fix the issue, you could offer advice. Recommending a competitor’s business is a risky move, but it does reinforce your reputation as a helpful expert.

Which customer service phrase to use instead:

  • “I’m really sorry to hear about this. I wish we could solve this problem for you. Maybe you could try…

  • “I realize the nature of the problem, and I’m sorry to tell you that my hands are tied when it comes to this.

4. “That’s impossible”

When you say “that’s impossible”, you’re really saying that it’s either:

  1. Impossible for you to help.
  2. Impossible for customers to experience their problem.

Either way, it’s an unhelpful reply. If a customer has misunderstood something, you need to help them get to the bottom of their issue.

Which customer service phrase to use instead:

  • “This feels like an issue which might be out of my control, but let me double check that…”
  • “The problem you’re describing is rather peculiar. Allow me to ask you a couple of more questions about it…”

5. “I’m not sure / I guess”

You customers want to feel confident in your business.

Sounding uncertain sends a clear signal that you either don’t care about the quality of their experience, lack the competence to help them, or both.

Do the following sentences sound like coming from a customer service expert?

“I think I know what the problem is, but I’m not sure.”

“I guess you can try solving it this way…”

It’s your job to make customers feel like they’re in good hands and that you know what you’re doing.

Which customer service phrase to use instead:

  • “I believe we’re dealing with…”

  • “Based on what you’ve described, the issue is most likely…”

6. “I’ll get back to you / Let me check”

Putting a customer on hold is almost like telling them their problem isn’t important enough for you or you don’t want to talk to them anymore.

Some customers may even feel insecure and think you’re ignoring them to deal with other clients.

Simply saying “let me check” doesn’t offer any concrete information.

Don’t leave your customer in limbo. Be more specific.

Which customer service phrase to use instead:

  • “I understand your issue and if it’s alright with you, I’m going to ask you to hold on while I try to find the solution.”

  • “Would you mind waiting for a couple of minutes? I need to check with my manager.”

7. “No”

Negative energy should not be a part of your conversation with the customer.

In general, you need to replace everything that carries some sort of a negative connotation.

That is not to say that you need to become a literal yesman, though.

Let’s take a look at a couple of examples on how to avoid saying straight-up “No”:

Customer: “Is this something you could help me with?”

Bad: “No, that’s not in my department.”

Good “Yes, let me just transfer you to a different department.”

Customer: “Do you see my point?”

Bad: “No, I actually don’t.”

Good: “I do, but I’d appreciate it if you elaborated a bit further.”

Find ways to sound more encouraging and show empathy to your customers.

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As a customer service agent, you often work under a lot of pressure and deal with situations you’re not even sure you can handle. Still, it’s your job to ensure your customer gets the assistance they need and have a pleasant experience talking to you.

Therefore, use the advice we’ve given you above and pay attention to everything you’re saying. Always choose those phrases which show compassion, empathy, understanding, and readiness to help.

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