7 Things NOT to Say to Customers

By John Asher

Your existing customers are essential to your business' continued success. Be careful that what you and your employees say to them doesn't make them want to leave. Here are seven things you should never say to customers. 

man covering mouth
Image source: Graphicstock.com

For companies selling B2B, 90 percent of your business next year will come from your current customers: 75 percent from ongoing business and 15 percent from up and cross-selling to them. You should be in continual discussion with your customers, and not just for solving problems. In fact, if the only time you're talking with them is during a problem, you become the problem in their eyes.

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Many business leaders believe their sales staff are the only ones who are selling. If you think about it, however, everyone in your company is in sales. Each interaction you and your people have with a customer is really another job application. If your current customer base is so vital to your continued success, you don’t want them to question their loyalty to you at the end of a conversation.

Here are seven things you should avoid saying to your valued customers:

1. No.

It’s hard not to say no to some customers. It’s better to finesse your answer a little. Even though they may have requested something that’s not possible due to the laws of physics and time, don’t stop the conversation - keep it moving along. Give them 100% of the ground truth. Only when concerned customers understand all the details can they then see what their true alternatives are.

2. I can’t.

This response sounds more like, “I don’t want to.” Maybe you could say, “That’s an interesting idea. Have you also considered …”? Diplomats and great negotiators do this all the time. They find broad agreement on a few things and expand the possibilities for final agreements. Find the “can do.”

3. It’s a dumb rule, but I have to follow it.

Now you’re sounding like a prisoner in your own company. There usually are valid reasons for rules. Help the customer understand the situation and work with them to make their experience as positive as possible. And if the rule really is that bad and it’s adversely affecting others, bring it up with your leadership. Help them help you save customers.

4. Expletives.

Don’t lose your professionalism and drop an expletive into an important customer conversation. It’s not cool. If the comedian Brian Regan can make a lot of money by not using foul language, why can’t you?

5. I don’t know.

It’s always better to say “I don’t know” than guess, but that’s not a good response unless it’s immediately followed by a promise to return with all the facts. Plus, it gives you another opportunity for a quality customer conversation. If you follow up quickly and completely, you’ll build even more trust with that customer.

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6. Sure.

Saying “Sure” is a throw-away line. With the wrong tone, you can sound dismissive of the customer's concern. Put a little enthusiasm in your reply: "Of course we can do that!” “Whatever you need!” Let them know you care.

7. No problem.

“No problem” may be a too common response in too many conversations. It even gets used instead of “You’re welcome” in reply to “Thank you.” So, “No problem” is a problem if it makes you appear too informal in the conversation. Perhaps you could smooth your response by saying, “I don’t believe there will be any problem with that.”

These are just seven of the many things you should not say to your customers. There are more, to be sure. The important thing to remember is that you can lose hard-earned customer loyalty with careless words. The next time you respond to a customer, take a breath and think about how you’d feel if you heard what you’re about to say.

JOHN ASHER is the CEO of Asher Strategies, a sales advisory firm focused on improving sales for business-to-business companies. Asher is the #1 rated speaker on sales for Vistage, a worldwide network of CEOs. Over the last two decades, he has mentored a large cadre of speakers and trainers that has fueled the growth of ASHER. Learn more about John Asher at www.asherstrategies.com and connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube. Close Deals Faster is available for pre-order Amazon and wherever books are sold. Release date October 2017.

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