12 Most Disingenuous Customer Service Phrases

12 Most Disingenuous Customer Service Phrases

No matter how much is written about how valuable and integral to business success high quality customer service is, some companies still don’t get it.

There are those with blatantly poor customer service — so poor in fact, that online review forums are busting at the seams with post after post from their disgruntled customers. Make that ex-customers.

But what I find more deeply annoying, are the companies that seem to simply go through the motions of providing good customer service. Whether it’s a sappy mission statement that nobody at the company has ever read, a grunted memorized greeting or a follow-up canned email, it just torks me more than the companies who don’t even bother to pretend they care.

At least the ones who don’t even try to pretend are honest.

Here are the 12 most disingenuous customer service phrases — with of course, a bit of explanation as to why they made the list.

1. “Your call is important to us”

No it’s not. If it was, you’d be answering the phone in person.

2. “Thank you for calling [insert company name here]

How can you thank me for calling when you have no idea why I am calling? Maybe I’m calling to tell you that you’ve been turned down for financing, or that you owe back taxes, or that your check bounced.

Listen first, thank me later.

3. “Can I help the next guest in line?”

I’ve noticed lately that retail stores and fast food restaurants have started referring to patrons as ‘guests’ obviously mimicking the hotel industry. It rubs me the wrong way because I’m not a guest at a shopping mall or drug store in the same way as I am a guest at a hotel — no matter how often they say it.

The next time I stop in at one of these places, I’m going to bring a suitcase and a pillow… let’s see just how serious they are with this ‘guest’ stuff.

4. “Would you like a bag for that?”

If I have more than two or three items on a checkout counter, I want a bag. Don’t bother asking me, just bag the stuff.

My Dad was always so annoyed by this that whenever he was asked this ridiculous question, he would pull out the bottom of his shirt with both hands and say “Just put them in here.”

One cashier actually did.

5. “Can I help you find something?”

This one can sometimes be genuine, but usually it’s not. If the person stops what they are doing, and walks over to you while they make this statement, they really mean it.

If they barely look up, or jut their chin out as if pointing to you with it — they don’t mean a word of it.

6. “Have a nice day!”

I hate to admit this but I think we’re all guilty of saying this to someone when we don’t mean it. I’m actually trying to stop. I think we all should.

Besides, what the heck does “nice” mean anyway?

7. “Would you like to save an extra 10% today?”

This is secret code for “Sign up for our credit card with an annual percentage rate of 24% and I’ll get a few bucks extra in my paycheck”.

8. “Is there anything else I can help you with today?”

This is another one of those phrases that can be very genuine. Or not.

When the interaction results in actual help with whatever problem you need fixing, then the phrase is genuine.

I once called a satellite internet service provider with three serious issues I was having with their product. They couldn’t help me with any of them, so when the representative uttered the phrase above, I couldn’t help but respond with “Else? Else? You can’t help me with anything else until you helped me with something first!”

9. “Free shipping & handling”

Shipping and handling are never free. The price for both are built into the product price.

10. “If you buy one, you’ll get one free”

No you won’t, you’ll just pay more for the first one.

11. “For your safety, this area is under video surveillance”

I have no problem with businesses video taping areas that get shoplifted often, but be honest about. They’re not trying to protect me, they trying to protect themselves from me.

12. “Dear Valued Customer”

Ever get a letter with a salutation like this? How valued can I really be if you don’t even know my name? Or worse, you know it but don’t bother to use it?

In this day and age, any company that doesn’t have the tech know-how to address each letter personally needs to not send letters to their customers at all.

There you have it. If you have a customer service gem you’d like to add to the list, post it below.

After all, your input is important to me, and you can comment for free. Have a nice day!

Featured image by Andy Dean Photography via BigStock with agreement with the writer.

Jeannine Morber

http://www.morbermarketing.com

Jeannine Morber is the owner and founder of Morber Marketing Group. She develops and conducts customized sales and marketing training sessions for companies all across the US. Morber is also a popular public speaker, an avid blogger, an amateur photographer and a reality TV addict.

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41 comments
biggreenpen
biggreenpen

LOL but seriously where is "not a problem"? (It may be here but I only have a quick moment to comment.......). Great list.

PierrePete
PierrePete

Nos. 1,2,3,4 you have bagged. No. 5, OK. It depends a lot on the person saying it.  I often wish I could just find a Customer Service Representative (CSR) or Clerk, or whoever... Just so they could ask me if they can help me find something.  And if you ask if you can help... Then HELP!  Telling me to go down to aisle 256, make a left, and a right, and look for Domestic Housewares... is NOT Helping!  No. 6, Well I like being wished a nice day.  Sometimes I use it myself.  I also wish, good, great, and wonderful days!  

Nos. 7 and 8 you pegged, again.  I love your story for #8.  I have often been asked if I can be helped with something else, after NOT being helped at all.  I fell sorry you had the same experience, but you did make me feel netter:  I am not alone!

