48 Tips for How To Talk to Customers (Plus Importance)

Updated February 3, 2023

A sales associate assists a customer in a retail store.

Quality communication can help improve customer satisfaction. Interacting with customers in a way that's both professional and relatable can help them associate the company with compassion and reliability, which may encourage them to continue using its products and services. Regardless of your role, learning how to talk to customers in different situations is an important skill for you to develop.

In this article, we explain why it's important to know how to talk to customers and provide 48 tips to help you do so successfully.

Related: Guide to Customer Service

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18 tips for talking to customers

Use these tips to learn how to communicate with customers:

1. Thank customers for their feedback

Thank customers for bringing their feedback to your attention. This is true for customer concerns or questions. Let them know you welcome these interactions and that you're available to help in any way you can.

Read more: How To Thank a Client for Their Business (With an Example)

2. Consider your tone

Choosing the right tone for different customer interactions can make the conversations more meaningful. It's important to be professional but also empathetic. The right tone can help show customers you care about their concerns and want to help.

3. Use positive language

Using positive language when interacting with customers helps eliminate miscommunication and shifts the focus of the interaction to resolving the customer's concern. Positive language allows the lines of communication to stay open for future interactions. It can also make customers feel like it's worth their time to come back or contact you again later.

Read more: 13 Positive Customer Service Examples

4. Use "I am" to explain your actions

Instead of promising that you're going to do something for a customer in the future, let them know what you're doing to help them right now. This can help them understand how you're trying to assist. For example, instead of saying that you're going to look into the customer's problem, you could say, "I'm currently opening your account so I can see what you're seeing."

5. Use "try" or "consider" instead of "have to" or "need to"

Words like "have" and "need" imply commands or demands. Making suggestions allows customers to feel like they've some control over the matter. Words like "try" or "consider" allow the customer more autonomy in their decisions.

Related: Top 5 Ways To Communicate More Effectively With Customers

6. Offer alternatives

If you can't help a customer with their specific request or problem, offer alternative solutions. Similar to using positive language, providing alternatives gives the customer a choice and an opportunity to direct the course of the interaction. This can lead to them feeling more satisfied with the experience.

7. Choose your words carefully

Besides using positive terms, you may also try paying attention to your other word choices. Listen to the customer's word choice and try to reflect it in your own speech. For instance, if a customer takes an informal approach to your conversation, you can likely use more casual language.

Related: Client Communication: Its Elements and 5 Ways To Improve It

8. Maintain focus

Until you've established a rapport with a specific customer, try keeping the focus on their question or concern. This can keep the conversation professional. It can also allow you to find a solution quickly, which may be the customer's preference.

9. Be clear

Use accessible, plain language that everyone can understand. This can help make your suggestions translate well to people in other parts of the country or around the world. Using basic language instead of:

  • Slang

  • Cliches

  • Idioms

  • Jargon

10. Consider language barriers

Language barriers are challenges that result from two people who speak different primary languages attempting to communicate. If you're working with a customer who speaks another language, try using a trusted translation tool to make the interaction more accessible. If you have a coworker who speaks another language and can translate or help the customer themselves, ask for their assistance to improve the customer's clarity and experience.

Related: Common Communication Barriers (With Examples and Tips)

11. Keep the conversation simple

Customers contact you because you can help answer a question or solve a problem. To help them find a solution as quickly as possible, keep your conversations free from unnecessary details and technical information. When communicating, use short active sentences or small paragraphs so customers can identify the important information quickly.

12. Be efficient

Learn how to prioritize customer needs to ensure you address the most important concerns or questions quickly. Whether you're talking in person or on the phone, you can ask customers with non-emergency questions and general inquiries to wait or hold a few minutes if needed. Virtually, you can wait to respond to similar emails or messages if a more urgent one arrives.

Related: 20 Customer Service Tips

13. Give directions chronologically

Easy-to-follow steps can help customers reach their solutions quickly. This can increase their satisfaction. Including all steps, no matter how simple, may help address any follow-up questions they might have.

