I was checking out of a hotel recently after a not so restful night’s sleep. My slumbers were disturbed by some person trying to demolish the hotel with some kind of power tool in the middle of the night.
Okay, so that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but at 3 0’clock in the morning, any sound is annoyingly amplified. My phone calls to reception resulted in the noise being reduced by a few decibels.
Next morning at the checkout desk, the question – ‘Was everything okay for you Mr Fairweather, prompted my polite answer. ‘Yes everything was okay except for the construction noise during the night. Back came the answer – ‘Sorry about that sir; please can I have your credit card again so that I can complete your bill.’
You’ve heard the saying – ‘You never get a second chance to make a good first impression’. Well you never get a second chance to make a good last impression. And ‘Sorry about that’ is not a good last impression!
Okay so she was busy, and there were other guests to check out. However, ‘sorry’ is an overused word; everyone says it when something goes wrong and it’s lost its value. If you really need to use the sorry word; it’s far better to use it as part of a whole sentence:
‘I'm sorry your sleep was disturbed Mr. Fairweather; next time you visit us please ask for a quiet room and we'll do our best to provide it.’
Sometimes it’s appropriate to use the word ‘apologise’ instead of ‘sorry.’ And in a different situation - ‘I apologise for not getting you that information sooner.’
There are other words you should avoid when dealing with customers and staff, and particularly difficult people.
Have to; as in – ‘You’ll have to speak to the conference manager yourself’
I can’t or you can’t; as in – ‘I can’t do anything about that’ or ‘You can’t do that’
I’ll try; as in – ‘I’ll try and speak with the chef today’
But; as in – ‘I agree with what you’re saying but……..’
Have to, Don’t or Can’t are words that annoy people. They are inflammatory phrases that are best left out of any interaction, especially with difficult people.
Imagine how you feel when someone says to you:
‘You’ll have to phone a different number’
‘You’ll have to come back later’
‘I can’t help you with that’
‘I don’t have time to speak to you now’
‘You’ll have to get that finished today’
Instead of the words ‘Have to’ why not try:
‘Are you willing to…’ or just a straight ‘Will you….’
‘Can’t,’ can be replaced with: ‘I’m unable to because….’
The phrase ‘I’ll Try’ comes across as submissive. Some people hear these words as a commitment and expect you to do what you say.
More often, people will hear it as something you probably won’t do. ‘I’ll try’ is very wishy-washy. It can be replaced with something more honest:
‘This is what I can do’ or ‘This is what I’m unable to do’
‘But…’ When you talk to a customer, it’s a good idea to use the word ‘however’ instead of ‘but.’ When you substitute however, you’ll provide a smoother and more positive transition to new information, options or alternatives. You could also use ‘and’ instead of ‘but.’ For example:
‘I understand your situation and the reason I’m unable to do what you ask is…’
Instead of saying ‘but,’ you could leave it out altogether. For example; instead of: ‘I agree with what you’re saying, but I can’t help you.’
Use: ‘I agree with what you’re saying. The reason I’m unable to help you is……’
Jargon - Any forms of jargon are best avoided. Every organisation has its jargon. When we use technical terms, buzz words or acronyms, the other person may not understand. They may also feel that you are talking down to them; this makes them feel patronised and uncomfortable.
‘Calm down’ is something you should definitely avoid saying to a difficult person. It can have the totally opposite effect.
‘It’s Company policy,’ is another phrase that can make a difficult situation worse. If you say to a customer:
‘I can’t help because its company policy’
They will interpret this as: ‘You’re just using this as an excuse not to help me.’
It’s far better to say what the company policy is:
‘I’m unable to help you, and the reason is - giving you the information you’ve asked for would be a security risk for both you and our company.’
Choosing your words more carefully will have a more positive effect on how your customers and staff react and ultimately respond to you.
About the author
Article by Alan Fairweather, International Speaker and the author of, 'How to be a Motivational Manager, ‘How to Manage Difficult People' and ‘How to Make Sales When You Don't like Selling'. Visit: www.themotivationdoctor.com, for more information.