Customer service

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Q. What is the impact of the words "but," "no" and "however" on customer service?

A. Many of us use these words in our everyday conversations and don't even realize their overall negative impact. Why are these words so powerful? Generally, these words are used as a conjunction in a sentence or as a means of beginning a statement. But by their very definition, they refute what was stated previously. As a result, they establish a negative relationship to the request or idea.

In an externally focused customer service environment, one of your primary goals is to maintain a positive approach to solving problems. This does not mean that you always will agree with your customer's position and that you will be able to meet every customer's request. It does mean that your communication approach is often as important as the actual resolution.

So how do we learn to use these words less frequently? There are several ways to accomplish this, many of which have been tested and recommended by communication coaches. One method is to simply take a breath before responding. When you are ready, try beginning your sentence with phrases like these: "Thank you, here is what we can do" or "Thank you, please tell me more."

If you want to impact your entire team, you might try having a "but," "no" and "however" jar. Ask each member of your team to put, say, one quarter in the jar every time they utter one of these words. Then take the money and donate it to your team's favorite charity.

As a final reminder, the best way to become a BUT to your customer is to disagree with his or her beliefs or ideas: "That is a good idea, but..." or "I understand your request, however..." hme

Wes Hopper is the director of national accounts, home care, for a large distributor. He can be reached at 540-662-1319 or