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Positively Speaking

Service to keep your customers smiling

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It's not fun when you think someone on the phone has a bad attitude. It's even worse when he's thinking the same about you.

Say good riddance to negative words: Make a habit of thinking and speaking positively. "When communicating with a customer, use positive words," says David E. Deviney, author of Outstanding Customer Service (American Media Publishing). Says Deviney, "Words like 'can't,' 'fault,' and 'blame' need to come out of your speaking vocabulary-and out of your thinking as well."

Negative words slam the brakes on your relationships with customers. When a customer asks if you can do something and you say no, the conversation is essentially over. Before you answer too quickly, find out more about what the customer needs. Explore alternatives you might be able to deliver.

Besides avoiding the "N" word, steer clear of other common negative phrases. Instead of saying "I don't know," say "I'll find out." Instead of asking "Why did you ...?" which implies blame, try "Let me see if I understand ..." And instead of saying "We can't do that," say "We can do this."

Remember that your tone is even more important than your words, so smile when you're talking. If you're a chronic doom-and-gloomer, go extreme: Keep a mirror on your desk and say cheese. "Smile in the mirror before you answer the phone," Deviney advises. "That sounds corny, but when you're smiling, it comes across in your voice."

Jacquelyn Lynn left the corporate world more than 12 years ago and has been writing about business and management issues from her home office in Winter Park, Florida, ever since.