It’s Not What You Say But How You Say It

    July 23, 2003

How often have we all heard that statement? However, especially in customer service, it is very true. I see evidence of this everyday.

How do you feel when you arrive at the bank drive-up window to see signs posted that read, “Commercial Accounts ONLY. Do NOT use this lane for personal banking”? It sounds rather obnoxious, doesn’t it?

This clich also holds true for our speech. Just the other day I was told, “We can’t cancel that until write a letter”. The tone of voice and verbiage the person chose gave a large indication that I was at fault.

And of all things… web sites are at fault, too. I could hardly believe my eyes. I visited a site that was encouraging me to list my Ezine to gain some publicity. I decided I would list and clicked the “continue” button.

To my surprise (and dismay) the headline on the following page read, “D___IT PEOPLE! READ THE DIRECTIONS BEFORE YOU ENTER YOUR INFORMATION!” How awful! Needless-to-say, I clicked away from that site.

One of the core principles of customer service tells us to give a positive before giving a negative. Let’s take a look at how we can rephrase the above negatives to make them more pleasing for our customers.

The sign at the bank drive-thru could be easily reworded to state, “Commercial Account Holders – This Lane is Reserved for You. Personal Account Holders May Choose From These Lanes —>”. Sounds much nicer when you state it in a positive manner, doesn’t it?

And what about the woman that told me she (couldn’t) cancel until (I) wrote a letter. That phrase would have been better received if it was stated, “We’ll cancel that just as soon as we receive written authorization”.

Lastly, the web site with an attitude… that could certainly be improved upon. Evidentially, this web site owner was having trouble getting his instructions across to those entering their ezines. Frustration is understandable, but not excusable.

Perhaps his headline could read, “Following Listing Instructions Guarantees Your Ezine Placement in Our Directory”. That would have made a much more favorable impression on me. It would have also insured that I read the instructions.

Throughout the course of your day, pay attention to the way your wording comes across in writing or verbally. Make a point to practice putting statements in the best possible light. Portraying a positive instead of a negative will help insure your customers stay satisfied.

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