The 6 Worst (and Best!) Phrases in Customer Service


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From business blogs, to LinkedIn groups to informal polls, we’ve scoured the web for the phrases that a majority view as the dirty words of customer service, but that are frequently used by many customer service representatives today:

1. That’s just our policy. Many noted that this phrase conveys an unwillingness to see things from the customer’s perspective and that there is nothing that can (or will) be done from here on out to make the customer happy.

2. No problem. Perhaps the most surprising addition to the least-liked phrases, but customer service managers agree that other phrases are much more appropriate in response to a customer’s “thank you.” The customer should never perceive that they were a “problem.”

3. You’ll have to… Anything that suggests the customer will have to go somewhere else or do something else to obtain service is a big no-no.

4. To be honest with you. Perception is everything! “To be honest with you” suggests that perhaps the company or the representative was not being or has not been honest before? It’s best not to leave any doubt.

5. I believe or I think. The customer has called you because they need the correct answer, not a guess, which is why “I believe” or “I think” should be off limits.

6. There’s nothing I can do. Oh no you didn’t. There’s nothing worse to a customer’s ears than “there’s nothing I can do.” Consider your customer gone to the competition if the conversation comes down to this.


6 Phrases Customers Love to Hear

There’s a reason why Chick-fil-A uses the phrase “my pleasure” instead of “you’re welcome.” These two little words proclaim delight. Chick-fil-A founder, Truett Cathy, was inspired to institute the phrase after a visit to the Ritz Carlton. When Cathy said “thank you” to front desk representative, the response was “my pleasure.” Even though his business was fast food, Cathy felt it important to reply to his customers as if they were at a luxury establishment.

From Entrepreneur magazine, here are six phrases that customers are happy to hear:

1. How can I help you? Customers appreciate the opportunity to explain exactly what they want and need from the service experience.

2. I can solve that problem. These magic words convey that a knowledgeable solution is imminent.

3. I don’t know, but I will find out. Customers certainly appreciate the honesty in this response, but even more the integrity that you will take responsibly in finding the answer personally instead of passing the buck.

4. I will take responsibility. See #3.

5. I will deliver on time. Meeting set timelines and providing a prompt service experience is something everyone who’s ever had to wait on hold or has had a project’s completion perpetually postponed can appreciate.

6. I appreciate your business. Perhaps the best of the six at the end of the day; a step above “thanks,” the word “appreciate” conveys genuine care.

What phrases would you add to the lists above?

Tricia Morris
Tricia Morris is a product marketing director at 8x8 with more than 20 years of experience at technology companies including Microsoft and MicroStrategy. Her focus is on customer experience, customer service, employee experience and digital transformation. Tricia has been recognized as an ICMI Top 50 Thought Leader, among the 20 Best Customer Experience Blogs You Must Follow, and among the 20 Customer Service Influencers You Must Follow.


  1. In general, these are good guidelines, but “how can I help you?” can be maddeningly frustrating when the customers believe that the agent should already know the answer.

    When my Verizon Fios service was not operating for several days, I followed up with Verizon frequently to receive updates on the repair status. “How can I help you?” was the question that invariably greeted me, which came across very poorly. Had the agent taken two short seconds to review the information about my previous calls, he or she would have known the answer. A much better response would have been “I see you are experiencing a service outage. Are you calling to follow up on the status?” At least I would have believed the agent had a clue about something.

    “I can solve that problem” is a great idea for a response, though I have not heard it. The challenge for companies is to make sure front-line agents actually CAN solve the problem. That’s much easier said than done.

  2. Andrew,

    These are great points, especially about using information acquired from previous customer interactions so that the customer does not have to repeat him or herself. Thanks very much!


  3. Great points! I hate repeating myself also! But you have to consider what is going on on the other side of the phone. Does the company relay the message of what you were calling about in the computer system? Some companies don’t relay the messages of what you were calling about. They just transfer you over to another department or to another person.


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