Artwork by Rick & Brenda Beerhorst

Artwork by Rick & Brenda Beerhorst

As a society, our language norms are becoming more and more relaxed.  The same hold true in the business environment.  But should it?  While our customers may be part of this trend in their daily lives, they still appreciate a more tailored conversation when dealing with us in our professional service capacities.  In order to avoid striking a nerve with the very people we are trying to win over, here are three phrases to remove from our conversations with them.

To Be Honest

It’s common, sure, but “to be honest” and it’s compatriots “honestly” and “actually” are surefire sayings to consciously or subconsciously upset customers.  By inserting these words, we are implying that we were not previously being honest or that our customers cannot take what we say at face value without this disclaimer.  It may seem that this common phrase reinforces our earnestness, but it’s actually undermining it.  To bolster customer confidence, replace “to be honest” with “I can assure you” or simply forgo any extra statement under the assumption that you are always honest and straightforward with your customers.

Our Bad

When a customer has an issue that requires our ownership of the situation, “our bad” or “my bad” is a poor substitute for the formal “I’m sorry”.  The former does not give any dignity to the person who has been affected or reflect that the situation is being taken seriously.  When someone reaches out to us with a problem, it is the least we can do to convey a sincere apology to them rather than brushing it off with a throw away line.

No Problem

If you pay attention, you’ll hear “no problem” thrown around in a myriad of situations where one person is apologizing as a point of politeness.  You’ll also find people cringing at it.  For instance, a customer starts off by saying, “I’m sorry, but I have a stupid question for you…” and the representative tries to be polite in return, but responds with, “No problem”.  The reason this makes people unhappy is that it is not, at its core, a polite response.  It implies that it may have been a problem had the respondent not made a conscious decision to be nice. That’s a risk we in service cannot take as our job, by its very definition, is to be a helper.  Nothing can ever be a problem for us, so we should instead be reinforcing our desire to help rather our not being bothered by having to help.  “I am happy to help you” is the response a customer wants to hear.

No matter how casual language becomes, it still has an incredibly powerful effect on people’s interpretations of our emotions and thus greatly affects their emotions in turn.  Paying attention to these seemingly innocuous trends and ridding them from our repertoire will help us more effectively and graciously communicate with the most important people in our professional lives: our customers.