Perfect Phrases for Customer Service

Perfect Phrases for Customer Service

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by Robert Bacal

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You've heard it a million times: "The customer is always right." But let’s face it—sometimes the customer is misinformed, confused, or downright difficult. The ability to handle such customers is what separates the serious professional from the average employee.

Perfect Phrases for Customer



You've heard it a million times: "The customer is always right." But let’s face it—sometimes the customer is misinformed, confused, or downright difficult. The ability to handle such customers is what separates the serious professional from the average employee.

Perfect Phrases for Customer Service, second edition, provides the language you need for everyday customer service situations—and includes simple, effective techniques that can help you meet even the most demanding customer needs. Master the most effective words and phrases for:

  • Defusing bad situations before they get worse
  • Handling complaints patiently and professionally
  • Satisfying customers and increasing sales
  • Building long-term relationships with important customers

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McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing
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Perfect Phrases Series
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7.98(w) x 11.70(h) x 0.48(d)

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Hundreds of Ready-to-Use Phrases for Handling Any Customer Service Situation

By Robert Bacal

The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

Copyright © 2011The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-07-174506-2



Basics of Customer Service

There must be a billion words written about customer service. Advice abounds, from the banal and obvious (smile when you talk on the phone) to complex and difficult suggestions about how to "create a corporate culture of excellent customer service."

Amid all the words, simple or fancy, is a basic hidden truth about customer service: the person who interacts directly with the customer determines whether that customer perceives that he or she is receiving poor customer service, excellent service, or something in between. If you serve customers directly, you have the power to affect their perceptions. That customer contact is where "the rubber meets the road."

If you provide service to customers, your words and behaviors are the tools you use to create a positive customer perception of you and the company you work for. Whether you're a novice working with customers or a seasoned pro, what you do and say will affect how customers see you. You can't help it. Customers will form opinions, so you might as well learn how to create positive opinions. But you need to know how to do that.

It might be that you get paid minimum wage and you don't plan to stay in your customer service job. Why care what customers think? The answer is simple—self-interest! Customers who form negative opinions about you can make your life miserable. When they get angry, they complain, slow down service for others (making them mad), threaten, swear, and otherwise do things that add stress to your job. In some cases, their anger can escalate to the point where your physical safety is at risk. All because you couldn't be bothered or didn't care. It's to your benefit to provide decent customer service just for these reasons. More on what's in it for you in a moment.

That's what this book is for—to teach you about the dozens and dozens of techniques you can use when interacting with customers so they'll walk away with positive feelings about the experience. You'll learn about very specific things you can do or say in all kinds of customer interactions. You'll learn how to deal with difficult customers. You'll learn how to approach customers and how to get information from them so you can do your job. You'll learn to deal with customer service problems quickly, efficiently, and professionally. Best of all, the techniques in this book will fit your needs, whether you serve burgers, staff the desk in a hotel, help people in health care environments, or even work for the government.

This book will tell you exactly what to do and say, and it will provide you with numerous examples so you can use customer service techniques effectively.

Let's get started!

What's in It for Me?

Why should you be concerned with providing excellent customer service? You don't own the company. You may not get paid more for providing excellent customer service. So, what's in it for you?

There are three powerful reasons for learning to provide great customer service: greater job satisfaction, reduced stress and hassle, and enhanced job success.

First, very few people derive any job satisfaction when they feel that the time they spend at work is "wasted." Most of us need to feel useful and productive—to make a difference, whether it's helping a fast food customer make healthier food choices or dispensing legal advice. When you provide high- quality customer service, you feel that you're making that difference and can derive pride in your work. The day goes faster.

When you do a good job with a customer, such as calming down someone who's angry and complaining, you feel good about having achieved something. Perhaps more important than your own perceptions are the customer's perceptions, when you do a good job with a customer and he or she tells you what you've achieved. That feedback helps you feel good about yourself and your performance. Doing a good job and taking pride in how you serve customers are ways to prevent job burnout.

Second, deliver quality customer service and you will save yourself a lot of stress and hassle. When you learn and use customer service skills, you are far less likely to get into protracted, unpleasant, and upsetting interactions with a customer. You make yourself less of a target for customer wrath. That's because customer service skills help keep customers from becoming angry and reduce the length and intensity of the anger when and if difficult customer service situations occur.

Third, learning and using quality customer service techniques helps form the perceptions of those who may be able to help your career—supervisors, managers, and potential employers. Using these techniques makes you look good to everyone, and that's critical in getting promoted, receiving pay raises, and getting new job opportunities. Managers and supervisors notice when a customer asks for you specifically because you do such a good job or comments positively about how you've helped.

Of course, you may have other reasons to want to provide the best customer service possible. You may want to contribute to the success of your employer. You may like the feeling of having other employees look up to you as a good model. Or you may even benefit directly if you work on a commission basis. In many jobs, people who are good at customer service earn more.

Regardless of your reasons, quality customer service techniques can be learned, and you can learn them with a little effort.

In the rest of this chapter, we'll provide an overview of customer service principles and issues and explain how to use this book. In the next chapter, we'll describe 60 techniques you should be using. The rest of the book is dedicated to showing you how to use those techniques.

Different Kinds of Customers

Before we continue, we should clarify what the word "customer" means.

You're probably familiar with our starting definition: the customer is the person who pays for goods or services that you provide. This definition works in some contexts, but not all. It breaks down in situations where money doesn't directly change hands. For example, people often interact with government, public schools, and other organizations. They receive goods or services from them, but do not pay anything directly to them. We need to change our definition so that people who interact with these organizations fall under our definition of customer, since they, too, deserve high-quality customer service, even if they aren't paying directly.

Here's a better definition: the customer is the person next in line who receives your output (service, products). That person may purchase goods or services directly or receive output you create or deliver without direct payment. The person may be outside your company, but this definition also includes anyone within the company who receives output from you.

There are four basic types of customers. Regardless of type, each customer deserves to receive top-quality customer service, and each can make your work life miserable if you don't provide it.

First, there are external paying customers. These are the people who pay to eat in a restaurant, pay for health care and legal advice, or pay to stay in a hotel.

Second, there are internal customers. These are people who receive output (services, products, information) that you create or provide, but who are in the same organization as you. Internal customers may be billed via interdepartmental charge systems, or there may be no payment system in place. For example, human resources staff members involved in hiring employees, in effect, work for internal customers (the manage

Excerpted from PERFECT PHRASES for CUSTOMER SERVICE by Robert Bacal. Copyright © 2011 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
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Meet the Author

Robert Bacal is the author of Managing Performance and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Consulting, and he runs the management website

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