5 Phrases That Should Never Be Used in the Customer Service Business

Guest Post by Steve DiGioia, Author of “Earn More Tips on Your Very Next Shift…Even If You’re a Bad Waiter”.

“Customer Service” is a term that too frequently is used as a catch-all for the experience received or given in today’s business world. But what customer service is to me may be different from what it is to you and what you expect, or tolerate.

It’s strange that I mention tolerate since that is exactly what most of us have been doing when we are on the receiving-end of many service businesses. We wait in long lines because the business didn’t schedule enough staff to work the cash registers. We search down aisle after aisle to find an employee so we can ask where something is or if they have a particular product in store. This has become the norm and worst of all we have been willing to accept it.

Our young workforce is not trained in the nuances of customer service, let alone in the simple, courteous & professional terms that should be used during a conversation between a customer and store employee. Our conversations have been reduced to short, cutesy phrases that may be suited for friends at a party but not in a business setting. Here are a few examples:

• “No Problem”

This is the-all-too-standard response from someone that should be saying “you’re welcome”. How many times has a clerk in a store answered your question or pointed you in the right direction and you said “thank you”, what was the response you received? Probably it was “No problem”. This is not the way to answer. “You’re welcome”, “It’s my pleasure” or “I’m happy to have helped” are all appropriate responses.

• “How Are You Guys Today”?

This one drives me crazy. Why has the term “guys” become the standard way to greet someone?

What if a restaurant waiter said this to a table of women? I don’t think that if your mom was out to lunch with a few of her friends she would like to be called a guy! There is never a reason to refer to a person’s gender or age.

Too many people that are in the position to “greet” people never actually do that. They may say hi or hello but that is nothing more than an acknowledgement that someone has entered their space. That’s it! We should say “Hello, welcome to ____________”. When you “welcome” someone you are allowing them full access to “your space”, to treat your space as if it was “their space”, their home.

• “You Need To…”

I’m sorry, but as a customer of any business, the only thing I “need to” do is to pay for the product or service that you are providing. “You need to go down this hall then make a left” or “You need to take this receipt to that counter over there…” How about saying this instead? “The item you are looking for is just down the hall and to the left. Would you like me to assist you”? Or, “Could you please take this receipt to my coworker Mary at the other counter, she will be happy to assist you?

This is not a big change in words but is a big change in attitude and approach to the customer. The customer should never feel that they must jump through hoops just to find, pay for or return a product. If any of these become a burden then they may take their business elsewhere.

• “Are You Finished With That?”

You are enjoying a leisurely dinner with a friend or colleague and you decide to take a brief break from your delicious T-bone steak. Just then the server comes over and says “Are you finished with that”? Well, one of the responsibilities of a server is to “read” the guests to determine how their dining experience is going. But nowadays restaurants are more concerned about flipping tables and moving guests along, so they try to take your plates away as soon as possible. This is a conversation for another article but there is still a better way to address the guest.

“I’m glad to see you have been enjoyed your meal, would you like me to remove your plate”? Or, “That was a great choice you made for your entree, if you are finished may I remove your plate”? These are much better, and more polite, options to use. We never want the guest to feel that they are being rushed to make a buying decision or eating their meal.

• “Let Me Get My Manager”

When there is an issue with a customer that can’t be fixed without the assistance or approval from your manager, this is the usual response given. But the customer is not concerned who it is or what their position is within the chain of command that is needed to fix their problem. Plus they probably will not be happy that there will be an additional delay either. Their only concern is that their issue is resolved in the quickest and satisfactory manner possible. We should explain to the customer that additional assistance is needed to resolve the issue and who you will enlist to help.

“I’m sorry that I am not able to fix this issue, or help with this, but please allow me to get assistance from my supervisor. He/she will be able to resolve this right away. Will that be ok”? Isn’t this a much more palatable way of handling an issue that needs another person’s help?

Can you think of any other words or phrases to use for the above circumstances?


About the Author

Author Steve DiGioia has been in the hotel & restaurant business, in one manner or another, for 25+ years. Using a hands-on approach, he has redefined the operational and service standards for multiple food and beverage departments for some of the best names in the industry.

Still active in the business, Steve has put together a collection of those same straightforward no-nonsense tactics that he continues to use that will improve the customer service mindset of your employees.

His book “Earn More Tips on Your Very Next Shift…Even If You’re a Bad Waiter” is an easy to follow training method that can be used across all industries. It will result in better customer retention, increased revenue and repeat business for your company plus bigger tips for your employees. The book is available on Amazon.com.


is Specialist in Customer Success and chief writer and editor of I Want It Now, a blog for Customer Service Experts. Follow her @StefWalkMe