In fact, the difference between great customer support and a sour service experience can be as small as the difference between ‘why didn’t you try’ and ‘have you tried’.
Some innocent-seeming phrases are inflammatory, and fan the flames of customer irritation.
So, what common customer support sentences are better left unsaid? We outline the top ten things you should never say in a live chat conversation.
1. It’s not my/our fault
Translation: It’s your fault/ I don’t have to help you fix this problem.
Who cares whose fault it is? The customer certainly doesn’t.
- ✕ We aren’t responsible for…
- ✕ It’s not our fault that…
- ✓ I’m sorry that happened. Let me see if there’s anything we can do to help.
It doesn’t matter whose fault it is, it matters that your customer isn’t happy. If you and your company aren’t to blame, you can still be sorry that the customer has been upset.
So, in a live chat conversation, be sure to apologise no matter the cause of the issue. Always try to help find a solution for the customer to use.
2. I’m sorry, but…
Translation: I’m not actually sorry.
‘I’m sorry, but’ isn’t an apology, it’s a rationalisation. In any conversation, ‘I’m sorry, but’ is a disingenuous apology.
In a live chat conversation, it also demonstrates a reluctance to accept the problem the customer has approached you with.
- ✕ I’m sorry, but…
- ✓ I’m sorry to hear that. Usually…
When something has gone wrong, it doesn’t matter why. How you fix it matters. So, apologise sincerely, and explain that it’s not a normal occurrence.
You show that you’ve accepted that the problem shouldn’t have happened, and that you are genuinely sorry it’s upset the customer.
3. Calm down
Translation: I don’t understand your feelings/you’re overreacting/I won’t help you unless you stop feeling upset.
How many times has someone told you to calm down when you’re emotional? Did it work?
Telling an upset person to calm down demonstrates a lack of understanding or empathy on your part, and it only agitates people further.
- ✕ Calm down and I’ll do my best to help you.
- ✕ Please calm down so that I can help you.
- ✓ I understand, I’m sorry that’s happened. Let me see what I can do to help.
In a live chat conversation, calm customers by showing them you are listening to their concerns. Let them know that you understand why they’re upset, apologise, and show compassion. Showing empathy to an upset customer is far more effective at helping them calm down than suggesting you don’t understand or care about their feelings.
4. That’s against our policy
Translation: I’m not going to help you, you shouldn’t have bothered contacting us.
Okay, it’s true, the thing the customer has asked for isn’t allowed according to your policy. But saying this to a chatting customer is dismissive of their concerns, making for a bad experience.
Instead, explain your policy, and why that policy exists. Then try to offer a solution or compromise that IS possible.
- ✕ That’s against our policy.
- ✕ Our policy prevents us from…
- ✓ Unfortunately, in order to offer the best… we have to/are not able to under our policy… however, we can…
People are more patient when they understand what you’re doing. In a live chat conversation, you can do this by offering alternate solutions. Walking through options lets the customer know you aren’t dismissing the issue.
Showing that you are actively interested in solving the problem appeases customers – even if you can’t provide the solution they specifically wanted.
5. It’s not my job/problem
Translation: You’ve wasted your time coming to me, I won’t be any help, I don’t care about your problems.
In a live chat conversation, telling a customer that dealing with their issue isn’t part of your job is another way to be dismissive.
- ✕ It’s not my problem that…
- ✕ That has nothing to do with this company.
- ✓ That sounds like a pain, let’s see if we can solve this problem, and take some of the stress off you.
- ✓ I can understand why you’re upset. Let me try to help with this problem, and make it one less worry.
Customers aren’t always going to be solely focused on the problem with your company; other things will be making the problem worse.
When they start complaining about other problems and issues outside of your department, show empathy, and keep your attention on the things you can help with.
6. Why didn’t you just…
Translation: You’re stupid for not trying this thing, why couldn’t you work it out yourself, this isn’t a real problem.
With this kind of fault-finding tone, you’re trivialising the customer’s problem and suggesting they’re wasting your time.
A disparaging approach implies that your help shouldn’t even be needed, not to mention being incredibly rude to the customer in need.
- ✕ Why didn’t you just…
- ✓ That’s a real problem, have you tried…?
By instead asking whether the customer has already tried something, you’re not implying that they’re incapable of common sense or working things out themselves.
You won’t insult the customer, and you’re offering a potential fix straight away.
7. I don’t know
Translation: I’m incompetent and won’t be any help to you.
Customers have started a live chat conversation with you for help and support. Telling them you don’t know the answer to their query is neither helpful nor supportive. It presents you as disinterested in the chat, and incompetent at your role to boot.
- ✕ I don’t know.
- ✓ I’m not sure, I’ll check for you.
- ✓ That’s a good question, let me find out for you.
No one is expected to know everything, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t find out. So instead of dismissing the live chat conversation with an indifferent ‘I don’t know’, be active in finding an answer, and keep the customer aware of what you’re doing.
Translation: I’m not part of the company you’re trying to reach, I’m not a credible contact for customer support of this business.
In a live chat conversation, you are representing your company. Telling a customer you’ll pass on their feedback or concerns to ‘them’ alienates you from the company.
This is confusing and inconsistent to the customer, hurts your credibility, and suggests that the business isn’t really listening.
- ✕ I will pass your feedback on to them.
- ✕ They will always do their best to help you.
- ✓ We appreciate your feedback.
- ✓ We will make sure your problem is solved.
Instead, be sure to use ‘we’. Present yourself as a voice of the company, don’t distance yourself from it.
9. I already answered that
Translation: You’re wasting my time, I don’t want to talk to you anymore, you’re annoying me.
Maybe a customer is repeating a question you just answered or hasn’t understood something you’ve said.
But pointing out that you’ve already answered the question can easily come across as condescending, impatient, and downright rude. (Particularly in a live chat conversation, when you can’t rely on tonal cues.)
- ✕ I already said…
- ✕ As I’ve already explained…
- ✓ The information above should help guide you through the solution.
Even better is to explain a fix or answer in another way, without referencing your previous messages. People are different and understand things differently.
If a customer hasn’t understood you, explaining in a different way could clear up the confusion, without patronising the customer or making them feel dismissed.
10. Nothing at all…
Translation: No one is here to help or support you, we don’t care about your problems.
One of the worst things you can say in a live chat conversation is nothing at all.
If a customer has tried to reach out to you, you must meet them. Not responding to chats at all tells chatting customers that you aren’t listening to them; that you don’t care.
Avoiding the live chat conversation clash
Want to avoid clashing with customers in a live chat conversation? Ditch these ten flammable phrases and avoid any customer service (mis)fires.
- – Five phrases to use with angry customers
- – A guide to tone-matching in live chat interactions
- – Live chat poor practice: let’s make live chat great again
- – Learning styles and the importance of versatility in customer service
- – The anatomy of a successful chat session
- – A live chat session: the perfect place to calm a storm in a teacup