Business and Operations
Phrases that pay
By Jeff Mowatt
By Jeff Mowatt
May 31, 2010 – Quick! Name two words which, when frequently used by waiters
and waitresses, increases tips by 12 per cent. Hint: It's not please or thank
Give up? The answer is, “for you”. So, rather than
saying to a customer, "Would you like some more coffee?", the savvy
waiter would say, "I brought more coffee over for you." The
patron thinks, "Gosh, you did that for me, how thoughtful!" and tips
accordingly and on average 12 per cent more.
That's what I call easy money. While you can never be too
polite with a customer, you can be too formal. If you answered correctly, ignore
the rest of this article. If, on the other hand, you'd like more phrases
and tips that increase your perceived value, then read on.
It's OK to be in a bad mood
I don't buy-in to the conventional wisdom that an employee
must bubble with enthusiasm to provide great service and high value. In
the real world of upset customers, long hours and stress, an employee's
enthusiasm will occasionally wear thin. We all have bad days. So,
front line employees need to be trained on how to convey a positive, helpful
attitude even when they're not having a zippity-do-dah day.
Here are several situations along with phrases that convey a
powerful positive impression, no matter how stressed you may be.
A customer asks for something and you don't know if it's in
Without training: "I don't know if we have it.
I'll have to check."
With training: "I don't know if we have it, but I'll be
happy to check for you."
The trained employee conveys a better attitude. The
irony is that she didn't work any harder than the untrained worker — they both
checked inventory. But the trained employee gets a lot more credit because
she used better phrasing. What's more, she didn't have to feel happy or
enthusiastic to get the extra credit. She just used wording that made a
A boss, co-worker or customers asks you to do something.
Without training (any of the following): "OK, I'll try,
I'll do my best, uh-huh, sure."
With training: "I'll take care of it."
"OK" or "sure" are adequate
responses. Who wants to be perceived as adequate? On the other hand,
imagine asking someone to do a series of difficult, inconvenient, unpleasant
tasks, and they respond instead with, "I'll take care it." That
conveys the impression of a positive, confident, caring person. Again, we
don't have to actually feel excited or want to do the task, but using the right
phrasing creates that perception.
You're addressing a customer.
Without training: Says, "sir, miss, or ma'am"
With training: avoids using sir or ma'am and instead uses
While you can never be too polite with a customer, you can
be too formal. When I ask participants at my seminars how they feel when
a front line employee addresses them as "sir" or "ma'am"
the overwhelming response is, “old”. Not a good feeling. What's more,
it creates a barrier between the customer and employee. The customer may
be starting to think of the employee as a friend — which we want. But
the moment the employee uses "sir" or "ma'am" the customer
is reminded that they're not friends, but business associates. Most of us are
much more loyal to friends than we are to businesses. Of course there are
exceptions where you may choose to be more formal; such as when you're dealing
with certain senior citizens or someone from a conservative cultural background.
You want to be believed.
Without training: (Prefaces the statement with any of these
phrases): "The truth is . . . believe me . . . ,
honest . . . , true story . . . , I really mean this
. . ."
With training: Omits all these statements and just makes the
statement of fact.
Prefacing a statement with a phrase that essentially says
we're about to tell the truth, implies that everything we've said up till that
point has been a lie! These statements hurt rather than help our credibility. Trained
employees just don't use them, especially when having a sales conversation.
The competitive edge
Having a technological advantage over the competition is
almost impossible to sustain in today's marketplace. Customers can almost
always get a similar product to yours somewhere else. The easiest way to
differentiate you and your organization is by providing value added
service. That doesn't mean everyone has to work harder. It does mean
you need to speak the language of professionals. That's when using the right
phrase really pays.
This article is based
on the critically acclaimed book Becoming a Service Icon in 90 Minutes a Month,
by customer service strategist and professional speaker Jeff Mowatt. To
obtain your own copy of his book or to inquire about engaging Jeff for your
team, visit www.jeffmowatt.com or call 1.800.JMowatt (566.9288).