Canadian Pizza Magazine

Phrases that pay

By Jeff Mowatt   

Features Business and Operations Marketing

March 27, 2013 – Can you name two words that might increase your
business? Here's a hint: the answer doesn't involve "please" or "thank
you." Here's a suggestion from Jeff Mowatt that may help boost your
sales and form better relationships with your customers.

March 27, 2013 – 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 – on average,
12 per cent more.
That's what I call easy money. 

It's OK to be in a bad mood.

I don't buy-in to the conventional thoght 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 stock.

  • Without training: "I don't know if they're in. I'll have to check."
  • With training: "I don't know if they're in, but I would 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 better impression.

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. But 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.

A customer asks about a delivery date.

  • Without training: "We might be able to get it to you by Wednesday."
  • With training: "We'll deliver it by Friday."

The guideline is, underpromise and overdeliver. In this situation,
if the delivery is made on Thursday, the untrained employee looks
incompetent while the trained person looks like a hero Keep in mind
that it's not just your organization's reputation that's at stake – it's
also your personal reputation. So make promises sparingly, and
then keep them – no matter what it costs you.

You're addressing a customer.

  • Without training: Says, "sir, miss, or ma'am" frequently.
  • With training: avoids using sir or ma'me and instead uses person's name.

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

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. So 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.

Customer service strategist and professional speaker Jeff Mowatt is an authority on The Art of Client Service .  .  .  Influence with Ease. For Jeff's other tips, self-study resources, and training services, visit

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