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Pick Your Words to Deliver a Better Customer Experience


Guest articles > Pick Your Words to Deliver a Better Customer Experience


by: Diana Pohly


Use these three phrases to assure a great customer experience


“I hate the words `I can’t!’” a friend said to me recently. “I don’t want to hear what a company can’t do for me. I want to hear what it can!”

Actually, she was kind of yelling, but she was right to be ticked. A few hours earlier, she had called an online retailer to ask whether she could return a coffee machine that had arrived with a broken glass carafe. The company’s phone representative said, “I can’t send you a replacement until we receive your return.” That got my friend so angry that she asked to have her credit card credited immediately for the amount of the purchase and she heard, you guessed it, “I can’t do that.”

That got me thinking about how important language can be when communicating with customers. The fact is, most companies could improve the overall quality of their customers’ experience simply by applying some simple changes like these:

Replace the phrase “I can’t” with the phrase “I can.” This change tells customers that they are speaking with a representative who is empowered to resolve issues, and who wants to help. For example:

  • “I can find that out for you right now.”
  • “I can get you an immediate refund.”
  • “I can have one of our technicians there before noon.”
  • “I can send you a replacement right now, and you can return the defective product later.”

Use the word “we.” Used the right way, it can turn your rep and your customer into a team of two that is working together to resolve an issue. Some examples:

  • “I am sure that we can figure this out together.”
  • “We can take care of that problem right now.”
  • “We can figure out a way to prevent this from happening again.

Ask for permission by using the words, “Would it be alright if?” This language subtly sends the message that the customer is in the driver’s seat, because nothing will be done without his or her permission. Some examples:

Instead of saying, “I have to refer this problem to my manager” say, “Would it be alright with you if I brought my supervisor in on this call?”

Instead of saying, “We’ll issue you a store credit” say, “Would it be alright with you if we issued you a store credit?”

If it’s been a while since you turned your attention to the words that your representatives use when speaking with customers, I’d urge you to listen to some recordings of customer calls, or to sit in the room and listen to your phone staff while they are handling customer calls. The language that you hear can be determining whether your customers go away grumpy — like my friend — or delighted by the experience of doing business with your company.


Diana Pohly is the founder and president of, an online resource for owners of small and emerging businesses. With decades of experience working with world-class clients like Coca-Cola, Whole Foods, Continental Airlines, and Fidelity Investments, she is a recognized business leader who was named one of "America's Best Bosses" by Fortune Small Business. Featured in The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Folio, AdWeek, and on the CBS Early Show, Diana is a proven expert in the field of marketing.

Contributor: Diana Pohly

Published here on: 28-Oct-11

Classification: Marketing



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