There is karma to everything that we say. This means that the words we use have consequences. In customer service, choosing the right words is important and will make for better relations and result in more sales. Choosing the wrong words may cause a sale to take more time or, worse, be unsuccessful.

  1. But
    In conversation or in e-mail, using “but” negates everything that was said previously. It makes your sentence less clear, at best. At worst, it could make a customer become defensive.

Sentence 1: Thank you for your interest in our program, but unfortunately we don’t have this feature available.

Sentence 2: Thank you for your interest in our program! Unfortunately, we don’t have this feature available.

The change in tone is subtle but important.

  1. Actually

Here is another word that changes the meaning of your sentence. It makes the customer feel like he/she is wrong about something. It could even sound patronizing.

Sentence 1: Actually, you would hit your drive farther by using this legwork.

Sentence 2: I would recommend you do this move to hit your drives farther.

So it is really important to pay attention. Prepare or think before you speak or write. Our words become more powerful when we put in this extra effort. Avoid sloppy or unclear language. Ask yourself if there is a better way of saying this. What words could I use that will have more impact or appeal to my audience?

Are you saying something to achieve a purpose or do you just like hearing the sound of your voice? Sometimes we say something only to make ourselves feel good, when it has no value to the other person or is not on topic. Then why say it at all? If customers don’t see value in talking to you, you are setting up roadblocks to building lasting relationships.

Listening will often play a big part in knowing what words to communicate. If a “yes” or “no” question is posed to you, avoid giving a lengthy answer. You can give a detailed answer when a question begins with “What do you think…” “How do you feel…” or “How do you…?” However, be careful not to ramble or get off topic.

Also, pay attention to how others speak. This is an effective method for two reasons. By paying close attention to the words others use, you will have a better idea on the way they think and which particular words are most meaningful to them (especially in teaching the game). By using their words in your own pattern of speech can create a stronger connection. Are there people who you admire because of their writing or speaking talents? Perhaps a boss, fellow staff, teacher, salesperson or someone on television. What words do they use that catch your attention?

So, what’s in a word? The ones you choose can make the difference between success and failure. It is essential to pay attention to those you use.

Contact Carol Pence by calling (510) 706-1583 or via e-mail at