Language Matters: Words That Make Angry Customers Love You

Did your grandmother ever tell you that words are as important as actions?

Mine did. And as usual, she was right – especially in the world of customer service.

Providing outstanding customer care means knowing exactly what to say and the best way to say it.

See, there are certain "magic words" that customers want to hear from you and your staff.

Follow the guide below to ensure you're using them all.

1 – Establish a Good Rapport

As the old saying goes, “a good beginning makes a good ending.” 

By starting off the call or live chat on a positive note, you can set the tone and move the conversation forward with solution-building language.

The golden rule? Listen first, discuss later.

Imagine it like you're meeting someone for the first time – start by introducing yourself and ask for the customer’s name: 

“Hello, my name is X. May I ask your name?” 

If the mode of contact is a live chat or contact form, make sure you have the ‘Name’ field to eliminate this extra step. But always greet your customer by their name. It’s only human!

Next, ask what they need from you, without assuming that there is a problem to begin with. Be open and receptive to your customers’ pain points. 

“How can I help you?”

There’s a reason why this is the most common phrase in customer service – it goes straight to the point. 

The fundamental purpose of any customer service function is to add value to customers’ lives. With this question, you show that you’re interested in assisting, and at the same time, establish trust with them. 

It might seem obvious, but I've seen it happen before… 

  • “What’s the problem?” 
  • “Are you dissatisfied?” 

You should NEVER EVER start off sounding confrontational!

2 – Acknowledge Problem(s)

We’ve all been there.

Being frustrated and having to voice our dissatisfaction or struggles at the same time. 

Some issues might be straightforward, while some are plain complicated. So the last thing you want is to go back and forth with a customer service agent just to get your point across.

Remember, some customers are also not used to typing out their complaints via chat – don't be surprised if their language is vague or confusing.

Just make sure you’re on the same page – try to rephrase and clarify.

With this one step, you get two important things done: 
You make the customer feel heard and understood 
You clarify the matter and ensure that you’re dealing with the correct issue.

Here's one good example: 

“Thank you for contacting [Company]! Just to clarify, you have already placed your order, but it has not arrived, is that correct?”

Always try your best to make sense of what your customer is trying to say, and NEVER say:

  • “I’m sorry, I don’t understand you.”
  • “Can you please rephrase the question?”

These questions are a surefire way to make your customer feel like an idiot.

One side note here: Don’t retype what a customer has said word for word. 


When interacting, we're looking for others to add value to what we're saying – we want the next response to be of value, not a waste of time. Parroting adds no value and can increase the feeling that the inquiry is going in circles. 

So summarize, don't regurgitate.

3 – If It’s Your Mistake, Own It

“I’m sorry.”

Never underestimate the power of a genuine apology, because these words can instantly transform an unhappy customer into a loyal brand advocate. 

There are too many instances of companies that failed to deliver on the promise and dive straight into excuses, or worse, blame it on the customer. 

You don’t want to be these guys. 

Explanations and solutions come second.

If something goes wrong, even if it's due to circumstances that are beyond your company’s control, always take ownership and apologize first. 

Sure, saying that you’re sorry can’t undo the cause of the upset, but it can help soothe the anger, and often makes the difference between a positive outcome and a lost customer.

4 – Use Positive Words, Eliminate Negative Words

Communication is an art. 

When you’re not having a face-to-face engagement, the type of experience your customers receive wholly depends on your choice of words. 

So… Choose them wisely!

Positive words are the foundation of good customer service. Focus on crafting your sentences from an affirming vocabulary, using words such as:

  • Absolutely
  • Assure
  • Certainly
  • Definitely
  • Fantastic
  • Gladly
  • Great
  • Surely
  • Terrific
  • Understand

Here are some examples: 

  • “I completely understand where you’re coming from…”
  • “Sure! I can definitely help with that…”
  • “Rest assured, we most certainly will…”
  • “Terrific! I’m so glad to be of help…”

The no-nos

While using positive words is important, it is equally critical that you don't use negative words when speaking to your customer – even if you agree with their complaint. 

You want to sound empathetic, but it may come off as patronizing or worse, damage the reputation of your company further. 

So, never use phrases with intensely negative words: 

  • “We can’t believe it either. That totally sucks.”
  • “You don’t deserve that!”
  • “That is awful!”
  • “We apologize for providing you such bad service!” 

5 – Communicate Confidence

Unsure of their question? Don’t hem and haw about it. 

Attempting to answer a difficult question when you don't know the facts will only hurt your credibility. 

So what should you do when you face such tricky situations?

The DOs

Be honest. Help the customer understand that you will soon get the answer to the query. Yes, you need to resolve their problems quickly, but don’t rush it. Getting an accurate response more important than getting a fast one. 

Communicate that you have it all under control with these phrases:

  • “Rest assured; I’m going to take care of this for you…”
  • “I understand where you’re coming from.”
  • “I’ll keep you posted!”
  • “Let me find that out for you.”
  • “One moment please.” (remember the 'please'! Nothing beats manners, after all!)
  • “Let me refer your query to our specialist.”
  • “If I can’t take care of this for you, I’ll find out who can.”

The DON’Ts

  • Rule No. 1: Don’t panic 
  • Rule No. 2: Don’t ignore or try to bypass the question
  • Rule No. 3: Don’t fake an answer
  • Rule No. 4: Don’t turn the situation into your situation (“I’m sorry, I’m new!”, “Sorry, I’ve never been asked that before!”)
  • Rule No. 5: Don’t guess for the customer (“If I recall correctly…”, "Maybe…”, “I think…”)

6 – Giving a Soft Rejection

Sometimes, you need to put your foot down and say “no.” 

Believe it or not, the customer isn't always right – some requests are unreasonable. 

For example, a customer comes demanding a refund after several months, which way exceeds your company’s one-week refund policy. Or another asking to exchange a used item. What are you going to do? 

Stay firm but kind.

Even if you must say no, there are many softer ways to say it than a blunt ‘No”. THe goal here is to let them know that you’d like to help, but it’s just not possible in this situation. 

You can cushion the rejection with soft words like “unfortunately” and its variants, but they still mean a “no” in your customers’ eyes. 

If it’s within your means, always try to offer alternatives.

Whenever possible, try to spin your response into what you can do instead. For example, even if you can’t provide cash refund or exchange, you may be able to throw in some store credit to appease them.

Here are some positive phrases to help you out:

  • “I’d love to help as much as I can.”
  • “While I can’t offer you [Solution A], I can implement [Solution B],.”
  • “I would love to help, but… Here’s what I can do instead…”

7 – End Conversations Graciously

“Thank you.”

*Two simple words with the power to change the world. *

Saying “thank you” is a show of gratitude, which there’s never too much of in customer service. 

So take every opportunity to thank your customers for choosing your brand and make them feel appreciated. 

Try this:

“It was great getting to know you. Thank you for choosing [Company]”

There you go; that's a winning combination of appreciation and engagement. 

Take your thanks to another level – follow up.

Show that you actually care through follow-up calls, surveys, and making sure that everything’s all-good even after the initial problem is resolved. 

Convey your willingness to go the extra mile to make sure that your customer is completely satisfied, before ending the conversation with phrases like: 

  • “Happy to help! Let me know if there’s anything else I can do for you.”
  • “Is there anything else I can help you with?”

Remember, never end conversations so abruptly that the customer feels that you are metaphorically hurrying them out the door. 

*First impressions matter. So use language with the right attitude! * What are your top tips for providing great customer service through language?