January 24, 2012
The Chick-fil-A Difference: Why Customer Lingo Matters
The conversation around how you talk to customers could be a lecture entitled “The Chick-fil-A Difference.” In the drive-thru, when you say “thank you,” the Chick-fil-A employee always replies “my pleasure.”
The “my pleasure” policy instituted by the company’s founder, Truett Cathy, was inspired by a visit to the Ritz Carlton. When Cathy said “thank you” to the man behind the counter, he responded, “My pleasure.” Out of this exchange, Chick-fil-A’s novel idea was born: treat customers as if they’re at a luxury establishment.
This model continues to distinguish Chick-fil-A from its competitors, highlighting the importance of the little ways you communicate with customers. Below are a few words and turns of phrase that will set you apart from the crowd.
Positive Trigger Words
CBS News MoneyWatch columnist Michael Hess focuses on the importance of wordplay in his recent article “The 6 Best Words in Customer Service.” Hess says there are “positive trigger words … that convey the same message but with completely different results.” Chick-fil-A = case in point.
At least one of these six words should make their way into every conversation with a customer:
Hess says the positive triggers common to these six words are that they are active, genuine and upbeat. They’re not noncommittal, and won’t be misconstrued as the robotic delivery of a company script.
Phrases Customers Like to Hear
Hess says the phrase “let me see what I can do” sets customer expectations somewhere between low and zero. Yowza. Amend your company handbook and ban that one immediately.
Set the bar much higher using one of the phrases Entrepreneur magazine says embody the magic words customers want to hear from you:
- "How can I help?" An open-ended question that invites the customer to tell you, in detail, what they want and need.
- "I can solve that problem." This direct, actionable response is just what a customer wants to hear from you.
- "I don't know, but I'll find out." You are a problem solver, but you don’t have to know all the answers. Customers will appreciate your honesty and find a correct answer worth the wait.
- "I will take responsibility." Step up and let a customer see that you, a real human—not some faceless company agent—personally cares about the outcome of their issue and will make sure they’re happy with how it gets resolved.
- "I appreciate your business." Say this genuinely and clearly before you part ways. This reminds customers that you never take their business for granted.
See the connection in these five phrases? Always use “I.” You are not a “we,” even though you are representing the company in this interaction. The more personable you are in your communications, the better.
Our Favorite Word: Huzzah!
Positive trigger words and magical phrases should definitely be part of your repertoire. But have a little fun with wordplay, too, and let your company’s personality shine through.
Here at Help Scout, we’ve become known for saying “Huzzah!” It’s our quirky and adorable version of “Yippee!” that never fails to communicate to customers and colleagues that we are genuinely excited about something.