So recently I was being a blog-whore and randomly doing a keyword search on your regular friend, Google, on just about anything, when I came across a couple of sites that sparked off a post topic. First of all, I’ll like to mention that this is a hybrid post – you know, the kind where I mix stories or articles with mine to create juicy content just for you! Check out my first hybrid post here.

Customers are Ignoring You

Mind your words, customers are Ignoring You (Photo credit: ronploof)

This post is something, which I believe would help business persons, and regular people alike. Of course, I know that ‘almost every’ person has a business side of him/her but I just had to make that distinction. Most part of this post was culled from Alarm Monitoring Services Inc. and was written by Dera DeRoche-Jolet, some part of it was written by me.


Is there a better way of saying something? Sometimes, there is only one way you can say something, for example, a simple I AM SORRY, but most often there is more than one way to do it. Say it the right way and you’ll improve business and increase your customer’s satisfaction. It all depends on how we use our words. Entrepreneurs who can choose and use their words carefully and in the right context will have a distinct advantage over their competitors.

As children we had a saying: “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” It’s a good self-defense. But now, as adults, we know words do hurt and can have a very powerful effect on those we are speaking to. Emotions that range from love to hate can emerge from simple statements such as “I’m just tired!”, “I THINK I love you”, “Can we talk about this later, Mr. Clark?”, “Your proposal is very wrong”.

Be honest, there were times where you’ve probably used the wrong words in your business. You’ve probably even heard them yourself as a customer. You became angry. Your customer became angry. You didn’t mean to get them so upset. Its human nature, that’s how we were made. It’s just that there is something behind the words. There can be times when you end up saying something you didn’t mean to say with an attitude you didn’t mean to present.

The following phrases are sure to get the wrong emotional reaction from your customers. Sit down as you read this, be honest to yourself. How many of the following have you said?

“I don’t know.” Believe it or not, those three words convey to your customer that either, you simply do not know your business as well as you should or that they are not important enough for you to take the time to find an answer to their question. Either way you lose, and you might be losing big time. A better phrase to say what you actually mean would be, “That’s a good question. I will check it out and get back to you.” Then you make sure you follow-up because word of mouth does a great deal to your business.

“Wait a minute: I’ll be right back.” Are you really telling your customers that their time is not important? Really, are you? In this age where time is of greatest importance and a minute of delay can throw sums of Naira, Cedis, Dollars or other currency down the drain, are you really telling a valuable customer that their time is not important?. Do not do that., Instead, show them that you are sensitive to their needs: “This may take me two minutes (or however long it will really take). Would you kindly hold/wait while I check?” or rather, if you are busy with something at the moment, you could say “You have been included in our priority list, would you kindly hold one a while, we will get back to you?. Also, trust me on this one, never underestimate the power of “Would you kindly…”

“You’ll have to . . .” Read that again, doesn’t that sound a little harsh to you? Nobody really likes to be told what to doeven people who do not have the slightest idea what to do! Outrageous isnt it?. Try to soften the tone of the request by saying something like, “You’ll need to,” or “The next time that happens, kindly …” Again, the power of kindly!

“We can’t do that.” or “We don’t do that.” Is it really a good idea to tell your customer that you can’t help him? or you don’t help people like him. I;ve been to some stores in the market seeking a particular product and simply because they have run out of that product at that moment, they do not care to tell you “We’ll get it by so-so time” or “Kindly check our neighbours, we’ve run out of stock at the moment”. They simply shake their bobble heads when you ask them if you know where you can find what you are looking for. They might think since you can’t help them, your competition might be able to and will always want to. Do you really want your customers going over to your competition? Next time, say to your customer, “That’s a tough one. Let me see what I can do.” Then go find a solution, even if it means going over to your neighbor and still selling the product at the same price – after all, its you they’ll know, right?

“No.” By using this word at the beginning of your sentence you will appear negative. If you think for a few minutes before you speak, you can turn every answer into a positive response. Instead of saying ” no,” try “We aren’t able to (put in the problem), but we can (now put in your solution to the problem).”

“Do you understand?” Nobody, no matter how noob-like a client is, no one likes to be talked down to and be treated like a child – not even a child. It comes across as “I think you’re stupid.” Should we really be giving our customers the impression that we think they are stupid? That’s the message we send by using that phrase. You’ll get more business from a customer that feels good about doing business with you. A customer who feels stupid when dealing with you, won’t be a customer for long.

To conclude the list of offending phrases I have (which are just a few of the ones out there), I’ll add this one I saw on The Imported Ghanaian. He says that a simple question such as “What do you mean?” is an insult once said to a Ghanaian. I do not know how true this is, because I haven’t dared to say it to any of my clients over there, but just be careful were you tread when asking what someone means.

Those are just a few of the words and phrases that are sure to get your customers upset. Once you say them, you can’t take them back. Take some time to think of ones that upset you as a customer so you won’t make the same mistake. By viewing simple everyday sayings in the light of your own experience as a customer, you”ll learn what not to say.

We’ve all said something in all sincerity and innocence both in our professional and private lives that sounded okay to us, but caused the other person to explode in anger or tears. While you may not mean to get the other person into such an emotion, you do. As you become more aware of these phrases that provoke people in the wrong way, you’ll avoid them. You’ll also never have to eat your own words.


I hope this has educated you a bit. Some other time, I’ll post a business etiquette most, if not all of us need to reflect on as technology has eaten into our daily lives.






The College Undergraduate.