No, as for #9, well, people hate being nickel & dimed for every little thing. My Hydro and Gas bills are 4 pages long.  They charge me small amounts for a million things, to make it look like they are doing a lot.  Pshaw!  My phone bill used to be 4 or 5 pages long.  A billion things, all itemized.  My current provider does it on one page.  SOMETIMES, if I had several long distance calls, or something special, it goes into page 2.  The issue is the total price for the product, versus the value of it.  Ok.  It is $10.00 including shipping and handling.  Meh!  They called the shipping free.  But if I buy from them, I know that $10 plus tax (Never forget the tax!), is my total outlay.  I can swallow that little thing. 

As for #10, well, that is a volume discount thing.  It is like in #9, above:  What's the total price versus the value.  If you want to sell me 2 and it is something I may well use two if, then selling me 2 for $10, is ok, if the value is $10.  I can do the math:  They REALLY are $5 each, but the seller makes no profit that way.  By selling me 2 for $10, we might both benefit.  And if I am not benefiting?  Then it is my DUTY as a citizen and client to take my business elsewhere. That's what makes the economy work. 

As for #11, I agree.  But sometimes, the surveillance might actually be for my safety.  A lot depends of the circumstances.

 

As for #12, Yah.  They value me.  In a pig's eye they do.  I "love it"... when I leave a company, and they proceed "to try bring me back" later on.  Then they say they value my business.  Ummm... Dudes, you should have valued it when you had it.  Do you think I left just for fun?  I think you know what I mean! 

 

Anyhow, this was a great article, and I really want to say thank you. You said things I have wanted to get off my chest for years.  And you let me get some others off my chest!  Thanks. 

dbvickery
dbvickery

I chuckled at just about every one of these, Jeannine. And I liked the personal anecdote on the "would you like a bag for that". And you nailed #5 and #8, in some places they are genuine, and in others you can watch the brief flash of annoyance if you call their bluff and actually ask for further assistance.

JamesWBreen
JamesWBreen

@peterfromottawa I like your comment, just waited in cash line for 20 minutes and NOW they wanna know if I have everything?

peterfromottawa
peterfromottawa

GREAT list @MorberMarketing ! I would add one more and it's my LEAST favorite of the entire pack - at the check out, after waiting in a huge line, with the huge line behind you, and the cashier asks "Did you find everything you were looking for today?" ... If I didn't, it's too bloody late now, isn't it??Still a fantastic list!! 

Michelle_Mazur
Michelle_Mazur

The other day I called my ISP because my modem stopped working. The customer service rep said to me "I am sorry about the problem you are having today." First, why are you sorry? It's not like you broke my modem. Second, you are NOT really sorry, are you? It so annoyed me because it was the least authentic thing anyone could say to me!

WineEveryday
WineEveryday

This list is great!

I like &  hate #5 "Can I help you find something?" .." Well yes", I say, and then they run away! I'm still waiting for someone who when 'in the back' to find something for me at Ulta Cosmetics.... Say what you mean & mean what you say!  Cheers!

GCPworks
GCPworks

@Bill_Simmel @twilli2861 No. 13: "This call may be recorded for quality or training purposes." Really? Am tempted to say same back to them.

Hinder_Lider04
Hinder_Lider04

@thefarmerslife @morbermarketing And don't forget the all important add on sale at the cashier! Flyswatter, duct tape...etc.

devil2rf0
devil2rf0

@thefarmerslife Why Disney appeals to all kind of people? Get the ticket here and you'll find the reason: @Free_Disney_

skFiola
skFiola

@tamcdonald I also dislike "did you find everything alright" from the cashier while checking out. Kind of a late for your concern honey.

katieraspberry
katieraspberry

Cashiers who ask people if they want a bag are great, they remind people in an indirect way that plastic bags are bad for the environment. Also they ask because some people already realized this and carry their own re-usable bag which means they won't need that extra bag.

Other than that great post! Agreed on many levels except the bag point.

 

Katie

http://katieraspberry.wordpress.com/

Milaspage
Milaspage

Hey Jeannine!  @morbermarketing Great list, we regularly review what we are saying on our lines, and one of the interesting things is the success of failure- or what really proves the ability of a truly engaged service agent, vs a robot, is how they manage these "scripts" or come up with ways to say the same thing in genuine appropriate ways. There is nothing more frustrating than talking to someone who sounds like they are speaking merely out of habit, vs, speaking because they genuinely care and are trying to be as helpful as possible. Your example on ":Can I help you with anything else today" is a great one, PLEASE don't say that if you've helped me with nothing! But if you've helped me, and you ask me that and I feel good about you, then when you ask, it often makes me think, oh yeah there was something else, and it turns into a very satisfying (and appreciated call). I often take advantage (and appreciate) that phrase as a consumer when i hit someone who has been really helpful- and when in contrast all others to date haven't been. You know whats funny, they usually turn out able to help me with everything that no one was able to help em with before! So, its all in the skill and genuine ability and desire of the person speaking. Above all the phrases, isn't that whats key? :)

varadigabor
varadigabor

@shawmu @12Most @morbermarketing OK, OK so allow them to try, right? Still better than not to do anything, isn't it? :-)

TomBLogue
TomBLogue

Let's not forget #13: "For your convenience..."

