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3 Things You Should Never Tell Your Customers

Ayad Mirjan

She stood behind the counter and stared at me suspiciously as I explained my situation. She then started shaking her head in a "no" motion halfway through my explanation.

Such was my experience at Finish Line–the second largest athletic retailer in the country–simply because my seemingly-reasonable request fell outside of the service rep’s normal processing procedure (they mishandled me so badly that I have not shopped there since; it has been 7 years).

Customers are often faced with seemingly unaccommodating service reps who simply respond with a "no" or with one of its despised derivatives.


Positive tone and vernacular are extremely important in customer service settings, and retail stores must engage customers with positive words in order to provide satisfactory service.

Highlighted below are three of the most derided sayings that assuredly pave the way for the loss of business:

1. "I can’t do that"

Those words are often said by unskilled service reps in various retail environments. Either that one or "the system does not allow me to do that". In either case, customers rarely gets a fuzzy feeling when hearing those words.

Service reps should focus on providing alternative solutions, because at the end of the day customers want their problems to be solved.

So instead of saying those words, service reps can say:

"I will try my best to do that for you, and if it doesn’t work, we will try…"

2. "It’s in aisle 57 M"

What’s more important than the act of serving customers at the store? Nothing. Customers are the most important aspect of retail and service staff must be customer-centric rather than function-centric (e.g. organizing aisles, cleaning, etc.) in order to keep customers happy and satisfied.

Instead of pointing customers in the direction of an item, service reps must walk them to it:

"It’s in aisle 116 W, please come with me, I will take you there." (Target has that many aisles).

3. "You need to calm down"

Nothing makes a person angrier than someone else asking them to ‘calm down!’. "Absolutely unforgivable" we may think. This phrase is possibly aggressive because it is an order and a judgment (are you saying I am not calm?) at the same time.

So instead, service reps can say:

"I understand. You have every right to be frustrated…"

Service reps do not represent themselves, they represent the business. Therefore, extra care must be shown when dealing with customers. Arguments with customers and pointless give-and-take should be avoided at all costs. At the end of the day, regardless of how ‘frustrating’ or ‘impolite’ customers may be, service reps must adopt the stance of a mature older brother whose only goal is to diffuse an unsatisfactory or fiery situation.

Contributor Ayad Mirjan is a customer experience consultant based in Washington, DC. He regularly blogs at