The 9 Worst Phrases Contact Center Agents Say to Customers

Contact Center | 6 minute read

What is the primary purpose of a contact center agent?

You might say it’s to close sales or solve customer issues, depending on the function of your team. Both are true, but every contact center agent in the world must adhere to creating an exceptional customer experience.

There are tons of ways to optimize your contact center for a consistently excellent customer experience, but often it’s the little things that can make or break the interaction — namely, what you say and how you say it.

Are your agents unknowingly stoking customer frustrations? We’ve put together a handy list of what NOT to say — and some customer-friendly alternatives.

“Why didn’t you check our website?

Your website is often the first place customers go when they have an issue. By saying this, you imply that the customer should have done more work before reaching out to you, and their problem is not worthy of your time.

There are several reasons why a customer might contact an agent instead of scouring the web:

  • They’re not comfortable using a computer or the internet
  • The information wasn’t available on your website
  • The information was difficult to locate
  • They were unsure if the information they found applied to their case.

But the most common reason of all? They were frustrated and needed help— the last thing they want is to be scolded for seeking it.

Instead, try saying:

“If you have this problem again in the future, you can find these instructions here on our website.”

“Oh, that’s not a big deal.”

Have you ever vented your frustrations to a friend only to have them turn and say, “You’re overreacting”?

Empathy is a huge part of a winning customer experience. Customers want to feel validated and supported. To have a stranger brush your problems off like you’re a toddler throwing a tantrum can be very upsetting.

 

Instead, try saying:

“Good news! I should be able to solve this for you quickly.”

“I’m sorry you’ve had such a rough time — let me fix this for you right now.”

“Sorry, that’s our company policy.”

Every contact center agent will inevitably run into customers who are asking for something that you cannot do for them. At their worst, these customers are relentless, which can put your agents in an uncomfortable position.

What’s wrong with the above statement? Nothing, at first glance. It’s a simple statement of fact. But after experiencing years of customer support, many customers have internalized this phrase to mean, “I won’t help you.”

To avoid this, pivot the conversation in a direction where you do have control. Customers aren’t looking for you to break company policies, they just want a fair solution for their issue. Get creative and find another way to address their problem.

If the customer is unwilling to accept an alternative solution or you are unable to find one, it’s best to escalate the situation to a supervisor.

Instead, try saying:

“This is a unique situation, so I will find another way to help you resolve it.”

“Thank you for your patience as I work on a solution for you.”

“As I told you before…”

Patronizing your customers is one of the fastest ways to lose trust. It’s hard to instill confidence in someone who’s treating you like a child.

Customer service can be repetitive. Customers forget key information all the time, so it’s important to remember that you’re there to help them remember it next time. Drop the snarky comment and just repeat the information for the tenth time — it’s less work and you come out looking better for it.

 

Instead, try saying:

“I’m happy to go over this information again if you need me to.”

“Would you like a refresher on that information? I know it’s a lot to take in.”

“You should do this.”

Fact: no one likes being told what to do. Especially by strangers.

Contact center agents often need to give direction and advice to their customers. But there are better ways to guide them through the process than blunt directions. This empowers customers by making them feel more in control.

Instead, try saying:

“If you could open up this program, I can guide you through the steps.”

“Would you like me to walk you through the process?”

[Awkward silence]

Silence can speak louder than words. The problem is, what does your customer think you’re saying?

Sure, you can have upbeat elevator music while they wait on hold, but that’s not enough to diffuse the frustration of being kept waiting over and over. You can only listen to the same song on a loop so many times before losing your mind!

Whenever possible, practice making conversation with your customer when there are quiet moments. Ask about their day and build a rapport — it’ll help build a better relationship and minimize any awkwardness.

Timing is everything with this one. Making small talk early in the conversation — before they’re confident you can help — might just make things worse.

Instead, try saying:

“So are you doing anything fun this weekend?”

“Any plans for the rest of the day?”

“There’s nothing I can do.”

This phrase is pure customer frustration fuel. From the agent’s perspective, it’s an admission of their limitations — they’ve tried everything in their power and they should be let off the hook for doing their best.

But to the customer, it says, “Sorry, but you’re on your own.” Look at it this way: they put trust in your brand and experienced an issue, and now you’re not going to do anything to fix it.

Customer service is all about addressing customer problems from a human perspective. It’s not enough to exclusively work within the confines of your company’s policies. There is always something that can be done to rectify an issue so if your company policies aren’t serving your customers, it’s time to revisit them.

Instead, try saying:

“I’m sorry, I’m unable to resolve this for you right now. I am escalating this issue to my supervisor so we can find a solution.”

“Thank you for your patience. I’m unable to find the solution right now, but let me do some digging and I will call you back tomorrow if that works for you.”

“It’s someone else’s fault.”

Contact centers are often connected to other departments and third-party vendors. When it comes to transportation logistics and warehouse suppliers, their mistakes often result in a customer reaching out.

Of course, not everything is in your control. But customers are looking for solutions and playing the blame game isn’t going to build customer loyalty. Refrain from passing the buck and focus on constructive, actionable steps.

Instead, try saying:

“It looks like your delivery was never marked ‘Sent’ – let me resolve this for you now, and we’ll get your package to you as soon as possible.”

“Sorry for your troubles – I’ll connect with the warehouse now and double-check that the correct order was sent out.”

“Calm down.”

When has telling someone to “calm down” ever had the intended effect? We’re inclined to say never.

And yet, this is the default phrase that many agents use when dealing with an irate customer. Telling someone to ‘calm down’ not only comes off as condescending, but it also doesn’t address the reason why the customer is frustrated. After all, most people don’t go from zero to 100 over something small.

Active listening and patience are key in these scenarios. If the customer feels like they are being heard and taken seriously, the need for anger disappears. Solve their problem, and you’re a hero!

Instead, try saying:

“I’m sorry things have gotten out of hand. How can I help you?”

“That’s incredibly frustrating. I’d appreciate it if we could sit down and find a way to resolve your problem.”

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