Word Choice in Communicating with a Customer as a Call Center Agent

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  • 0:00 The Importance of Word Choice
  • 2:06 Using Positive Language
  • 3:59 Word Choice Ideas
  • 5:01 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Word choice can mean the difference between a disgruntled customer and a happy one. In this lesson, you'll learn more about the importance of word choice in the call center environment.

The Importance of Word Choice

Do you remember the childhood story of The Little Engine That Could? The little engine struggled with the chore of pulling a train over the hill. A change in the engine's thinking and language, repeating the positive mantra, ''I think I can! I think I can!'' helped the engine complete the task.

The same can be said of our day-to-day word choice, both in our personal conversations as well as our professional relationships. For call center agents, whose only connection to the customer comes through a phone line, things like the tone and volume of your voice along with the words you choose can make or break the relationship between a brand and its audience. Let's use this lesson to take a closer look at the importance of word choice in communicating with customers.

Put yourself in your customers' shoes for just a second: How likely would you be to feel positively about a conversation if one of these words or phrases was uttered:

  • ''I can't.''
  • ''You shouldn't have done that.''
  • ''Why can't you?''
  • ''That's not my job.''
  • ''Calm down.''

Would any of those make you feel happy, positive, or confident about your interaction? Probably not. They have a negative, controlling, and angry connotation to them, don't they? None of those phrases is very long, so that should tell you how little time it can take to turn a good situation into a not-so-good one.

Word choice influences every part of the customer service call, from the first impression of the opening greeting to the way an issue is resolved to how a customer feels about the interaction and your company long after it's over.

Just like comments can be taken out of context in a text message or email, words can be misconstrued when two people who can't see each other are engaging in conversation. After all, there's no way to check facial expressions or body language to really get the context behind the words. That means call center agents must work twice as hard to choose words that will positively engage customers and create a positive experience for them.

Using Positive Language

One of the most effective tools in the call center agent's toolbox is the concept of using positive language rather than negative. Now, you're probably saying, ''That's common sense.'' Yet, we use negative words and phrases all the time without realizing it.

We hear ''That's not my department,'' when we're out shopping and have a question. Or someone says, ''There's nothing I can do,'' when we try to return an item that doesn't fit to the customer service counter. Do you hear the negativity behind those phrases? There's nothing necessarily wrong with the words themselves, but in the heat of handling customer service concerns, no one wants to hear ''not,'' ''nothing,'' or other similarly discouraging terms.

Negative language often falls into one of these categories. See if you recognize any of the following examples:

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