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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 04-Apr-12


Friday 06-April-12

Customer service language

Say you work in a store of some kind. What language should you be using with your customers? Does it make a difference? It certainly does. Kevin Peters, CEO of Office Depot, tells all in the November 2011 issue of the Harvard Business Review of how they changed their words and upped both their sales and customer satisfaction. Here's the details and discussion of why the change in wording works better.

Instead of: Hi, how are you?
Say: What brings you to Office Depot today?

'How are you?' is a greeting. It is not a real concern for health and the obligatory reply is something like 'Fine, thank you'.  Maybe they are

'What brings you to Office Depot today?' asks for what they are looking for so you can help them find it. It is an offer of service. It also makes the person think about what they want and starts a chain of events that ensure they find it and pretty much feel obliged to buy it, especially once they have it in their hands. Oh, and dropping in 'Office Depot' just helps build the brand.

 Instead of: Are you finding everything okay?
 Say: What can I help you find today?

'Are you finding everything okay?' is another ritual question that triggers a 'yes thanks' in many people.

'What can I help you find today?' is a far more proactive approach. It is an assumptive approach that presume they are seeking something. It also continues the march towards the till.

 Instead of: Is this all you need today?
Say: What else are you looking for today?

We like to say 'yes' and saying this to 'Is this all you need today?' makes it a closing call. When you say this to customers you are really saying that you do not want to sell them anything else.

'What else are you looking for today?' assumes the customer is looking for other things and will often triggers another round of selling.

Instead of: Are you doing okay?
Say: What other items are on your list today?

'Are you doing okay?' is simply asking for the customer to say 'yes'. Note how many of the questions use this simply desire of many people to say 'yes', in one way or another. It does not lead to sales.

'What other items are on your list today?' is another assumptive question that seeks to trigger further buying.

Instead of: Thanks.
Say: Thank you for shopping at Office Depot today.

'Thanks' is ok, but perhaps a bit casual.

'Thank you for shopping at Office Depot today.' is more formal. It names the store, using the recency principle to remind them of the brand on their way out. The use of 'today' is interesting as it contains an implication that the customer will also return another day.

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