Phrases to Avoid

See end of this post to get a free PDF poster for your call center, contact center, or desktop wallpaper to help remind your customer service agents what phrases they should avoid before they get too deep in the weeds.

When writing to clients or customers, avoid these phrases to better enhance their experience and reduce pushback. Note that some of these also apply to knowledge bases. Check your KB frequently for soft and ambiguous wording.

When I do ticket audits, these are areas which are often overlooked, but contribute directly to improved FCR (First Contact Resolution) metrics, and thus, to improved CSAT. This is good for customers, but also good for profits (there’s that dirty word again!).

AVOID “problem” or “issue”. This is reinforcing a negative view the customer has about their concern. Keep it light. It is a “concern”. It is a “query”.

AVOID “hopeful”, as in “I’m hopeful this resolves your concern”. We are not hopeful. We know.

AVOID “I think”. Make sure it works before you send it. Test first. Then you will know.

AVOID “should”. A customer does not want to be our beta tester.

AVOID “maybe”. Find out for sure. Then let them know.

AVOID “ticket”. We use “ticket”, or ‘case’, internally, in our metrics. The customer’s concern is not a ticket. It’s a concern. Treat it as such and make them feel unique or special. Where possible, change your help desk’s software (or CRM’s) wording to reflect that in automated system language. If you must use a generic word, choose “case” over “ticket” as it sounds like a bigger deal to the customer.

AVOID “can you try?”. When diagnosing technical matters and the customer is not giving us enough information, seek ways to extract information from them. Instead of saying “Can you try clearing your browser cache?”, simply instruct them “Please clear your browser cache. Do you see the same concern on your screen now?”

AVOID “investigate”, “troubleshoot”, “diagnose”, and “debug”. These sound scary and technical to many people, and they are often an exaggeration of the actual steps we took. Use simple phrases like “look into”, “examined”, “checked out”.

AVOID “tech support” or “tech team”. While many concerns with our products are technical in nature, the word is off-putting and intimidating to many people. Simply use “support” or “customer support”. This is often used by CSRs in escalations, as in “I’m going to refer you to a member from our tech support team”. This is wrong. That also makes the customer think, “What was I doing wasting time with you if you can’t assist on technical matters” (and especially true in SaaS support teams where all CSRs should be ‘tech’-enabled). Internally, we do have such teams, or various levels of support, but be human about escalations. Instead say, “I’m going to bring Robert into our discussion as he’s really knowledgeable about problems with SIM card malfunctions”. Treat others as we might with a neighbor down the street: “Let’s go ask Cecilia about this since she’s been dealing with gas grills longer than both of us”.

AVOID “instructions”, “rules”. Instead, use “tips” or “guidelines”.

AVOID “contract”. Instead, use “agreement”. (All but the most stingy legal departments will generally be okay with this, but check to be sure). Moreover, avoid referring to the contract, agreement, or terms of service unless critical to discussion, or directly referred to by the customer.

AVOID “policy”. I’ve yet to meet a customer who has said, “I found it helpful when the company’s policies were pointed out to me”. Instead say, “We have not yet given refunds for your situation, but I am happy to request an exception.”, or “I am writing to apologize that I was not able to make an exception in this case”. No need to say that the requested exception was in direct violation of a company policy. That word may make a CSR feel backed up by the company, but the feelings we are considering are those of our customer’s, not our CSR’s. CSRs will learn to adapt. Relatedly, company policies should be reviewed frequently by Customer Support Management, Legal, and Operations, to ensure those polices are upholding best practices and common sense. Most are outdated and unfriendly to customers and can handcuff good business opportunities.

Support Phrases to Avoid - Download the PDF here.
Download the "Phrases to Avoid" PDF