14. Make clear alternate suggestions

If possible, try to avoid telling customers "no." Instead, offer alternatives or an upcoming timeline. For example, if an item is out of stock, rather than tell a customer "No, we don't have that," offer an alternative suggestion like, "While that item is currently out of stock, we have a similar model available today."

15. Check your responses

For virtual communications, reread what you've written before you send it to a customer. Ask a coworker to preview messages before sending emails or chats. This can help ensure that you're using acceptable word choices and tone.

Related: A Complete Guide to Effective Written Communication

16. Think of all interactions as feedback

No matter what a customer has to say, you can think of it as feedback on their experience. This may help you approach customers who have negative comments with a helpful attitude. Whether it's a problem, a question or a general comment, you can view all customer communications as helpful, constructive information.

17. Build templates for saved replies

If you communicate with customers through email or chat, create templates for saved replies to answer frequently asked questions. This can reduce the number of repeated conversations you've in a day. It can also give you more time to answer detailed or lengthier concerns.

18. Make a company support style guide

A company support style guide is a pamphlet or guidebook that includes guidance for different types of customer interaction. Creating a company support style guide can help everyone in the organization learn the expectations for interacting with customers. This can help create a universal public company voice and give you something to reference if you find yourself in an unfamiliar situation with a client.

Read more: 9 Customer Service Tips To Improve Your Skills

10 tips for establishing customer relationships

Here are some tips you can use to establish relationships with customers when you talk to them:

  1. Review company policy for guidance on the type of relationship leadership expects you to build with customers.

  2. Unless your company policy states otherwise, be personal in your customer interactions.

  3. If you're communicating over the phone or in person, introduce yourself by name.

  4. When communicating virtually, this sign emails with your own name or signature.

  5. Provide a direct work email or phone number at which the customer can contact you with further questions.

  6. Ask for the customer's name and use it often.

  7. In virtual communication, copy how the customer signs their emails and how they use capitalization and punctuation in their name to ensure you get it right.

  8. In person, you can ask people how to pronounce or spell their names to ensure that you're writing or saying them correctly.

  9. Ask polite questions like, "How's your day going?" to start a conversation.

  10. Pay attention to how much the customer seems to want to chat and adjust your attitude accordingly.

Read more: Customer Relations: Definition, Benefits and Tips

10 tips for effective customer service practices

Use these tips to help guide your interactions with customers:

  1. If a customer has vague questions or feedback, ask them to be more specific so you can help them find the right answer.

  2. If you're unsure how to help a client, let them know and suggest you work on finding the solution together.

  3. If you need to take time to search for an answer, convey this to the customer.

  4. If you're speaking with a customer over the phone, ask if they'd like to hold while you search for more information.

  5. If you're speaking with them in person, ask them if they'd like to wait or how you can best reach them after you find a solution.

  6. If you're communicating virtually, let them know what active steps you're taking to get their answer.

  7. Always provide updates on your progress throughout the interaction.

  8. If you know of a coworker that can better answer a customer's question in less time, transfer that customer.

  9. Communicate the reason for the transfer and introduce the customer to their new point of contact.

  10. If you can show a customer how to do something rather than just tell them how to do it—by using screen recordings, videos, diagrams and other visual aids—it can increase the chances of getting a solution and makes the customer feel you put time and effort into their inquiry.

Related: 21 Important Customer Service Skills (With Resume Example)

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10 tips for ending a conversation

Here are some tips that can help you communicate effectively with a customer near the end of your interaction:

  1. Clearly signal when you have a solution to a customer's challenge or after completing their task.

  2. If you spent a long time with the customer, summarize your accomplishments together.

  3. Give the customer a suggestion for the next steps they can complete.

  4. Ask if they need any additional help or if they've more questions.

  5. Be ready to assist if the customer voices any other concerns.

  6. Invite them to return for future help at any time.

  7. If there were challenges you were unable to solve, apologize and ask if there's anything else you can do to help.

  8. Offer to communicate customer feedback to high-level individuals within the company.

  9. Thank the customer for choosing the company for which you work.

  10. End with a friendly farewell greeting like "Have a good day."

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