The costs of a failed customer service experience have been well documented. A recent survey from New Voice Media found that U.S. businesses lose $75 billion annually because of poor customer service interactions. Even if interactions with customers are minimal, everything makes an impression, from choice of dress to body language, eye contact and diction used during the exchange.

Shaun Belding, author of The Journey of Wow, analyzed hundreds of customer service calls and noted a distinct change for the worse in the nature and tone of the conversations. This particularly occurred when the service agent used one of two phrases. The findings from Belding’s study can provide insight into better practices for customer service, sales conversations and internal company conversations, as we’ll explain in this issue of Promotional Consultant Today.

“Actually.” On its own, this is a pretty harmless word, but when it is used to start a sentence, the person on the other end of the conversation knows what is coming next: “I am about to be corrected.” Imagine the damper placed on a conversation when someone says, “You drove about five miles,” and the other party replies with, “Actually, it was three-and-a-half miles.” Using this contrarian word prevents the service agent from effectively connecting with the customer and may cause the customer to feel uncomfortable.

“Like I told you before.” This phrase, or other close approximations, serves two purposes: a) to vent frustration and b) to make the other person feel inadequate. Communication can be difficult and even if the service agent has indeed, made the same remark many, many times, uttering this statement is sure to kill any good will on behalf of the customer.

There will be times when you will need to correct the other party in the conversation. In place of using these phrases, Belding advocates using the Validate-Clarify-Continue method. He offers this example:

Instead of saying, “Actually, the entrance is in the back,” say, “It would make sense for the entrance to be in the front” (validate the recipient’s belief), “but for some reason it’s in the back of the building” (clarify the answer). Then follow up with, “Do you know how to get to the back of the building?” (continue the conversation).

Try these methods to better manage your next conversation.

Source: Shaun Belding is the author of The Journey to Wow and CEO of The Belding Group of Companies–an award-winning business dedicated to global customer service training and customer experience.