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Four Words You're Gonna Have to Stop Saying to Customers

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There’s one simple change that you and your team can make that’ll yield happier customers right away, and it means simply purging your language of one four-word phrase.

Over the last few months, service providers who I’m sure didn’t mean to be rude, made each of the following pronouncements to me (and many more like them) while doing their jobs:

You’re gonna have to fill this out for me.

You’re gonna have to call back later.

You’re gonna have to go online and authorize the change before we can accept it.

You’re gonna have to move your bag on its back so we can close the overhead bin. (After being told, “You’re gonna have to put that on its side so we can accommodate more bags.”)

You’re gonna have to wait a few minutes for that.

You’re gonna have to go inside to the counter for them to make that change.

You’re gonna have to call your health insurance company and tell them they’re gonna have to call us about that. (How’s that for a double example?)

What are the four words? Did I give you enough clues?

Think about it. With only a few exceptions (matters of health, safety, or the law), any communication to a customer that starts with “You’re gonna have to” is headed in the wrong direction.

Because, to be blunt, if I’m the customer, there’s just not that much that I HAVE to do, because for starters, I probably don’t HAVE to do business with you.

OK, I DO have to obey the law. And honor any agreements I’ve made. And, of course, I have to pay for what I’ve bought. I SHOULD be polite, respectful, and interact with you in a professional way. But I really don’t HAVE to fill out any form, call anyone back, or go anywhere you tell me to go.

Good leaders provide their followers with the means to do their best work. Sometimes, that means giving them the right perspective, and a useful mindset, and most will get it right.

Here’s a useful mindset: The fact is, the provider and the customer DO occupy different positions, by virtue of the customer’s paying for the product and/or service. That doesn’t give the customer the right to be rude, abusive, or disrespectful. And let’s remember, the customer is NOT always right. But, the customer IS always the customer. And as aggravating as they might be, try running a business without them.

It’s like the mindset shift that takes us from telling a customer what we CAN’T do, to saying what we CAN do.

“I can’t get one in that color until Tuesday” becomes “I can get that color for you by Tuesday, and every other color is available now. And the larger model IS available in the color you want.” Customers love options.

Telling them they HAVE to do something is anything but option-friendly.

So, a little tweak can take us... 

FROM THIS... TO THIS
You're gonna have to fill this out for me. Could you fill this out for me, please?
You’re gonna have to call back later. I’ll be happy to ask someone to call you back.
You’re gonna have to go online and authorize the change before we can accept it. If you go online and authorize the change, we can take care of that right away.
You’re gonna have to move your bag on its back so we can close the overhead bin. (After being told, “You’re gonna have to put that on its side so we can accommodate more bags.”) I’m sorry. That bag looked like it would fit on its side. Do you mind turning it the other way, so we can close the bin, and get you on your way?
You’re gonna have to wait a few minutes for that. I’ll be glad to take care of that for you as soon as I finish helping this customer.
You’re gonna have to go inside to the counter for them to make that change.  The folks inside at the counter can help you with that.
You’re gonna have to call your health insurance company and tell them they’re gonna have to call us about that. (How’s that for a double example?) How about if I call your health insurance company, and see what they say?

It's pretty simple.Take responsibility, don’t transfer it to your customer. Provide options, not orders. Teach your team to do the same. And your customers will thank you for it.

 

Richard Hadden

Richard Hadden is an author, speaker, and workplace expert who helps leaders create a better, more profitable place to work. He and Bill Catlette are the authors of the popular Contented Cows leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. Learn more about Richard, Bill, and their work at ContentedCows.com. Or Hire Richard to speak for your next conference or leadership meeting.

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