Customer Service Words That Make a Difference
Daniel Webster once wrote, “If all my possessions were taken from me with one exception, I would choose to keep the power of communication, for by it I would soon regain all the rest.” Truer words were never spoken.
The words we choose in life make a difference. So do the customer service words we use. It’s amazing how much of a difference small changes in our language can have on our ability to influence, persuade, motivate – or even just get along better with people.
Example #1: Customer Service Words in Retail
A retail client of ours once allowed us to do a little experiment with customer service words in retail. We wanted to see if we could change the number of customers who reflexively said, “No thanks, I’m just looking,” when engaged by an employee.
In ten stores, we had employees begin their interaction with the traditional, “Can I help you?” In ten other stores, we had employees begin with, “What can I help you find today?” A subtle difference in customer service words, but the outcome was profound.
In the “Can I help you?” stores, a little over 60% of customers responded that they were just looking. In the stores where we added the “what” prefix, fewer than 35% of customers responded that way. Wow.
Example #2: Customer Service Words in Banking
In another instance, a few years back, we had front line employees of a financial institution make a subtle change in the customer service words the used while giving direction to customers. Instead of giving an instruction, such as, “You’re going to have to talk to a loans manager about that,” we asked them to frame things in their customers’ best interests, with words like, “Our loans manager will be able to help you a lot better and faster than I could.”
Once again, the impact on customer response was remarkable.
Small Customer Service Word Changes Make a Big Difference
Making small changes to the way we communicate can influence every aspect of our lives. You can say to your spouse who would like to go to an Italian restaurant, “Yabut you always want to eat Italian food. I want sushi.” Or, you could say, “I know how much you love your Italian food, but can we try sushi tonight?” You can say to a child, “You’re doing this wrong,” or you can say “You might find it works better if you do it this way.” Little changes can have big results.
Like it or not, people judge you based on your language skills. Think about the first impressions you’ve gotten from people you’ve met. In a very short period of time, you might assess them as intelligent, nice, narcissistic, funny, arrogant, friendly, shy – any number of characteristics. A large part of that comes from a subconscious interpretation of the words they use.
Language skills aren’t easy to master, because there is strong a situational component. The most successful people you will meet have the ability to make subtle changes to their language based on the people they are speaking with and their environment. They recognize that while more formal language may be effective in a boardroom, for example, it has the potential to be counterproductive in relaxed social settings.
Awareness is key to the words you use
So how do we improve our language skills? The answer is awareness. Be aware of your surroundings. Be aware of your own speech patterns. Watch how people respond to you and others. Learn. Try different tactics. Be willing to change your approach. The payoff in both your personal and professional life will be huge.
Reprinted with permission from the Winning At Work newsletter