Talk to Customers The Right Way At Your Coffeehouse or Restaurant

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You’ve got the perfect location, great food and drinks, and you think you have the perfect staff to welcome your customers. But even well-meaning baristas, bartenders and servers can come off sounding impatient, impetuous or just plain lazy when dealing with customers. Just about everyone’s communication skills could use a bit of polishing so they can talk to customers in the most welcoming way possible.

This list of What Not to Say versus What to Say Instead should be required reading for any employee—especially those who deal with customers. Some of the what-not-to-say phrases will seem obvious, yet it’s surprising how often I overhear them or have been subject to them. Some of the more jarring word choices are enough to make you jerk your head back a little and think, “Did they really just say that?”

What Not to Say … and What to Say Instead:

“I Don't Know” vs. “That's a great question. Let me find out for you.”

“Hold on” vs. “Are you able to hold for a moment?” or “I’ll be right with you.”

“I'm busy right now” vs. “I’ll be right with you.”

“I'm new here” vs. “Please bear with me and I'll get you the help you need.”

“Calm Down” vs. “I apologize.”

“We're Closed” vs. “We close at __ o'clock and reopen at _ o'clock. Is there something I can quickly help you with?”

“Will that be all?” vs. “Let me show you…” or “Have you tried __?”

“It's over there” vs. “Follow me, I'll show you where it is.”

“I can't do that” vs. “I think the best solution is …”

“That's not my job” vs. “Let’s find the right person to help you.”

“We're out of that item” vs. “I’m sorry, we just ran out of that menu item, but we have some great alternatives.”

“That’s against our policy” vs. “Typically our policy is __ but I want to make this right for you. This is what I can do…”

“You're wrong” vs. “I think there’s been a misunderstanding.”

“All sales are final” vs. “Let us know if you're not satisfied and we'll make it right.”

The right words can make all the difference in everyday interactions and in tense situations. Choose your words carefully, and you can earn trust and loyalty instead of leaving a bad taste in someone’s mouth.

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