The 13 Words You Never Use When Replying To A Customer

Jay Baer Reviews

Contributed blog post from Jay Baer

More and more customers are deciding where to spend their money based on ratings and reviews of businesses.

The reality is that potential customers deciding between multiple providers of similar services (especially in retail and restaurants) are often using mobile devices to scan for what’s good, what’s around, and what’s open.

Confronted with many choices, these potential customers – YOUR potential customers – often then use location ratings and reviews to narrow down their options and figure out where to shop or eat.

According to BrightLocal research, more than 80% of Americans trust ratings and reviews, meaning that your score and your interactions in Google, Yelp, and Facebook can gain you business or cost you business.

You must do these three things well:

  1. Get more reviews. Ask every customer to leave you a review. (Yext Reviews can help make this happen)
  2. Answer most reviews. Remember, reviews are a spectator sport. Hundreds or thousands of potential customers may see how you respond to praise or criticism. Take the time to answer.
  3. Answer the right way. When replying to reviews on Yelp, Google, and Facebook some businesses have a tendency to use language that they feel is innocuous, but runs the risk of upsetting customers.

It is more important than ever before to be mindful not just of what your company says to customers online, but HOW it is said as well. Minor shifts in word choice can mean the difference between a great customer interaction, and an unruly, offended mob.

To help you avoid the trap of answering reviews in a way that frustrates customers, I put together a list of these potentially irksome words and phrases.

Here then are the 13 Words You Should Never Use When Replying to a Customer, grouped into three categories of potential trouble.

Words That Lack Humanity


OUR

When using the word “our” the person replying to the customer is speaking on behalf of the collective business. This lacks humanity and a personal touch. It is much better to use “I” and “me” instead of “our” and “we.”

POLICY

There may be perfectly sound reasons why your business handles certain situations in a particular way. But telling customers that those circumstances are based on a “policy” sounds inflexible and uncaring.

PER

Too formal, not human, and totally unnecessary. “Per our records…” is not a warm and friendly way to address an upset customer – or even a 
happy customer!

DEPARTMENT OR DIVISION

The customer doesn’t care about the org chart. When using “department” in a reply, it emphasizes the operating structure of the company, which is unnecessary and not something relevant to the customer.

Words that Diminish the Customer


SEEMS

Don’t reply with “It seems you might have had a bad experience” because “seems” is a word used when trying to interpret or make sense of something. It is clear that the customer had a bad experience, because they complained about it. Better phrasing is “I am sorry about the bad experience you had.”

JUST

This is an unnecessary limiter, and while not deemed offensive in most cases, it can rub customers the wrong way. “I just called to say I’m sorry” is a good song lyric and a decent customer response. It would be better as “I called to say I’m sorry.”

MISUNDERSTANDING

This one may seem harmless, but “misunderstanding” emphasizes that somehow the customer made an error or was unable to fully grasp key information. “Misunderstanding” is often used as a polite way of saying “you didn’t listen or read well enough.” Don’t make that mistake.

IF

“We’re sorry IF you were disappointed in your stay with us” is common phrasing. The company already knows the customer was disappointed – that’s why they left a negative comment or review. Much better phrasing is “Your stay was less than perfect. I’m so sorry that happened.”

Words Of Argument and Avoidance


FAULT

The customer may not be right. The customer may be completely wrong. Regardless, talking about whether or not it was the business’ “fault” or the customer’s “fault” sounds defensive and off-putting.

BLAME

Similar to “fault” any time a business uses the word “blame” in a reply to a customer, it immediately sets up a counterproductive right vs wrong scenario.

BUT

The ultimate, wishy-washy qualifier that is often used in excuses in combination with “policy” and related terms. Don’t say “We’d like to offer you a refund, but our policy prohibits us from doing so.” Instead say, “I cannot give you a refund. I can offer you other compensation instead.”

TRY

When used in a reply to a customer “try” sets up an incomplete, open-ended, sequence of events such as “We’ll try to do better next time.” Follow Yoda’s advice: do or do not. There should be 
no “try.”

CONSIDER

Similar to “try” and often used in the exact same way. “We’ll consider your suggestions…” can easily be interpreted as dismissive and insincere.

Take a look at how your team is replying to customers today via forums, reviews, social media and beyond. I’ll wager a large sum that they are – at least occasionally – using some of these 13 words, and inadvertently upsetting customers and the spectators looking on from the digital sidelines.

Work with your team to rewrite common responses to eliminate these 13 words. At Convince & Convert, we’ve worked with many companies to do so, and it’s harder than you think to clean up this often entrenched customer communication language!


For more information about how location reviews have changed the way that consumers make decisions and how your business can adapt, download Jay’s guide “How to Win Digital and Real World Traffic with Local Reviews.”
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