Service Professionalism – Neither Scripts Nor These 5 Gems

Once upon a time…in a land far, far away…I was a young organizational development specialist employed by a sizable health care system. My job was to “improve customer service by deploying employee scripts.”

Given my naivete, I took to my task by researching the best available customer service programs. Ultimately, I purchased a boxed set of materials, developed a communication and training plan, and marched the program right into the organization. There were only 3 problems:

Leaders throughout the organization said they wanted employee scripts but in no way wanted to monitor or reward performance based on them.

Employees hated the scripts and didn’t understand why we were supposed to use them.

Patients felt the scripts were robotic.

Fortunately, through the years I haven’t replicated that misguided effort – lest I would be in some other business today!

Generally speaking customer service scripts are less effective than desired. It’s hard to be authentic and inspired when you are reading someone elses words.

Conversely, there ARE certain words people use during service which I think we should assist our team members to remove from their vocabulary. Beyond “swear” words, cutesy cliches, and insults, I encourage my clients to shed these five phrases in the context of service:


1.) May I help you

While this sounds benign enough, we don’t need to ask permission to provide service. We are paid and poised to serve and the real question should be, “How may I assist you?” The word assist is a far more engaging and elevated word. Most customers will be assisted although many don’t want to be helped.

2.) No

Even if you can’t say “yes” to a customer’s request, you don’t have to say “no.” Often a service professional will say something like, “Here are the options I do have available” or “we could do that for this additional price.”

3.) That’s not my job

Need I say more about this one, other than please find the person whose job it is and make a warm handoff….

4.) Our policy doesn’t allow me to….

One of my least favorite hiding spots is inside a policy manual. Customers don’t care about policies! They care about solutions and options. As human beings we should generate service options until we have exhausted all possible mutually beneficial outcomes. If we are at that juncture it’s time to escalate the service need to someone in the organization who may have more options at their disposal.

5.) If it were up to me….

Anything along this line of conversation is entering dangerous territory. In essence, the service provider is saying…I would love to be your hero but the villian (our company, my boss) doesn’t have my virtues and compassion. I hear these types of statements far too often, as team members try to forge a connection with the customer at the expense of the customer’s relationship with the business.


Those are just a few of the phrases I think service professionals should never say!

What are the ones that trouble you most? More importantly, what are you doing (short of scripts) to elevate the nature of service conversations happening in your organization?

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Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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