Stop Annoying Your Customers

By Heather Baldwin

It’s tough to build good customer relationships if you’re constantly annoying your customers. Without knowing it, many sales reps use phrases that grate on customers’ nerves and send them scurrying to the competition. Bill Lampton, founder of Gainesville, Georgia-based Championship Communication ( and author of The Complete Communicator: Change Your Communication, Change Your Life (Providence House Pub, 1999), says the following statements are most commonly cited by customers as frustrating or annoying.

I’m surprised you haven’t heard about our product. This statement sounds condescending and arrogant, says Lampton, and implies the prospect is ignorant. A better response to a customer’s expression of unfamiliarity with your product would be: Since you’re not familiar with our product, let me take a few minutes to describe it and answer your questions.

That’s not my job. Not only are you avoiding handling the customer’s problem, you’re offering no solution. Instead, say: I know just the person who can help you with that problem and I’ll introduce you to her.

To schedule delivery, let me see when I’m going to be in your neighborhood next week. You’re telling the customer you have your convenience – not the customer’s – as the number one factor in scheduling. Instead, try: Yes, we can deliver this to you next week. What day and time will suit you best?

Tell me your name again, and what the problem is. Few statements tell the customer you haven’t listened carefully as well as this one. What’s more, it is likely to infuriate a person who is already dissatisfied. Instead, show customer you have heard them by paraphrasing what they just told you: Mr. Adams, as I understand you, your car’s air conditioning isn’t cooling adequately. Is that right?

To get to Bob’s office, take the elevator to the third floor, then turn left and…. Many people get confused with directions, especially when they have to remember a lot of them at once. Also, if customers get lost, you have either created or added to their frustration. Next time, tell customers you’ll take them personally to the location they’re seeking.

Gosh, I barely got here. I had to drop my dog at the vet, traffic was terrible and I’ve got this awful headache. Customers aren’t interested in your problems because they’re depending on you to solve their problems. All you need to say about yourself is: Good morning. I’m glad to meet you.

That’s against our policy. Customers don’t want to deal with inflexible bureaucrats. They want to do business with salespeople who care enough to adjust to unmet needs. Instead, indicate that you will find a way to accommodate customers’ needs.