Customer Care: A Harmless Harmful Response

I frequently write about certain words or responses that can ruin an interaction or quickly destroy the quality of the customer care you provide. In this post, I address the seemingly harmless yet harmful practice of telling a customer where you’d rather be.

Customer Care: A Harmless Harmful Response Image by: MikeBaird

The Brief Story
A heating repair technician visits a customer for a yearly preventive furnace cleaning. When the technician is done, the customer pays him and says “Have a nice day.” The technician’s response: “It’s never a nice day when I have to work. I’d rather be fishing.”

On the surface, we might think it’s a very harmless response expressing a shared human desire to be relaxing instead of working. We tell ourselves that even customers would say this.

When we step back and let it echo in our ears, it rings out as an emotionally unintelligent response that tells the customers we don’t care! Customers do business with those that show them interest, care, and skill. They do business with those they like and trust.

As leaders we most likely wouldn’t hire people who stated they would rather be doing something other than interviewing with us. Why would the customers embrace and be loyal to a company whose employees didn’t want to work with them?

Other Harmless Harmful Responses

What Do You Think of These?

You’re a good customer. We have many who complain.

Oh he doesn’t know anything; he’s a trainee (referring to a colleague).

It’s too bad you weren’t here yesterday. We had a sale.

My office manager IS in the office. She’s just avoiding the phone.

From Harmful to Harmonious
What if we captured every moment of connection as a loyalty builder? The human spirit is drawn to be with those who show great interest in connecting and delivering on their needs. Trust builds from those repeated care-filled moments.

In order of the the examples above, turn harmful replies into harmonious bonds:

  1. It’s great to see you. Your furnace is all set for the winter. Call if you need us. You have a great day too.
  2. We are thrilled that you like our service. Please let us know your feedback on anything so we can continue to meet your needs.
  3. I am training my colleague so we will be even stronger as a team.
  4. Would you like to receive alerts on our next sale?
  5. Very sorry you couldn’t get through to us. I am very happy to assist you. What can I do for you?

Let’s imagine and capture the tremendous power of saying: “I love my work and am very happy to be speaking with you.” I have had customers at different times say to me: “Wow you must have had terrible stress getting here in this bad weather. I bet you wish you were home.” My answer was, is, and always will be: The best part is being here with you.

Every moment with our customers is a moment of loyalty building care — whether they are happy at the start or not. We must invite them to a banquet of excellent service and care with every word we speak.

From the heart never fails. Our professional people-skills keep the doors of customer care filled with current and new customers who value that big difference between us and those who would rather be fishing!

Question: Is there another harmless harmful response that you would add to this list and replace with something better?

From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™

Related Posts:
The Heart & Core of Super Customer Experience
The Emotional Intelligence That Feeds Super Customer Experience

©2012 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. If you want to re-post or republish this post, please email Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into business success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.

11 Responses to “Customer Care: A Harmless Harmful Response”

  1. Amy says:

    I love reading your posts and thanks for sharing this. One of my favorite harmless harmful phrases is a response to “How is your day going”? The response: “I’ll be doing better at 5:00”. When people answer that way it always makes me feel like I’m being a burden and they’d rather be doing anything than helping.

    Keep up the great posts!

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Thanks for the “add” Amy. That’s definitely a harmful statement. So pleased for your time and insight in commenting on this post.

      Warmest regards,

  2. Thank you so much Kate,

    This is the essence of what we aim to do daily – we care about people. It’s nice to be able to communicate it clearly and in ways where the customer understands that they are valued.

    Wonderful insight as always:)

    Thanks again for keeping it simple,

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Bulls-eye Tonya — it’s all about the customers feeling valued. And when any employee suggests they would prefer to be someplace else doing something else, many customers will take that as an insult.

      Many thanks for your comment here at Smart SenseAbilities(TM).

  3. Khalid says:

    I wonder how thoughtful you are whenever I read your posts! That’s a wonderful and creative post as usual Kate. THANK YOU for enriching my thinking.

    I relate very much to this in IT. We have our end user support and help desk people who are always under pressure of closing out raised incidents by users at the end of the day. So it really gets frustrated when the end of the day reached with still pending open incidents that might stay until next day. It gets difficult to focus on people skills during such pressuring moments.

    I always tell my people that pending incidents are transparent to management which indicates incomplete jobs but they really have to remember the quality of our service in those moments! Now your message is another reminder of me to spread the positive energy by then 🙂

    THANK YOU Kate and keep on thrilling me with your creative posts.


    • Kate Nasser says:

      Wonderful example Khalid. It is under pressure that reps are most likely to fall into the trap of poor people-skills. There’s an old saying: If you want to truly see the quality of service, experience during a stress test. In restaurants, how is service during their busiest time? For Help Desks and Service Desks, how do they perform during viral attacks or at end of day?

      In the end, customers don’t make allowances for any of this — not in terms of people-skills treatment. So it is very valuable to train everyone with role plays that simulate these stressful times.

      Many thanks for your continued contribution to these posts!

  4. Dale Shafer says:

    Kate! This is a great post. I am amazed at some of the things I hear in passing from people who are intending to provide a service. In our company, we try to be very selective with the words we chose when working with customers – even each other! It’s a simple as this: customer calls our company and expresses a problem. Our response: You called the right place, and we are glad to help.” Another favorite of mine is “thank you for the opportunity to earn your trust.”

    It’s simple stuff… yet so often overlooked and under-valued. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Simple is beautiful Dale for it flows with authenticity. Your phrases are music to my ears and hopefully to all who read this post and hear them on the phone!

      Many thanks for adding positive options.

  5. Kate, I love how you tied these negative responses to Emotional Intelligence. I really see how choosing a positive, loyalty building response can build a better culture at our company. We keep telling our agents to choose a great attitude each day and I think training ourselves to respond better helps immensely with that. Thanks for the great word and I am going to put this to practice immediately!


    • Kate Nasser says:

      Thank you Jeremy. So pleased for your comment. Love your “choose a great attitude each day” mantra. It really is a choice. I am happy to be a resource to you and your agents. Hope they will catch all the posts here on people skills and customer service!

      Best wishes,

  6. […] Customer Care: A Harmless Harmful Response – People skills are important in any service industry, but when an employee over-shares, it can actually hurt the customer experience. […]

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