If you’ve ever worked in a call center or contact center, there’s a good chance you’ve dealt with some not-so-happy customers. Okay, so maybe a really good chance. Of course it makes sense. Customers tend to reach out when they're already frustrated. Plus, agents usually end up wearing more than one hat on the job. You’re therapists. Life coaches. Friends. And more often than not, punching bags.

Meeting customer expectations hasn’t gotten any easier, especially with the rise of omnichannel customer service. Your customers expect you to have the right answer, right when they need it, and on the channel they prefer.

More and more, you only get one shot at a good first impression with customers. Here are five lines to avoid saying on your next support call, how to navigate around those uncomfortable moments, and suggestions to try next time.

DON'T SAY: "I'll have to put you on hold."

No one likes being told to wait. Especially customers. According to Harris Interactive, 75% of customers believe it takes too long to reach a live agent. Putting customers on hold is about as old as the phone call itself (okay, maybe that’s not exactly true). But agents have good reason for the queue—sometimes you need a minute to pull up customer information or track down the right answer and placing a customer on hold buys you some breathing room.

SAY: "Do you mind if I put you on a [time frame] hold while I retrieve the information for you?"

This presents going on hold as a choice, rather than a directive. It also gives context as to why they’re being told to wait and how long they can expect to hold, if you can realistically offer that up. ICMI reports that 82% of consumers say the #1 factor that leads to a great customer service experience is having their issues resolved quickly, so when in doubt give them as much info up front before placing them on hold.

DON'T SAY: "You need to speak to someone else."

If there’s one thing customers hate more than being put on hold, it’s being tossed around like a frisbee. Don’t get us wrong—if another agent has the right answer, you should point your customers to them. But without context, your customer doesn’t know why they’re being transferred or how long they’ll be on hold while you track down the next agent.

SAY: "I'm not the best person to help you with this but my colleague [Name] is. Can I transfer you to them now?"

Being transparent about why the transfer is happening and what they can expect from their next interaction is key to making your customer feel at ease.

DON'T SAY: "I know it's a bad policy."

Oh man. Although you've probably intended to be empathetic here, what you’ve actually done is thrown your own team under the bus. While it is important to acknowledge your customer's feelings, you want to make sure you’re doing so without undercutting your products, services, or your brand. After all, not every customer is going to like every policy, especially when they’re not getting what they want.

SAY: "I'm very sorry about this. Is there any other way I can help?"

This signals that you understand your customer's frustration and you're willing to work with them to solve a portion of the problem. Remember, these conversations are tricky and don’t always end with happy customers. The best you can do is stay calm, polite, and straightforward.

DON'T SAY: "I can't help you with that."

This is all but asking for the pitchforks and torches. Even if it’s true, telling a customer that you can't help them is one of the worst things you can say during a support call.

SAY: "I'm sorry that I can't answer that for you. Is it okay if I do more research and follow up within [time frame]?"

This works for a few different reasons:

A. You’re being empathetic
B. You’re being honest
C. You’re offering a resolution and an expected outcome, within a specific time frame.

Setting expectations for customers and providing a follow up not only gives your customers peace of mind, it also shows them that you’re thoughtfully trying to resolve their problem.

DON'T SAY: "I promise...

Remember that old saying about writing checks you can’t cash? Making promises to customers isn't inherently bad, but you can run into some real trouble when you do it about things outside your control, like product release dates or policy changes. Not only does it come off as disingenuous, but it can end up making the whole team look bad if the promise doesn’t pan out.

SAY: [Use your best judgment]

This one’s tricky. Depending on what the customer is asking for, you may not be able to offer up any guarantees or timelines at all. Your best bet is to stay straightforward, polite, and transparent.

If it’s a request for a new feature, offer to take down the customer’s suggestion and follow up with your internal team. Or inform the customer of where they can go to learn more about upcoming features on your roadmap.

Practice makes perfect. Half of the battle is getting more experience navigating through these tough conversations. The other half is having the right tools to make conversations easier.

To learn more about how Dialpad can help your support team learn and grow from customer conversations, request a free trial below.