How’s your phone etiquette? While it may sound like a silly question, it’s something every small business owner should ask themselves.

Your relationship with customers is vital if you own a small business. Since so many small companies rely on a customer relationship of trust and respect, it’s essential that you (and your team) are well-versed in phone etiquette. Proper phone etiquette can help you get the results you want when selling over the phone and connecting with customers.

So, if you want to help your small business succeed and build stronger relationships with your customers, make sure you’re not saying any of these five things when speaking on the phone:

1. “I can’t help you.”

Sometimes when trying to satisfy a customer request, it can be tempting to give up when all options have been exhausted. But rather than saying, “I’m sorry, I can’t help you,” and ending the conversation, there are other ways to keep the conversation going. Because if you do end that conversation and tell the customer that you can’t help them, not only do you risk losing a sale, but you also risk losing the customer.

Instead, try to keep the customer engaged while offering other solutions. For example, if the customer is looking for a specific product that you don’t have, don’t tell them you can’t help them. Instead, you should suggest other similar products or products that might satisfy another request. Try your best to keep the conversation going and end it on a positive note – so that the customer walks away from the phone call feeling like they received help.

2. Inappropriate Language

While it may seem obvious, inappropriate language, such as swearing, should never be used on a phone call with a customer. It tarnishes professional credibility, and you also risk offending the customer. Even if it’s a casual conversation with a customer and you catch them swearing, it’s best not to risk your credibility as a professional by reciprocating the language.

3. “No.”

In the same fashion as “I can’t help you,” “no” is another word many customers don’t enjoy hearing. For example, a customer calls and asks, “Can I get my order delivered on Sunday?” If you don’t deliver on Sundays, rather than telling them no, you can say, “We deliver Monday-Saturday if you would like to have your order delivered on one of these dates.” It’s a simple language change that can make a difference in how the customer perceives your customer service.

4. “Hold on.”

If you need to transfer the call to another person or department, don’t say “hang on” or “hold on.” Instead, say, “Would you mind holding while I transfer you to (department/person)?” Being polite and using professional wording go a long way in building that relationship of trust and respect between you and your customer.

5. Excuses

Perhaps a customer is upset about something resulting from someone else’s mistake. So even if you know it’s not yours or your business’s fault, you don’t need to express that to the customer. Instead, do what you can to find a solution with your customer. Show empathy for their situation, regardless of who was at fault. Doing so will help build a stronger relationship with customers.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that relationships are at the heart of small businesses. So when speaking on the phone with customers, make sure you are doing everything in your power to maintain that positive relationship between you and your customers. In the long run, this will positively impact your customer loyalty and reputation for customer service.