What Not to Say to Customers and Why

Language is the currency of support. It allows us to produce results when talking to customers over the phone, via chat or over email. But, just as it can allow us to repair bridges that are broken, it can crumble them down, if used improperly. There is no quicker way to lose a customer’s trust than giving them the wrong information or speaking to them in a way that makes them feel disrespected or like you don’t care.

Best Practices for Minding Your Language

Before we go into specific examples of language we shouldn’t use in customer support, let’s look at some best practices for getting your team speaking the right tone.

No one wants to feel disrespected, and one of the easiest ways to do this, unintentionally, is by not understanding where a customer comes from and what that means in terms of culturally appropriate language. Different cultures have different communication styles and breaking culture communication rules without knowing it can cause serious issues with your customers from other countries. Resolve this by familiarizing yourself with which cultures are heavy users of your product, and create documentation or training to help your employees better understand things that they should be culturally aware of.

Documentation, in general, for tone and style for your team is an excellent way to ensure that there is some uniformity in language amongst your support representatives. If you don’t already have a tone and style guide for your team, you should create one—you can likely borrow heavily from your content marketing team. Make sure to encompass the things that are most important to your team, and how tone and style should change across different platforms. For example, Twitter is likely going to be significantly less formal than your email or phone offerings.

The last big picture thing to consider to level-up your tone and mind your language in your emails is to avoid swearing or using adult language unless it’s a part of your brand. Some demographics definitely vibe with casual, colloquial language, but if your users aren’t prepared for it, it can come as a jolting surprise. Set the right expectations by following the same tone as your website.

While there are a few overarching principles that your team should be practicing to get maximum quality in their support interactions, there are also a few sentences and phrases that you should never use in your interactions with customers. With shifting away from using these small tactics and phrases, you give your employees a better chance to serve your customers well.

“I’ll get back to you by end of day.”

When responding to your customers, never give them a set deadline for when you’ll respond or when you will push the fix for a bug. So, instead of saying “I’ll get back to you by end of day,” say “I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.” Why is this important?

What you think you’re saying

When you give a deadline, you think that you are putting the customer at ease so that they can know when the interaction will be finished.

What they hear

What you are actually doing is engaging in a verbal contract with the customer that communicates to them that you will get back to them at a specific time. If you don’t get back to them at that specific time, they may feel let down or disheartened. This is an easy way to lose trust but is also extremely easy to avoid by just not doing it.

“I can’t.”

If a customer asks you for something, and you do not have the option to do what they would like, instead of saying “I can’t do that for you,” maybe say something like “I totally understand how that would be of use to you. Right now, we don’t offer that, but I’ll talk to our team and relay your interest.”

What you think you’re saying

You think that you are saying, literally, what you are saying: that you are unable to do something that the customer is asking for.

What they hear

The customer doesn’t hear your earnest statement about being unable to do something. Instead, they hear that you don’t want to do something, or that you aren’t high up on the chain to do what they need done. It’s never a good place to be in and could result in losing the customer.


Any sentence that starts with “unfortunately” is already off to a rough start. No one wants to even hear what comes after the start of that sentence. Instead of “Unfortunately, we don’t offer that right now,” try “I understand how you could want that, but, we don’t offer it right now,” or just cut right to the chase with “We don’t offer that right now.”

What you think you’re saying

You feel like you are empathizing and letting them know that you understand where they are coming from. But, there are better ways to empathize beyond using a single, very loaded word. Try to speak to actual human emotions and use those in your responses instead. “I understand,” or “I can totally see how,” are great replacement options.

What they hear

Your customer hears an ingenuine apology from you and does not see you trying to provide a solution. Instead of just saying no, try to find positive spins or alternatives. Rather than going straight to “no”, take some time to consider the issue they are having and if there are any creative ways you can get around it.

“As I said before,”

This is passive aggressive, no matter which way you spin it. Instead of saying this to your customers, whether verbally or in an email, just reiterate what it is that you are trying to direct them towards. Phrase it slightly differently. If you’ve already told them exactly the same thing, there’s no need to tell them that you’ve told them already.

What you think you’re saying

You think that you’re saving yourself time, and reassuring them that you didn’t miss their question by saying “as I said before.” Maybe you are a little bit frustrated, and you’re also trying to let them know that you have said what they’re asking about already.

What they hear

Like Psychology Today points out, this looks like you’re trying to make this seem like it is the customer’s fault. It makes them feel like they missed something, and implies that they just weren’t paying enough attention. It is never a good idea to make the customer, who you are supposed to be helping, feel inferior. So, instead of saying “As I said,” (or a variation of it), just reiterate the fact that you were trying to help them with.

“It’s easy”

These words should never reach your customer. Because, the fact of the matter is— while it might be easy for you, it is not easy for them, otherwise they wouldn’t be reaching out. Instead, hop right into helping them by saying something like “I hear what you’re saying, I’d love to help with that,” or “Good news, this seems to be pretty straightforward!”

What you think you’re saying

When you say “it’s easy!” you feel like you’re assuring the customer that things are going to be alright and that it’s a fairly straightforward problem. But actually, you could be more literal, as in the example above, and it would make the situation much better and reduce any potential stress for your customer.

What they hear

When you say “It’s easy!” the customer hears that they are not smart enough to have uncovered the answer themselves. Or, that they missed something that is right in front of their nose.

Mind your language!

Treat customers with respect. The language that you use in your emails or phone calls should be intentional and meaningful. The customer should get their query addressed and also feel good about the process. Take these few tips into consideration the next time you are dealing with a customer, and see if these help in sorting out the situation.