7 Phrases to Help you Gain Customer Compliance

These seven phrases will help you gain customer compliance without ruffling your customers’ feathers.

A few weeks ago, we focused on customer compliance. Businesses and organizations routinely need their customers to comply with various rules, processes, or policies. Even customer service powerhouses – such as Disney and Southwest Airlines – require customer compliance, particularly in regards to protecting customer safety and economic interests.

Indeed, merely because a business or organization needs to gain customer compliance does not make it “anti-customer service.” That being said, there are “right” and “wrong” ways to gain customer compliance.

As you’ll recall, Dr. George J. Thompson identified seven overly confrontational phrases that are often – and unfortunately – used to gain compliance. These phrases, which are discussed in Dr. Thompson’s book, Verbal Judo: The Art of Gentle Persuasion, include:

  • “What’s your problem?”
  • “Be more reasonable!”
  • “I’m not going to tell you again!”
  • “Hey, you! Come here!”
  • “Calm down!”
  • “What do you want me to do about it?”
  • “Because those are the rules!”

So, in order to gain customer compliance, what should your business or organization say instead? Here are Dr. Thompson’s suggestions.

“What’s your problem?”: Instead, say, “I can see that you’re really upset [or angry or frustrated]. How can I help you?” Asking an angry, upset, or frustrated customer how you can help him or her avoids making the customer defensive by shifting the conversation to potential solutions.

“Be more reasonable!”: Instead, say, “Alright, let me see if I understand what you’re saying. You’re saying that you shouldn’t need to _____. Did I understand that right?” Paraphrasing a customer’s request, even if the request appears unreasonable, conveys to the customer that you are listening, which is a crucial step toward resolving an issue.

“I’m not going to tell you again!”: Instead, say, “Please do me a small favor and listen carefully to the point I’m going to make because it’s really important.” Many times, a customer is so upset that he or she isn’t listening as carefully as he or she should. Patience, together with polite repetition, is the key.

“Hey, you! Come here!”: Instead, say, “Can we talk for just a second?” This strategy substitutes a question in place of an outright command. A customer will more likely respond to a reasonable question instead of a military-style order.

“Calm down!”: Instead, in an empathetic tone say, “What’s the matter?”, “What’s wrong?”, or “How can I help?” Telling a customer to “calm down” rarely works; indeed, it often inflames the customer even more.

“What do you want me to do about it?”: Instead, say, “Have you thought about _____?” In other words, offer an alternative that is available to the customer: the more alternatives, the better. Better yet, determine how you can actually “partner” with the customer to resolve an issue, even if the issue is “out of the control” of your business or organization.

“Because those are the rules!”: Instead, say, “The purpose of this rule is to _____. In other words, explain the purpose – that is, the “why” behind – the rule. A customer is more likely to comply with a rule if he or she understands the “why.” Keep in mind, though, that compelling circumstances might warrant an exception to the rule.

If you want to see a short video demonstrating these alternative phrases, consider watching DTM Security’s Tip of the Week, which shows how the foregoing examples apply within the security industry. That being said, these strategies will work for any business or organization, including yours.

Meanwhile, we hope your new year is off to a “customerific” start!