We all know empirically, the truth and power of words in life. A quick Google search will reveal dozens of blogs, companies, and social media posts espousing the benefits of positive affirmations, and the power of positive and encouraging words. Likewise, a dip into the comment section of many blog topics, news stories or social media posts can reveal the power of both positive and negative words.
Ancient Wisdom literature speaks frequently of the power of words, to either add or take away, to bring value or to remove it, to be life-giving and affirming, or to bring hurt, harm or even death. To paraphrase Proverbs, the power of words goes further than modern positive affirmations: Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.
Words matter in Customer Experience, and I will share the ten of the most powerful and helpful phrases I encountered both as a Customer Experience professional and as a customer in 2023.
Appreciating the power of words is important in our roles in Customer Experience, including the way we handle cases, emails, video chat conversations, and other customer based encounters and workflows.
Consider for a moment, the following uses of the word ‘but’, and how this little word can affect your attitude and emotions.
1. I understand your problem, but that’s not my department?
2. I know this is a problem, but there is no available solution.
3. Your call is very important to us, but there is no one available to help you at this time.
Did you feel good or bad after the ‘but’ was added? How about in this example?
Consider another set of examples:
1. Your application version is no longer available, but we can upgrade you at no charge to the latest version?
2. Your warranty has expired, but because you are a loyal customer we can replace this item at no cost.
3. You have hit a bug in our software, but it is resolved in the latest update.
Did this little three letter word have an impact on you? The three letters, b-u-t, are small yet they can be extremely powerful.
As promised, here are ten of the most powerful and helpful phrases I encountered in 2023 – both as a customer experience professional and as a customer.
10. Is there anything else I can help you with?
Asking this question at the end of a support call helps the customer know that they are important and that the team is willing and equipped to help them with the problem, but also willing to go the extra mil. Often, saying this phrase demonstrates that you are not just trying to fix the issue and close a case but truly trying to help the customer to have a good experience with support, the product, and the company. As Connor Touhey of SIOS says, this helpful phrases helps make customers “feel a human-to-human connection rather than just being a ticket number to be resolved”
9. I will find out and get back to you within the hour
Of course there will be times when you are dealing with a customer, or when you are the end customer and the answer is unknown or undetermined. A great response that inspires confidence and assurance is very important. Although this reply does not provide the answer, it does wonders for the customer experience. It lets the caller know that you aren’t going to “wing it” or provide information you are unsure of just to close the ticket. It provides assurance, sets expectations, gives a timeline for a response back to the customer, and helps the customer move forward.
8. Please and thank you
Being nice to others is a good idea. Using please and thank you can easily win customers over and help tense situations. It is easier to resolve customer issues when the customer views you as being polite, kind, and helpful. Please and thank you aren’t magic, the tone and sincerity still matter, but it is nearly impossible to use “Please and thank you” while being unpleasant, mean, demanding, and sour.
7. I understand
Linkedin influencer, Bruce Kasanoff shares a truth that resonates across all people, walks of life, careers, and experiences: “We all share a desire to be seen, heard, valued and understood.” Using this simple phrase can be instrumental in conveying a core need of a customer. Expressing that you understand the customer’s needs, circumstances, emotions and situation can be hugely beneficial. Especially when paired with active listening, and used to reinforce your engagement with the customer.
6. I’ll be happy to assist you.
No one wants to have an issue that requires opening a ticket, logging a case, or calling an 800 number (with or without the touchpad / voice activated corn maze puzzle before reaching someone helpful). But once a customer has an issue and has entered the queue for help, being pleasant, delightful, and encouraging is better than continuing their misery.
5. I apologize
Words of apology are also a valuable part of the Customer Experience vocabulary. I recall a moment when our team worked with a customer who was experiencing a critical issue. Throughout the initial moments of the call they expressed anger, frustration, and made a lot of harsh comments. When the Director of Support joined the call and sincerely apologized, both for their inconvenience and for the delay in providing a resolution, the entire tone of the call changed. Combinations of I apologize include
● I apologize for the inconvenience
● I apologize for the error
● I apologize for the not meeting our standards in this regard
● I apologize that our products or services did not meet your expectations
4. Yes, and
Over a decade ago I attended a conference that wasn’t directly related to customer experience, but was related to customer relationship management, customer requirements gathering, de-escalating critical situations, handling difficult conversations, questions and issues, and overcoming challenges. Through a series of role play segments I learned the importance of the phrase “Yes, and.” This simple six letter phrase can both affirm the customer’s need, and reframe negative responses and issues into a more positive, life-giving and supportive experience.
● For example:“Yes you will need to renew your support before gaining access to the latest version, and I’m able to take payment now via credit card.
● Yes I understand that you need this issue resolved immediately, and I am working with my escalation manager to get additional help.
● Yes I believe you are correct that the product should have more help in this area, and I have created two change requests for both the product functionality and the product documentation to address your concerns.
3. I will take care of that for you
This is always an amazing response. Whenever I have been a customer and explained my issue, or been on a case or call with a customer who has done the same, this phrase opens a flood gate of relief. Every customer wants to know that you will be able to help take care of their issue. Every customer longs to know, regardless of whether the issue is trivial or tremendously complicated, that they will not be in an email loop, voicemail jail, or call tree wilderness. Even automated attendants and chatbots that master the use and timing of this phrase provide better CX than those that don’t.
2. I appreciate _______
This one phrase sometimes appears in many forms, but when used genuinely they can generate positive customer relationship moments. Several of the most common uses of I appreciate include:
● I appreciate your business.
● I appreciate your feedback.
● I appreciate you taking time to _________
● I appreciate you!
● I appreciate your help.
● I appreciate your patience.
● I appreciate you bringing this to our attention
Of course using the phrase I appreciate you, or your business or your feedback matters most when you truly do appreciate it.
1. That’s really disappointing. I know what it is like to be disappointed.
I have heard companies give apologies before and they’re 98% meaningless. The minute they start speaking, regardless of what they say, all you hear is, “I’m so sorry that you had a problem with our product. Everybody does. We’re probably not going to do anything about it, but here is a discount code so you can go away feeling like you’ve received something.” However, as a customer myself, hearing #1 tops the list of the best responses I’ve experienced and/or heard from someone in Customer Experience in 2023. It dripped empathy and understanding. When it was added at the end of an apology, acknowledgment, and promise of remediation it easily tops my list for impact and customer experience! For reference this is what I heard from the Customer Experience manager as a complete apology:
I want to apologize for your inconvenience, that’s super disappointing. I just wanted to let you know that I will take care of this for you. I appreciate your business and don’t want to take your business for granted. I know what it is like to be disappointed and I will make sure we make this right.
Of course with every customer communication the tone, timing, and timely follow up matter. But these powerful phrases can be extremely helpful to improve your business and your customer’s experience with your business. What has been your favorite, most positive Customer Experience phrase for 2023?