Stop Words to Avoid

John Krautzel
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Delivering bad news is an inevitable part of the job for customer service agents, and the language you use can play a big role in how customers receive the information. Certain words instantly bring the interaction to a halt, making it difficult for customers to hear anything that comes after. Finding alternatives for these "stop words" can lead to a more successful conversation and increase the likelihood of repeat business.


"No" is one of the most important stop words to avoid during a customer service call. That doesn't mean you can't deny a request or communicate negative information — simply choose softer alternatives. Try turning the "no" into a "yes" with a statement that explains how the customer can get from their current situation to their end goal. For example, don't say, "No, you have to have a certain account type to do that." Instead, say "I'd be happy to help, but you need to switch you to an X account type first. Would you like to proceed?"


"Unfortunately" seems like a gentle way to set the stage for bad news, but it usually communicates a stark "no" to customers. It can also sound insincere or condescending. Start by eliminating the word from the sentence. Instead of "Unfortunately, we're not able to do X," try a sentence such as, "We're not able to do X, but we can do Y." This method keeps the conversation moving and helps the customer focus on the positive solution.

I Don't Know

You're human, and your customers understand that you don't know everything about a product or service — but they don't necessarily want to hear you say so. Hearing "I don't know" from a customer service agent does not inspire confidence. Avoid this phrase, and find someone who can help. If possible, transfer the customer to a department that can help. If you can find an answer quickly, say, "I'll get an answer for you right away. May I put you on hold?" In cases where more time is necessary, try saying, "I need to investigate that issue further. If it's convenient for you, may I call you back with a solution?"

Go To Our Website

When a person has taken time out of their day to contact customer service, the last thing they want to hear is "go to our website." Even if your website offers a solution, the person might not be technologically savvy, or they may have tried and failed to find the correct page. Whenever possible, take on the burden of finding an immediate solution to ensure that the customer's time is not wasted. If the action can only be completed by the customer online, try a statement like, "To protect your personal data, you'll need to log into your account to do that, but I can walk you through the process if you're near a computer." At this point, the customer can say yes or ask for the correct web address.

When it comes to great customer service, language is half the battle. By avoiding negative words, you can keep callers happy and become a pro at finding solutions to problems.

Photo courtesy of imagerymajestic at


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  • ERIC C.
    ERIC C.

    This is so VERY true and I have always tried trained my Teams not to use these words with Outside or Inside Customers.

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