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Avoid Disingenuous Customer Service Catchphrases

Contact centers may support different types of industries, but at the end of the day, our goal is to assist customers with their current needs and set them up for success in the future. A way to quickly turn a productive conversation into an escalation is by saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Unfortunately, there are some phrases when used during a phone interaction that can unintentionally appear disingenuous. Here are three phrases I’ve identified that are often used, but don’t always convey the message they are intending:

“I apologize for the inconvenience.”

I know this statement reads as heartfelt, but often when it’s being conveyed to a customer, it can come across as apathetic or indifferent. By the time a contact center agent is saying, “I apologize…”, the customer is already unhappy and has been waiting for a solution.

At this moment in the interaction, the apology doesn’t feel genuine. The next time you observe your agent saying the aforementioned phrase, try suggesting that they attempt the following instead: “I would be upset, too, if I were in your shoes. Let me help correct this for you.”

This approach infers an apology without diverting the conversation away from solution seeking. When an agent redirects the conversation to problem solving, the customer is less likely to focus on their emotions regarding an issue. The apology can then come after a resolution has been offered and the caller is ready to hear it.

“Sorry for your wait.”

Anyone who leads a contact center will, at some time, experience high call volume and lengthy customer wait times. When an agent says, “I’m sorry for your wait,” the focus of the conversation becomes placing blame on the wait time, instead of on helping the customer, especially if this occurs at the beginning of an interaction. I would recommend that the next time you observe your agent using this phrase, encourage them to attempt the following approach instead: “Thank you for waiting! I really appreciate your patience. How may I help you today?”

When we thank the caller, we are showing them gratitude. When the caller feels valued, our teammate has the opportunity to identify the reason for the call and the conversation stays productive.

The use of “Sir” or “Ma’am” in nearly any context.

Rarely have I heard the words “Sir” or “Ma’am” used in a positive context in a contact center interaction. Both words are often used in the tone of imitated politeness, and their use further escalates an interaction. Instead of attempting formality by using “Sir” or “Ma’am” (or even Mr./Ms./Mrs.), ask the customer at the beginning of the interaction for their name and then use their name throughout the interaction. If you are unsure whether or not the customer prefers the use of their first name or last name, simply ask. It’s better to get it right by confirming with the customer than to make an assumption and create a negative experience.There are additional thoughts to consider when addressing people using gendered formalities. Gender nonconforming and gender-fluid individuals may not use the typical titles that indicate gender.

A phone agent who takes a moment to connect with a caller, uses their preferred name, and thanks them for the time invested in the interaction will create experiences that are more memorable and productive for both people involved.