The Definitive Guide to Improving Agents’ Customer Service Vocabulary

Close up hand holds paper card with text vocabulary.

We uncover how contact centres leaders can coach agents to improve their service vocabulary – with these 5 steps to winning over customers with better conversations…

1. Give Agents Better Replacements for Customer Service Clichés

Nobody enjoys calling a contact centre. They expect cold, robotic interactions. When advisors turn to clichés, that is what they get.

Of course, many service clichés provide a comfort blanket for agents unsure of what to say. So, banning all such phrases is perhaps not the best approach. A better way to improve is by coaching the use of better alternatives.

If an agent uses any of the clichés below, step in and share the superior phrase. Over time, they will begin to engage in more natural conversations.

Avoid this cliché… And say this…
“Sorry for any inconvenience.” “I’m sorry that this has happened to you.”
“Thanks for your patience.” “I appreciate you staying on the line.”
“It is company policy.” “What I can do for you is…”
“Our records indicate…” “I’ve just pulled up document X, and I can see that…”
“Not a problem.” “I’d be happy to.”

From the set of alternative statements, principles emerge for furthering the customer service vocabulary of agents. These include:

  • Employ personal pronouns – including “I”, “you”, and “we” – to take ownership and create a sense of intimacy.
  • Use contractions – such as “I’ve” instead of “I have” to sound more authentic.
  • Refocus the conversation on the positive instead of dwelling on the negative

Apply these principles when embarking on a positive scripting initiative, alongside many of the other golden nuggets of advice presented below.

Discover more phrases that irritate customers by delving into our article: Call Centre Etiquette: 15 Things You Should Never Say to a Customer

2. Double-Check Everyone REALLY Understands Contact Centre Jargon

“Complete your ACW.” “Improve your CSAT scores.” “Update the CRM.” Contact centres are rife with jargon such as this. It is crucial agents receive coaching to understand the meaning behind everyday jargon terms like these. Avoid leaving people in the dark.

For leaders and managers, there is likely additional jargon to learn. “Check the SOPs.” “Look at the CEM strategy.” “Inspect the BI.” Many contact centres share this jargon. Some will have their own terms. Whatever the case, create a jargon dictionary to avoid misunderstandings.

Such a jargon guide may include the terms above, which typically stand for:

Providing a dictionary – filled with the necessary customer service vocabulary – is helpful. After all, there is often a lot of jargon to get to grips with. So far, we have so far only touched on the acronyms!

However, contact centre abbreviations serve a purpose, particularly those relating to agents. Working them into the CRM system speeds up wrap time, reducing overall handling times.

Typing DLV instead of “delivery” is an excellent example. CUST – as opposed to “customer” – is another. Add these up, and agents can shave precious seconds off the call. Just avoid using them when engaging with customers, who will have no idea what they mean.

3. Add in Positive Words for Better Conversations

Once upon a time, many contact centres asked advisors to avoid negative words, such as “no”, “can’t”, and “don’t”. The concept, however, proved unsuccessful as many advisors struggled to think of “workarounds”, blocking the flow of natural conversation.

However, despite its failure, there is logic to avoiding such negatives. As the BRM institute reports: “Negative words, whether spoken, heard, or thought, not only cause situational stress but also contribute to long-term anxiety.”

A better approach is to reinforce the value of positive words in coaching to avoid such distress.

For example, when call listening, make a note if the advisor says something negative, such as: “I can’t do that.” Such a statement will likely cause an escalation, as the customer will want to speak with someone who can. Coaching a more positive alternative, such as: “What I can do for you is…” will prevent an uncomfortable conversation.

To go further, ask advisors to harness the power of positive words to build rapport with customers. When relaying good news, encouraging the customer to share more information, or promoting a solution, spread infectious positive energy with the words below.

A list of positive words

Complimenting customers is another good use of these words. Consider the phrases below and how they can positively impact contact centre conversations.

  • “That is an excellent question.”
  • “I absolutely understand where you are coming from.”
  • Brilliant choice. That is a personal favourite of mine.”

Just be cautious that agents deliver these with an enthusiastic, friendly tone of voice. Authenticity is critical, and advisors must use active listening to unlock the best opportunities.

