Weighing in on Words: Smart Use of Positive Language in Customer Service

May 24th, 2017 | Lin Parkin | Customer Service
Weighing in on Words: Smart Use of Positive Language in Customer Service

Have you ever been in a situation where you’re speaking with a perfect stranger who uses your first name way too much during the conversation?

Most of us have, and it is cringe-worthy.

It rarely happens in face-to-face interactions though. It’s much more likely that you’ve experienced it on the other end of a telemarketing call right when you’ve just sat down for dinner.

But why do call center agents repeat their customer’s names so often?

A key focus in customer service training at contact centers is based on linguistics that helps build a closer rapport with customers. While there is a range of linguistic strategies that an agent could use, they typically hone in on one, “everyone loves the sound of their own name.”

The idea behind repeating someone’s name is to make them feel like they already know and trust you which puts the customer at ease and in a more purchase-friendly state. In many cases, agents are also under an enormous amount of pressure to move through calls as quickly as possible to keep up with their daily quotas. So, they employ the easiest rapport building tactic there is.

While the “say their name” strategy can work when used in moderation, and only when said appropriate moments, it can quickly turn into overkill. The problem is that it is highly noticeable and unnatural to hear your name said over and over again, whether it’s coming from your best friend or a complete stranger. Nobody does that in their day-to-day interactions with others. Agents who do this, risk irritating or offending the customer sending them directly into the waiting arms of a competitor.

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Smart(er) Ways to Use Linguistics in Customer Service

Communication skills are the cornerstone of good customer service. The language you use plays a crucial role in how people perceive you as a customer service professional, as well as provides the overall impression of the company you represent.

While it may sound like fluffy nonsense to some, using positive language will go a long way in creating conversations that lead to happy customers. That is particularly the case when you find yourself in a situation where there could be a negative reaction. By choosing your words carefully and phrasing your statement to reflect a solution, it will change the way your customer “hears” your message.

For example, let’s say your customer’s desired product isn’t available at the moment. Look at the two tones in which you could convey this information.

Negative overtone: “Sorry, that product isn’t available right now. It’s on backorder and won’t be in stock until the end of the month.”

Positive overtone: “hat product is back ordered, but I would be happy to put an order in for you today. Then it will be shipped right to your door by the end of the month.”

The first one isn’t negative per say, but it doesn’t focus on a solution to the problem. That tends to convey bluntness and an uncaring attitude. The second tone is focusing on the positive; on what can be done to resolve the situation and ensure the customer’s satisfaction.

For some people, optimistic phrasing comes naturally as they tend to focus on the positive in any given situation anyway. But not everyone can be cheery all the time, and not everyone sees the glass as half full. Training your mind to think in positive terms can be a bit tricky for some. But all it takes is some practice and dedication to rephrase the points your focus on in your daily interactions.

Power of Positive Thinking

Developing an optimistic attitude is the first step toward positive language becoming second nature to you. When you start to think in a more positive light when handling customer inquiries, it will have a trickle-down effect in many other areas of your life too. A positive attitude has many advantages, including:

  • Increase Positive Events

    A prominent law of attraction states that “like attracts like.” So, when you think and react to interactions in a positive manner, you will also absorb more positivity into your life from others around you and attract positive events in your life.

  • Creates Harmonious Relationships

    When you choose a positive attitude, you will start to see the good qualities that other’s have, and ignore their insignificant faults. Focusing on people’s positive attributes will create more meaningful relationships and help you build a positive atmosphere around you.

  • Improves First Impressions

    Any customer service professional knows that a good first impression is a crucial step in establishing loyal relationships. Helpful, friendly personalities tend to make good first impressions and can have a significant impact on the development of future relationships both at work and in your personal life too.

  • Beneficial for Your Health

    Studies have shown that people with a positive “vibe” are less likely to suffer from stress and can fight off viruses better than negative thinkers. It can also have positive long-term effects on your health. The Mayo Clinic reports numerous health benefits associated with optimism, including a reduced risk of death from cardiovascular problems, less depression, and an increased lifespan.

  • Key to Success

    If you don’t believe in your skill-set or your abilities and the validity of your dreams, it becomes impossible to attain the goals you set out to achieve in life. If negative thinking is a roadblock to your success, positive thinking is the key.

  • Problems Become Opportunities

    When you turn your thoughts from negative into the positive, you will open your mind to possibilities. You will start to notice that you readily see solutions to problems. You will begin to believe and understand that every problem is an opportunity to grow.

    “We are what we think.”
    – Buddha
  • How to Turn Positive Thinking into Positive Language

    Once you start thinking more positively, you are more likely to use positive language in your daily interactions. But first, it needs to become a habit. There are a few ways to give your vocabulary an instant boost in positivity.

    It all starts with flipping phrases to include a solution that leaves both the speaker and the listener with a better taste in their mouths.


    1. Why not? → Sounds good.
    2. No problem → Definitely!
    3. Can’t complain → Everything’s going well, thanks.
    4. I’m exhausted → I need a rest.
    5. I’m going to forget → I’ll make sure I set a reminder.
    6. It will not be delivered on time → It will be delayed.
    7. Constructive criticism → Constructive Feedback.
    8. Please hold → One moment, please.

    In live chat and email interactions, you have the advantage of being able to read back what you’ve written before the customer ever hears it. Look out for negative words like “unfortunately,” “impossible” and “problems” as flags that your sentences need revising.


    If you can send us… we would be happy to complete the process for you.
    I understand that you have a different viewpoint on this issue. Let me explain our perspective…
    Might we suggest that you…

    One option open to you is…

    We can help you to… if you can send us…

    5 Quick Exercises to Improve Positive Language

    The use of negative language imparts a poor image to customers, and to those around us. Sometimes it causes conflict or confrontation where it isn’t necessary or desired. The first place to start using positive language is in your written material. Once you’ve nailed that down, it will become more natural to use verbal communication as well.

    Try the following exercises to improve your use of positive language.

    1. Check email templates for negative phrases or words and revise them.
    2. Update canned live chat messages to focus on positive solutions and words.
    3. Check e-newsletters and drip campaigns to reflect a more positive message.
    4. Scan through your company’s Frequently Asked Questions database and pick out all the negative phrasing and give them a positive spin.
    5. Update sales and customer service scripts with positive phrasing.

    Need help improving your scripts with positive language?

    At LiveChat100, we have compiled 75 Live Chat Scripts That Don’t Make Your Agents Sound Like Robots. This eBook contains positive scripts for a range of customer service interactions that are designed to build customer satisfaction and loyalty, not damage it. Download it for free today!

    75 Live Chat Scripts

    [Free Download] 75 Live Chat Scripts That Don’t Make Your Agents Sound Like Robots

    Quality scripts can be an amazing tool to save time, enhance quality and communicate your brand voice. In this guide, we’ll lay out some scripts which are time-saving while sounding human, engaged, and most importantly, not robotic.

    Download Now


    Lin Parkin has specialized in digital customer service management, public relations, and content writing for over a decade. She is passionate about changing the way people view online customer service and helping digital customer service teams deliver a stellar experience with each interaction. As a freelance writer, Lin contributes to business and lifestyle magazines as both a writer and editor and writes for business blogs across Canada and the U.S. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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