It all started with the phrase, “It’s not my job,” to which customers around the globe retorted, “What do you mean it’s not your job? If you can’t help me, why are you here?”

Trigger phrases like “It’s not my job,” are responses that are ill advised in customer service situations. The designation “trigger” refers to the immediate negative reaction these phrases can cause. Although some of them may not personally bother you, research (and common sense) suggests they are best to avoid with customers.

Here are a few phrases to eliminate from your customer communication.

I’ll look into it.”
This is the biggest brush off phrase today. The reason: so many people have been told “I’ll look into it” with absolutely no result. So even if you say it with the best intentions, the customer is probably thinking, “Yeah, right.”
The fix: Add specifics. State exactly what you will do as well as the timeframe.

Nobody else is having a problem with this.”
Essentially, you’ve just told the customer “You are the problem.”
The fix: It doesn’t matter that no one else is having a problem. Always respond with empathy and address the issue presented to you.

We’re short-handed today.”
Although this may be the real reason for a delay, it sure sounds like an excuse. And even worse, for those producers using this as a standard response, there is a perception of a poorly managed organization.
The fix: Address the customer request in the timeliest way possible. Apologize for the wait or the delayed response.

I understand.”
Joining the line-up as the newest trigger is the commonly used phrase, “I understand.” I bet you’re thinking, what could be wrong with that? After all, it is important to express understanding. People react negatively to this phrase because it has been said repeatedly with absolutely no attempt to really understand. You may as well say, “Shut up,” and we would never say that to a customer.
The fix: Listen to the customer and ask specific questions about their experience. When you do this, the customer will feel understood and there will be no need to say “I understand.”

Successfully mastering customer communication is at best difficult. However, knowing what NOT to say is critical to keeping the concrete flowing.

Joan Fox is a customer experience consultant to the ready-mix industry and a popular conference speaker. Telephone 513-793-9582 or email