Using The Wrong Words Are The Biggest Customer Service Mistake

Words have spilled blood and started wars. Words can build empires and bring down nations. Words can incite and excite. Words are powerful.

In a competitive environment, the words we use can be difference between a growing business and a failing one.

I was reminded of this the other day when I went through a McDonald’s drive thru on the way to a football game. McDonald’s is the world’s largest chain of hamburger fast food restaurants. They have long been pioneers in customer service. McDonald’s turned the restaurant business into fast food. Before they invented the genius that is the extra value menu (actually getting people to pay for more food than they were originally going to buy by discounting the overall price), McDonald’s was legendary for asking customers, “would you like fries with that.”

The problem with McDonald’s today is that customers can now order an entire meal with just one number. A number one gets you a Big Mac, fries and a drink. The customer service person can ask you what size you want. However, if you pull up to the drive thru window and say, “Please give me a number one with a large Coke.” the customer service person is left with nothing more to ask. Yet they have to respond with something. Way too often the response they give is one of the absolutely killers in customer service and sales:

“Is that all?”

What a horrible thing to say to a customer!

“Is that all?”

The phrase itself smacks of a combination of indifference and attitude. The customer service person is actually taking this sentence, “That’s all your going to order? Six dollars worth of food? We are trying to run a business here, and you pull through and waste my time with a $6 order because you are the only person in the car?” to a three-word sentence “Is that all?”

It is condescending and final. There is almost no way the customer is going to respond to the phrase with, “No, on second thought I would also like an ice cream cone and an apple pie. I’m so glad you asked me, ‘is that all’ because I had forgotten the rest of my order.”

I believe the phrase is used in the food business more than most businesses because the food business grinds…get your customers in, get them fed, get them out, get new customers in. Profits in the food business are based on a big volume of customers.

I doubt that after purchasing a $40,000 car at the Audi dealership, the salesmen says, “Is that all?”

But having your front-line people — and in my above example this was not a kid, but at the very least a shift manager based on the man’s dress — use a phrase like “is that all?” is very demeaning.

Customer service is about making people feel good about patronizing your business. Even if the customer has no desire to buy anything else, asking “Can I get you anything else?” is a much better phrase than “Is that all?”

The words we use and the words we choose can make all the difference.

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