Bad Romance: 10 Phrases Never to Say to Your Customers


Your brand’s image isn’t defined by your logo. Your message isn’t controlled by your latest carefully crafted ad campaign. Your reputation isn’t wrapped up in your website.

In today’s age of social media, each and every one of your customers holds a megaphone, and he who holds the megaphone controls the message.

As a result, every single interaction your customers have with your brand shapes not only the way they perceive your company and its values but how they share and spread that perception to others in their circles.

So in this world where every word-of-mouth message has the potential to be amplified hundreds or even thousands of times over, what can you do to protect your brand’s good name?

Of course, when times are good and everyone’s happy, it’s not too hard to provide a positive experience. But what about when things go wrong? What do you do when you’ve got a disappointed, frustrated, irate or even irrational customer on your hands? That’s when your problem-solving savvy is really put to the test.

In situations like these, it’s critical to ensure that every employee at every level of your company is thoroughly trained in tactics for transforming a conflict or complaint into a positive experience.

Here are 10 phrases you must absolutely, positively never ever say to a customer when your brand’s reputation is on the line:

That's our policy...

You care about your policies, but you know who doesn’t? Your customers. All they care about is getting their problem fixed.

Using policy as the justification for why you can't achieve this goal will fall flat every time. Of course you can’t let your customer walk all over you and it is sometimes necessary to draw a line, but you have little to risk by finding ways to work within those policies to offer an innovative solution.

There's nothing I can do...

This statement will make any customer’s blood boil. When you say “There’s nothing I can do,” what they hear is “You and your business don’t matter to us.” You might as well throw in the towel and walk away.

There's always something that can be done, even if it requires a little creativity and compromise. Make sure to give your employees leeway to improvise when necessary. A minor concession costs nothing compared to the impact of an angry customer blasting you on Twitter.

What you need to do is...

When customers call, they’re looking to you to fix their problem, not to be told how to fix it themselves.

Of course, there are some situations where it’s appropriate and even necessary to walk a customer through the steps required to solve a problem. Just be sure to choose your words carefully. The difference between saying “What you need to do” and “Let’s try this” is conveying the sense that you’re on their side and that you’re committed to working together hand-in-hand until their issue has been resolved.

I'm new at this...

Again, nobody cares. You might as well tell a customer that they should hang up, call back and hope to have better luck in reaching someone more competent.

Rather than exposing your weakness, simply bring in someone with more expertise and experience to help navigate this sticky situation. Your customer will appreciate the hands-on team approach, and you’ll benefit from learning from a pro.


Ouch! Never, ever drop the "no" bomb. If you don’t make a concerted effort to solve the problem at hand, you can kiss that customer – and every other existing or prospective customer who will listen to their tale of woe – goodbye.

I don't believe...

I'm not sure...

We don't...

Take your pick, but these are all thinly veiled ways of saying “no,” which we’ve already established is the not the right answer. Save your breath and spend your time and energy looking for ways to be helpful and find viable alternatives.

There’s no one else here you can talk to...

Unless you are literally a one-man operation, customers know you're lying when they hear this statement. There's always someone higher up that can step in.

Telling someone there's nobody else they can talk to is tantamount to saying, "You’re not worth our time." This isn’t going to diffuse their anger and will likely send them packing, irate enough to leave horrible reviews all over the Web.

I don't know how to help you with that...

This phrase is problematic even when the best of intentions are meant by the employee offering support.

Sometimes a customer will ask tough questions. Instead of saying you don't know what to do, take a proactive role in connecting them with the correct resource within the company who can handle their problem.

That's not my job...

Wrong. No matter who you are or what your job title is, keeping your customers happy is your number one responsibility. Just do it.

I hate my job...

This company sucks...

These types of statements tend to surface when both the customer and the employee are in a state of emotional upset. It’s the equivalent of telling a customer that they're not going to find any help here.

Bad-mouthing the company is never the right answer, no matter what the situation. It can do immeasurable damage, and in reality, even the angriest customer doesn’t really want commiseration.

They don't care about your opinion. They’ve taken the time to give you a chance to make it right, and they want a solution.

If you find yourself reaching a breaking point where you feel the need to make statements like this, take a step back and clear your head. You may not feel that you’re getting the support you need from your company, but customers don't need to hear this. If necessary, ask if you can put them on hold momentarily while you "search for the solution." Then take some deep breaths, get help and do whatever you need to do to rejoin the conversation with a positive attitude.


Silence is the absolute worst thing a customer can hear from you.

If it’s necessary to put a caller on hold, don't keep them waiting long. Even better, get their information and tell them you’ll call them back (and then make sure you do – promptly!).

If they’re asking tough questions or getting frustrated, responding with silence will only add fuel to their fire. But that doesn’t mean you must have the right answer on the tip of your tongue, either.

Starting with genuine empathy is a great way to diffuse the situation. Even a simple, "Yes, sir, I can see why you are upset. Let me see what I can do to help you out," will buy you some time to organize your thoughts and collect your composure so that you can confidently work toward a mutually agreeable solution.