MorberMarketing
MorberMarketing

 @PierrePete Wow! Thank you SO much Pierre for your commentary! I think I hit a sore spot with a lot of people because much of the feedback is from people saying they wanted to get these things off their chest as well!

 

What I find really odd is that the people who work in customer service industry are customers themselves - so don't they see the same things we do? How can they train their people to do and say things that annoy people so deeply?

 

Or maybe it is that the people who make these decisions are so high up that they have people who do their shopping and phone calling FOR them so they never experience it first hand!

 

Again, thanks so much for taking the time to comment - I sincerely appreciate it and it makes me want to investigate and write about more stuff like this!

MorberMarketing
MorberMarketing

 @dbvickery Thanks Brian! I have about 50 anecdotes about my Dad - almost all are hilarious. He would have been George Carlin if there wasn't already a George Carlin. 

 

Again, thanks so much for your feedback - I really enjoyed writing this and hearing from so many people who agreed or who had more phrases of their own to add. I have enough new stuff for a Part II!

wsiabelpardo
wsiabelpardo

@JasonPromotesU Thank you for the retweet, Jason!

peterfromottawa
peterfromottawa

@jbreen09 It drives me nuts, so now I always say "well it's too late now, isn't it"

MorberMarketing
MorberMarketing

 @peterfromottawa AHHH!!!! I so totally agree with that one Peter! I once responded to that question with "No, I couldn't find the peanut butter" and the cashier responded with "Awww, just get it next  time I guess".

 

You are soooo right....why bother asking!

MorberMarketing
MorberMarketing

 @Michelle_Mazur I totally agree with you Michelle! Saying "I'm sorry' in this situation is just so wrong! The correct response should be 'I understand' or any other acknowledgement of the problem. Saying you're sorry doesn't do diddly squat if you don't fix the problem!

 

And BTW, so sorry about your modem! Seriously!

Bill_Simmel
Bill_Simmel

Tina, @GCPworks - Yes that is always a"favorite." This tweet has been recorder for quality control purposes :) Bill

tamcdonald
tamcdonald

@skFiola And...Are you sure you really want me to answer that? ;-)

PierrePete
PierrePete

 @katieraspberry Yes, and it is even more fun, when I clearly have 10 things, and clearly have no bag with me.  Even crazier:  I have a bundle of maybe 10 cloth recyclable bags with me...  And they ask me if I want a bag!!!  DUH!  What do ya think I brought the bags for, there, sunshine? 

MorberMarketing
MorberMarketing

 @katieraspberry Good point! I added that one because it drove my Dad crazy...and this was 25 years ago when , trust me, there wasn't much concern for the environment. I also remember working retail and being told to not bag anything unless the customer request it.

MorberMarketing
MorberMarketing

 @Milaspage One of the things I always make a note of doing Mila, is to acknowledge a genuine customer service response with a genuine show of appreciation. I'm a firm believer that those who are successful working with the public are those who get true satisfaction out of solving people's problems.

 

You are spot on Mila, that is truly the key!

PierrePete
PierrePete

 @TomBLogue Oh, yes!  Thank you for making it a "Baker's dozen"!  And -- strictly for your convenience, you understand -- I'll be moving on now!

PierrePete
PierrePete

 @MorberMarketing Great!  We need more of it.  I am sorry some CSR's got mad at you.  They took it personally.  They may be required to do these 12 things each day!  You should write a "contra article" from the CSR side.  And now I just inspired you -- maybe!  Take care!  Pierre

MJasonHouck
MJasonHouck

@wsiabelpardo You're welcome Abel. Hope all is well :-)

PierrePete
PierrePete

 @MorberMarketing I do not care if they are sorry or not. If it makes them feel better to say that, my opinion is: "Hey!  Go right at it! FEEL SORRY!  Knock yourself out."  BUT:  Now, NOW that they have felt sorry... Can they fix/solve the #$%^ problem?????

Michelle_Mazur
Michelle_Mazur

 @MorberMarketing Thank you! Luckily it was an easy fix. I don't know what I would do without the Internet for a day or two! I'd go through withdrawals for sure!

PierrePete
PierrePete

 @MorberMarketing Yes, if someone IS good to me, I make a point of mentioning it and thanking them.  One time, a few years ago, someone was so helpful, I "bemoaned" ... "I wish I could tell your boss!"  There was uncontrollable double laughter on their end, as the boss cut in and said, "This lady just finished training, and I was here to assist, just in case! I am the boss!"  So I asked who the trainer was, that did such a fine job.  The boss laughed again, because the Boss was the trainer.  So I made their day, for both of them. 

MorberMarketing
MorberMarketing

 @PierrePete Oh no ...nobody got mad at me. People who AGREED said I hit a sore spot...and most had their own items to add! This is a topic that could easily have been 24 Most...

MJasonHouck
MJasonHouck

@wsiabelpardo Everything is great here :-)

wsiabelpardo
wsiabelpardo

@JasonPromotesU Fine, I hope also for you!

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