Deliver friendly contact centre experiences with our 50 Great Complimentary Words to Use in Customer Service

4. Share Vocabulary for Tricky Customer Scenarios

Angry customers are in no short supply. In the UK, research shows that consumers are becoming increasingly irate, which significantly influences the advisor experience.

However, it is not just anger that advisors must deal with. There are many other challenging “types” of customers that are impatient, indecisive and sometimes stressed.

Most often, these negative emotions stem from a sense of anxiety. Using vocabulary and a smidgeon of emotional intelligence, agents can reassure customers and bring them back onside.

A good practice here is to group acknowledgement, empathy and reassurance into one super-statement. For example:

Group acknowledgement, empathy and reassurance into one super statement

The acknowledgement helps to vindicate the customer’s reaction. Following this up with empathy enables the advisor to show that they understand why the customer is anxious. Reassurance that a solution is possible then deflates the tension further, offering a notion of teamwork in the process.

Of course, there are other helpful techniques to defuse customer anxiety. For example, letting the customer vent, managing emotions, and simply showing patience can all take the heat out of the situation.

But if advisors can stitch together acknowledgement, empathy and reassurance statements, they can use their customer service vocabulary to excellent effect.

Here are a few more examples for advisors to add to their repertoire:

Acknowledgement Statements

  • “Thanks for alerting me to this problem.”
  • “Your experience has been unacceptable.”
  • “I’m sorry that this has happened.”

Empathy Statements

  • “I appreciate that this is not easy to deal with.”
  • “I realize that this is a frustrating situation.”
  • “I very much understand your concern.”

Reassurance Statements

  • “Let me help you find a solution for this.”
  • “Let’s see how we can fix this now.”
  • “I’m here to take care of this for you.”

Skilled agents can blend such statements to meet the needs of individual customers. They may then quickly refocus the conversation towards the positive: the resolution.

5. Make Agents Aware of Customer Service Vocabulary Nightmares to Look Out For

While there are lots of excellent words and phrases to add to an advisor’s customer service vocabulary, there are many to exclude too. These go beyond the odd cliché.

After all, a poor turn of phrase can make a customer’s blood boil, destroying all rapport in the process. Sometimes, that is all it takes.

Consider a scenario where – at the end of a call – the advisor says: “Is there anything else I can help you with?” If the initial problem has no resolution, such a comment can foster resentment.

The graphic below presents another example, which is so common that we have turned it into a meme.

Call Centre Meme

Find this funny? Discover our collection of 32 call centre memes

Why does this statement bother customers so much? Because the modern customer is digital-first. It is unlikely that they did not look online before calling. Chances are, that is where they found the phone number. As such, it can undermine their intelligence.

So, avoid fanning the flames of customer dissatisfaction with such statements – more of which are visible in the table below.

Avoid this statement… Say this instead…
“You should not have done that.” “What I would instead recommend is…”
“I’m new here.” “I’m going to quickly check with a colleague.”
“I’m putting you on hold.” “I need to uncover more information. So, I’m just going to put you on hold, and I’ll be back in X minutes.”
“That is not my department.” “Let me get in touch with X department and find out for you.”
“I don’t know.” “Let me find out for you.”

One final example is the phrase: “It is company policy.” It is not a clear-cut reason to say “no” to a customer, making the advisor seem evasive. With a bad taste in their mouth, customer discontent grows and the call is more likely to turn unpleasant – perhaps even “nightmarish”.

Final Thoughts

Coaching a good customer service vocabulary drives advisor confidence. Such confidence is often crucial to building rapport and developing excellent contact centre conversations.

Equipping advisors with a set of words and phrases to fall back on in conversations and role-playing their use in various mock scenarios generates the necessary self-assurance.

From there, listen closely to the language selection of advisors in call listening sessions. Pick up on clichés and other vocabulary slips. Suggest a better alternative, make sure advisors are comfortable with it, and, over time, their customer service vocabulary will improve bit by bit.

Eager to expand your customer service vocabulary even further? Then delve into the following articles:

Author: Robyn Coppell
Reviewed by: Jonty Pearce

Published On: 3rd Aug 2022 - Last modified: 16th Apr 2024
Read more about - Customer Service Strategy, , , , , ,

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