When Language Matters: Tips For Avoiding Unhappy Customers

Language matters when communicating with unhappy customers.

In sales and customer service, a big part of avoiding unhappy customers is using the right language. According to Board of Experts member, and Metal Mafia owner, Vanessa Nornberg, finding the right language is all about clear communication with your customer.

Selling is a delicate dance where the salesperson must transmit information to the customer, and in order to do so, the salesperson must be able to communicate in a way that the customer understands.”

In her Inc. magazine column, Vanessa told the story of an unhappy customer who believed that the sales rep she spoke to had lied about when her package shipped. It turned out that Vanessa’s sales employee and the customer had two different ideas of what “shipped” means. The salesperson went solely by their internal system, which showed that the package was shipped on time. The customer on the other hand, noted that the package was actually still in their facility, and so therefore wasn’t out the door. A quick look at the tracking information revealed that the post office hadn’t picked up the box yet, so even though Metal Mafia had “shipped” the package by doing all that was required of them, it hadn’t actually departed their facility, creating the dates mismatch that customer was complaining about, fearing that her shipment would now be late. Vanessa stepped to soothe the unhappy customer, and used the unfortunate incident as a sales training opportunity. She suggests these four tips to avoid the kind of mismatched communication that leads to unhappy customers.

  1. Two Sides To Every Sale – According to Vanessa, a sale is like a story. Each has two sides. In order to foster clear communication, the salesperson has to be able to see both. “The customer’s idea and understanding must be the starting point for the salesperson’s story–not the end.”
  2. Get On The Customer’s Wavelength – Language matters. In this case the salesperson and the unhappy customer had two different ideas of what “shipped” meant. Both were right, but it’s the salesperson’s job to communicate in words that are clearly understood by the customer. “Every story has to be told clearly, with words that everyone understands to be the same.”
  3. Listen For The Friction Points –  “They are not always easy to hear, and often can be missed, especially if the sales rep concentrates only on his side of the story instead of the customer’s understanding of it.” In this case the salesperson failed to identify the disconnect between hers and the customer’s understanding.
  4. “Check For Comprehension”  – This is an important step in the process, especially if your customer is already unhappy. Ensuring that you and your customer are on the same page for what they’re buying from you and at every step in the sales process is the best way to avoid a bad customer experience.

You can read Vanessa’s article in its original form at Inc. Magazine’s website.

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