Retail businesses face unique challenges when it comes to customer service. It is important when dealing with customer service in retail to be conscious of your language and attitude towards the customer. Be sure to avoid these 5 forbidden phrases.

1. “I Don’t Know.”

Simply responding with, “I don’t know” makes you sound uninformed and uninterested. Even if you don’t know, phrase it in a way that makes it clear you will find out and care about providing your customer with the information they need.

Try instead: “I’ll find out.”

2. “How may I help you?”

Such a common phrase in the retail space. So common, perhaps it has become a cliche. Brian Facquet, owner of Prohibition Distillery in Roscoe, NY, told us his thoughts on why this should be a forbidden phrase.

“How can I help you? I think it’s the most negative statement that you can ever make as a business owner, no one knows how you can help. When walking into a retail store, someone from the street doesn’t necessarily know what you have. They don’t necessarily know how you can help them. They may just be looking around, curious about your place. ‘How can I help you’, to me, is something that is more of a challenge question. So, when people walk into my business, it’s, ‘Welcome, come on in.'” – Brian Facquet

Try instead: “Welcome, come on in.”

3. “Unfortunately no…”

There is always a better way to say no than just saying no. Simply saying no gives the impression you’re not willing to go the extra mile to make sure your customer ends up happy, and that you’re not interested in taking any additional measures to make up for whatever you cannot offer them. Even if something is impossible, try rephrasing it more along the lines of, “although we can’t provide that, here are some other options.” This way, you are showing a willingness to make sure they leave happy, and you are providing them with a choice rather than just rejecting their request entirely.

Try instead: “Although we can’t provide that, here are some other options.”

4. “Sorry, but it’s policy.”

Policies can be helpful. The right policies can empower your team to build better relationships with your customers and ultimately grow your business. But policies are not excuses. They are not walls to hide behind when you won’t give your customers what they want. Of course, there are times when you can’t grant your customer’s wishes. But “it’s policy” is not an excuse. Instead, have enough respect for your customer’s intelligence to explain why a policy is as it is, in hopes they are understanding, and whenever possible try to offer alternative solutions to make them happy.

Try instead: “[This] is why we do it this way. Let’s find a solution.”

5. “You should have…”

Placing the blame on the customer will make them unhappy and even feel attacked. If there is a problem, rather than making it the customer’s fault, apologize for any possible misunderstanding or unfortunate circumstance and offer potential solutions for the issue, rather than looking for somewhere to place the blame.

Try instead: “I’m sorry for this, here’s what we can do…” 

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