Ask, Don’t Demand: Keep Customers Happy by Skipping Commands

Receptionist Etiquette Tip: Asking vs Demanding
Receptionist Ellie B. always has these phrases in her back pocket.

When conversing with a customer, every word counts. Even when uttered in a warm tone, demanding phrasing is likely to rub a client or caller the wrong way. The solution? Simple! Mind your manners, and politely ask your caller for what you need rather than demanding it. Here are four examples of how to upgrade from domineering to delightful:

OUT: “I need your name.”  Whatever you’re seeking from your customer, it’s best to ask for it, and ask nicely. If you’re looking to crank up the politeness factor, the words “May I” are your best buddies.

IN: “May I have your name?”

OUT: You need to talk to Jim about that.” Okay, but who is this Jim fellow, and how do I reach him? This phrase is a double-whammy of negativity — it’s demanding and a dead end. Remember, you want to help your customer get from point A to point B. When it’s time to guide a customer in a particular direction, always do so without being bossy. Politely introduce the best destination, and then show how eager you are to help your customer get there.

IN: “Jim would be the best person to help you with that. I’ll try his line for you!”

OUT: “You’ll have to set up an appointment.” I don’t know about you, but I get a little irked any time I’m told I have to do something. Irritation is the last thing you want a client or potential customer to feel. Instead of telling customers what they have to do, skip ahead to helping them do it.

IN: “I’d be happy to set up an appointment for you!”

OUT: “Hold, please.”  The need to juggle calls is a fact of life for most receptionists. Bottom line: The call on line two is ringing and needs to be answered. Is there really time for pleasantries in a dire situation like this? You bet! A blunt interruption like “Hold, please” might miff your caller, but a little “May I” brightens any request, as in “May I place you on hold for a moment?” Sure, you need to put your caller on hold to answer your ringing line, but asking always beats demanding, and when you’re polite, callers will rarely say no. If you need to interrupt your caller, kindly explain why, and you’re likely to get a positive response.

IN: “May I place you on hold for a moment?” or “Please excuse my interruption. May I place you on hold for a moment? I have an incoming call.”

The way you say it is just as important and what you say! With the proper phrasing, your clients will be impressed, happy, and loyal.

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