Are your customer service representatives saying the right thing to customers?

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This free article explores the language used by staff when dealing with customers. Are your customer service staff using appropriate language? Are they offending customers or satisfying customer needs?

Derek Stockley is a training and performance consultant based in Australia who does conduct in-house customer service training.

Customer greetings

The following statements have all been said to me in recent weeks:

"I will do that for you darling." (Young female counter person)

"No worries love." (Male counter person)

"Sure thing mate. Anything else?" (Male counter person)

Each time I have been surprised by the casualness of the language.

Customer service staff these days are encouraged to avoid standard phrases that are said without meaning. The classic phrase that is overused and often insincere is: "Have a nice day!".

On the other hand, conversations should not be too casual. Customers expect friendly, courteous staff that show some respect.

Although many believe that 'political correctness' has gone too far in Australia, the fact that I was surprised by the remarks made above is perhaps a reminder that customer service staff need to take care. I was not offended, just surprised. The remarks took my focus off the transaction (sale).

Friendliness with customers

The move away from formality is probably a good thing.

Should a customer service person use your first name or your family name (surname) with an appropriate salutation?

Is there anything else I can do you for Mr Stockley?

I watched a movie set in the 1950’s last night. Virtually everyone used Mr. or Mrs. in their conversations. It seemed strange.

Sometimes it is easier to use first names. Care has to be exercised with females - is it Miss, Mrs or Ms.

Sometimes it is appropriate to use first names straight away. In some businesses and organisations, it may not be. Older people and some cultures expect greater formality. Staff should try to adjust their remarks accordingly.


Staff should use language that is friendly but courteous. It is better to be slightly formal rather than too friendly. Staff should attempt to establish rapport without crossing the 'too friendly' line.

Interactions with customers need to be monitored. Team leaders and managers should 'walk the floor' so that they know what is happening.

Personal reflection

How is your language with customers? Is it appropriate?

Action items

From a business viewpoint, are our staff instructed and coached in the correct language to use with customers?

Should this issue be discussed at our next team meeting?

Related information

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Derek Stockley conducts public training courses in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth, including a Public Train the Trainer Program.

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