The problem with ‘you statements’ in a customer service context

There are all sorts of different sentence and statement types you can make in conversation. Some are passive, some are active. Some are positive, some are negative. And all of them have different effects.

In a customer service context, some sentence types are more useful than others, from apology statements to funnelling questions. But there are also some that are more problematic – and ‘you statements’ make that list.

Here’s the problem with ‘you statements’ in a customer service context.


What are ‘you statements’?

‘You statements’ are those that imply the person you’re talking to is responsible for something. They’re most often used in arguments or when dealing with problems in order to assign blame.

For example:

  • 💬 ‘You should have done X…’
  • 💬 ‘You’ve done Y incorrectly…’
  • 💬 ‘You are wrong about Z…’
  • 💬 ‘You need to do A…’
  • 💬 ‘You haven’t considered that…’

In short, ‘you statements’ are those that tend to start with ‘you’ and tell the listener that they’re responsible for the situation in question.


‘You statements’: the problem

In customer service, you’re most likely to be susceptible to using ‘you statements’ in response to customer complaints, problems, and during problem-solving. The time where things need to be done, fixed and sorted — and when there’s blame that can be placed.

The problem is, then, that agents using ‘you statements’ are putting the blame for any problems, hiccups and hurdles on the customer. And no one likes to be told they’re wrong or at fault.

To put it another way, agents using this kind of statement show no ownership of the situation.

The customer already likely feels put out by whatever has caused them to get in touch. So, they aren’t going to be happy when agents try to shirk responsibility instead of fixing the issue. Passing the problem over by “you”ing it away feels like a support cop-out.


The effect

‘You statements’ make for ineffective service. They suggest to customers that you’re not interested in helping them. Instead, you’re just asserting that you aren’t responsible.

Plus, because they place customers on the defensive, your customers are more likely to get frustrated or angry.  This translates to harder chat sessions, emails, calls, etcetera. It also increases the likelihood that the blamed customer will leave your brand, leave negative reviews, and so on.

In short, ‘you statements’ equal a slippery slope to bad customer experiences.


What to say instead

Not only are ‘you statements’ problematic in customer service — they’re entirely avoidable. There’s always another way that you can convey the information you need to. It might be with ‘I statements’, empathy statements, or probing questions.

With ‘I statements’, you’re demonstrating assertiveness, empathy, and responsibility by beginning your sentence with ‘I’.

Consider the difference between:

  • 💬 ‘You need to speak to the technical support team’
  • 💬 ‘I can find you the best-placed person to help’

With empathy statements, meanwhile, you’re showing the customer that you understand their viewpoint. You’re trying to understand, not to evade action or blame.

Consider:

  • 💬 ‘You haven’t completed the form correctly’
  • 💬 ‘I can see how that would be confusing, I’ll help you complete’

Then, probing questions can help you get extra detail to provide the best possible service – rather than sounding stand-offish with ‘you statements’.

It’s the difference between:

  • 💬 ‘You need to try resetting’
  • 💬 ‘Have you done anything to address the issue?’

‘You statements’ in customer service

There’s no need to assign blame when customers reach out with a query or problem. There’s no need to get defensive, or to make customers defensive. All that does is make interactions harder for agents, and frustrating for customers.

In a customer service context, it’s both what you say and how you say it. Simply put, saying it with ‘you statements’ puts you on a bad footing with your customers.


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