Positive language and irritable customers

The thumbnail version:

  • The language you use with a complaining customer is important
  • Negative language will compound the customer’s frustration
  • It’s a keep-or-lose the customer proposition

The full version:

While we’re railing against sloppy business practices (see previous post about ghosting inquiries via your website) let’s throw in dealing with irritable customers as well.

You decide which route to take if you want to keep the complaining customer.

An irritable customer doesn’t want to listen to explanations about why you cannot do anything for them; they want to hear what you are going to do for them. And the language you use is critical to the reaction you can expect. For instance, using any words or phrases that suggest that the problem is the customer’s fault (even if it is), or that the customer has to solve the problem themselves, or that you’re not able to address their concern for any reason whatsoever, is not a good idea.

So don’t say things like, “You have to . . .” or “I want you to . . .” or “Why don’t you . . .”, and so forth. Say things like, “I’m going to . . .” or “I can do this right now . . .” or “I’m going to work on this until it’s solved, can I call you back shortly?”

There are many aspects to handling customers’ complaints and concerns effectively, but positive language is one of the more important ones.

Now, that being said, you will run across the odd unreasonable, rude customer that cannot be pleased under any circumstances, no matter what you do. These are the ones where you want to take a deep breath, calm down, and politely encourage them to go deal with your competition by “admitting” that you’re obviously not capable of satisfying them.