Business Practices | | Published August 27, 2015

What's Your Sign? 6 Customer Support Lines That Stink

As a regular human being who uses products and services just like anyone, I have had my fair share of both good and bad customer service experiences, and a few recent ones inspired me to share a list of 6 "canned responses" or "lines" that are often used and shouldn't be. If you're one of the good guys (and I know you are, otherwise you wouldn't be reading this blog) it might help improve your customer support even more - or at the very least, give you a little chuckle.

1. Thank you for being a valued customer/Your call is very important to us

This one is so cliche it doesn't need explaining - we've all heard the canned voice recording when we call a company for support, or even general questions. There is nothing spectacularly wrong with these "lines", except that they're just that - a line. Millions of companies use them, and none of them sound genuine.Try using something more personalized to your company, for example, when you call HubSpot support they thank you for calling and say "we've got a team of support engineers who are excited to work with you". The best part? Their support engineers really do sound like they're excited to work with you!

2. I'm sorry you feel that way

While the intention may be to connect with your customers, it's a poor attempt at empathy and ends up doing the exact opposite. Putting the emphasis on your customer "...YOU feel that way" makes them feel attacked, and sounds like you are blaming them for their feelings. While the customer is not always right, they are always the customer and deserve your respect. And remember that when a customer calls into a help desk for support, the odds are good they are already irritated. Try to use positive words, and address their issue head-on. A simple adjustment can go a long way, "I'm so sorry about that, let me try to make it right".

3. I understand you're frustrated but...

stressed_booksReally, anything that includes the word "but" completely negates everything else you say. It also sounds like you're about to make an excuse. Customers don't want excuses, they want their issues fixed. If you're trying to show empathy, a better phrase is "I'd be frustrated too, let me try to explain/fix the issue". As with all good customer service, scripted responses simply don't work - each interaction should be personalized to the individual user on the other end of the phone/email/chat. Because no matter who the company or customer, in the end it's still two human beings having a conversation. So keep it human.

4. "To be honest with you..."

Wait a minute, does that mean you've been lying this whole time? Or you are normally a dishonest person? This one either makes it sound like you're about to lie (why else would you say that?) or gives the impression you weren't being honest before. Neither are a good impression to give your customers.

5. "I'm sorry for the inconvenience"

Ok, this one is actually not that bad...when used sparingly. I recently had to make a support call where every time I said anything, the rep responded with "I'm sorry for the inconvenience..." it was so obvious he was reading from a script it drove me crazy. I may as well have been talking to a robot, there was no human touch at all. However, if he'd said the same thing ONCE, with a genuine empathetic tone, then I would have felt a lot better about it.

6. We're currently experiencing a high call volume/We appreciate your patience

This screams "we're having major problems with our product/service and you should be worried". It also feels like a poor excuse for keeping you on hold for a really long time. A better approach is to simply state the expected wait time, or provide an alternative to call the customer back when the next rep is available. If you use an omnichannel customer support software, you can also provide them an online support portal or email option. Be careful with the last option though, as you don't want your customers to think you're passing them off - many customers only phone the help desk as a last resort.

You may have noticed a theme around not using scripts in customer service - to read more, download our white paper below: