7 Phrases Customer Service Agents with Astute De-escalation Skills Use Everyday

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Customer Support Professionals Who Rarely Escalate Calls to Their Supervisors Often Use 7 Phrases (without realizing it). 

When I prepare for my customized customer service and de-escalation workshops, I listen to a sample of phone calls. I specifically ask for calls from the best customer support team members, not just those who need training support. This balance of calls helps me see where employees struggle and what people do well.


Over the years, I've found there are phrases astute customer support employees, leads, and supervisors use to get angry customers to back down, even when there's no easy solution to their problem. 


So, sit back, and let's dive into seven phrases astute customer service professionals use to de-escalate (without even realizing it).



7 Phrases Customer Service Agents with Astute De-escalation Skills Use Everyday


1. "I realize this whole thing has been frustrating for you."

People who successfully de-escalate always begin by validating their customers' experiences, which lowers the temperature in interactions and helps customers shift from their emotional right brain to their logical left brain. Some variations of this phrase could be:

"I can see your point on that."

"If I were in your shoes, I'd feel the same way."

"We want to get to the bottom of this as much as you do."

"I'm sorry you've had this experience."


2. "Here's what we know. Here's what we've done. Here's what's next."

Customer support leads, and supervisors know that agitated customers want answers about what's happened, why it happened, and what needs to be done. A confident hotel valet de-escalated with my husband after our rental car was wrecked in valet's custody, using this phrase:

Here's what we know: The accident happened in our parking garage at 7:42 pm. The driver was in a white Honda Civic, license #. He sped off and left the scene. 

Here's what we've done: We've filed a claim with our loss-prevention team. We have two eyewitnesses. We have filed a police report with the Austin Police Department.

Here's what's next: You also need to file a police report. You need to notify both your insurance company and your rental car company. Your insurance company will go after the driver.


3. "I get how you feel. Other customers have felt the same way, and here's what they found worked."

People feel better when they know they are not alone when they are going through a crisis. Astute customer support de-escalators have discovered that making customers feel a sense of community creates calm. It sounds strange, I know. To illustrate what I mean, let me give you an example of a sense of community.


I have hot flashes, which can burst out over dinner, during a keynote, while I'm getting a manicure - anywhere. I always feel better (and a bit cooler) when another woman observes my glistening face and says, "I get it!! I have hot flashes, too!" By showing customers that they are not alone, you can help them feel less overwhelmed. Here's how you do it:


  1. Demonstrate that you get how the customer feels
  2. Tell them about someone else who felt the same way. You tell the customer they aren't alone and that things can change.
  3. Then, tell them what other customers found when they did what you're suggesting. 


You may think it's a lot of steps, but it's really not. Let me prove it to you.

One of my clients is a yogurt company. They don't give out the full list of ingredients in their product, and this is always tough when a customer with food allergies asks about the ingredients. I helped my client answer this difficult question with Feel, Felt, Found this way.

"I can relate to how you feel. My daughter has a walnut allergy, and like you, I have to know what's in the food my daughter eats. We've had other customers share your concern; they felt like you do. Here's what we found helped them. Our labels list all known allergens. While our other customers couldn't get the full ingredient list, they could spot the specific ingredients known to trigger an allergy because all labels list every ingredient with a known allergic reaction." 


4. "I can..."

Those who know how to de-escalate effectively realize they need to be confident, assertive, and knowledgeable. If customers think you're nervous or uncertain, they immediately ask for a manager. Using assertive language makes you sound confident.

Don't say: "The most I can offer is ____"

If you're empowered to offer the customer $50 and no more in this situation, make your statement solid and final. Saying, "The most I can offer is $50" implies that someone above you, your supervisor, can do more." 

Instead, I want you to say: "I can give you a $50 credit." When you make your offer, say it assertively. My definition of assertive is:

Say what you mean.

Mean what you say.

Don't be mean when you say it.

Use solid, assertive "I can" phrases, and customers are more likely to accept your word as final.


5. "Are you able to____?"

Experienced de-escalators have learned that you get more by asking questions than issuing demands. Instead of, "I need the serial number on your machine," Try instead, "Are you able to turn your machine over and read the serial number on the white label? It should begin with HYD."


Try to phrase your requests with questions; you'll be less intimidating to the already riled-up customer.


6. "Let me try___"

When I'm panicked because of a canceled or delayed flight, I always love to see the airline agent busily typing on the computer, looking for options, and conveying that they're trying to get me to my destination. Seasoned de-escalators know that optioning is powerful and that the more options a customer has, the more likely they are to de-escalate on their own. Show customers you're working hard to find alternatives. Variations might be:

"What I can do is ___"

"Let me check one other thing."

"I have an option for you."


7. "What I suggest is ____"

Customer support can be challenging because there are times when we can do nothing. We cannot control regulations, policies, or third parties. Customers don't care about this, however. Help is what they are looking for. Support your customers by guiding them to the next steps. Confidently present options for your customer to explore. 

Here's an example of guiding customers to the next steps with your confident, assertive suggestions.

"As a solution, I have two suggestions. First, you need to talk to your landlord. Tell them there's a debt on the meter and that you can't turn on water. See if they'll work something out for you. The second option, and I'd do this immediately, look carefully at your lease to see if any clause protects you in this situation." 


Employees today are working with increasingly angry and emotional customers, making it harder to contain interactions and move things to closure. Adopting and applying these seven phrases will bring down the temperature of your most challenging conversations.

Continue the Conversation with Me?

If you find you need more help lowering the temperature in live chat, phone calls, or in-person conversations, check out my De-escalation Academy.


De-escalation Academy, featuring the 3R De-escalation Method, is the only training for customer service that not only shows your employees how to redirect verbal aggression and regain control of interactions - but also how to get customers to accept their word as final. 

Get your team inside De-escalation Academy!

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