By Nancy Friedman, President Telephone Doctor, Customer Service Expert & Engagement Specialist


There are many, many words and phrases that can and will sabotage your business. And, chances are, your staff is saying some of these now without your even knowing it – on the phone and in person.

And worse yet, you’ve probably even said some of these yourself (ouch)! That’s the bad news.

The good news is we’re able to bring to you the top five sabotaging phrases and then show you how to neutralize the effects. So get ready. You and your staff are about to be in a much better position to handle the Five Phrases to Sabotage Your Business today:

1. I Have No Idea

This is normally used as an excuse than anything else. It’s a sure thing that the employee has not been shown how to explain something to the customer (i.e. no product training). This phrase is used as something to say when the employee doesn’t know what to say.

When the customer hears “I have no idea” they immediately respond (usually silently) with, “You gotta be kidding me?” Interestingly enough, there normally is a certain blank stare accompanying this statement. Sad.

Instead, try “That’s a great question, let me check and find out.”

2. It’s Not My Department

Well, then whose is it? Let’s remember one of our Telephone Doctor mottos: Tell the customer what you CAN do, not what you CAN’T do. If you get a call and someone asks for something that you don’t handle, it’s far more effective to say, “Let me get you to someone in the area you need. I work in the paint department. You want electronics.”

This is far more effective than telling someone it’s not your department. And please don’t say, “You have the wrong department.”

3. I Wasn’t Here That Day (or I was on vacation when that happened)

This one really makes me laugh. I don’t remember asking them if they were there that day. Do you really think the customer cares if you weren’t there when their problem happened? Honestly, they don’t, so that’s not even on the radar screen. Just tackle the problem head on. Apologize without telling them where you were…or weren’t. Remember, you ARE the company whether you were at work or on vacation when the issue occurred.

4. I’m New

OHHHHHH! You’re new? Now what? Does being ‘new’ allow you to be anything but super to the customer? When the customer hears this sabotaging statement, do you really think they say, “Oh, so you’re new? That’s why I’m getting bad service. Well, then that’s okay…you’re new. Now I understand.”

Yes, even if you are new, the customer honestly believes you should know everything about your job.

Here’s the answer on this one. Tell the customer, “Please bear with me, I’ve only been here a few weeks.” That will buy you time and a bit of sympathy. For whatever reason, hearing the short length of time you are with the company means more to the customer than, “I’m new.” Again, I’m new is more of an “excuse.” Remember to state the length of time. It’s a creditability enhancement. “I’m new” is a creditability buster.

5. Silence on the Phone or a Blank Stare in Person

I called the doctor’s office the other day and asked to change my appointment. It went down like this:

“Hi, this is Nancy Friedman. I have a 9 a.m. appointment with Dr. Ring and I need to move it to later in the day.”

Then NOTHING for about 10 – 15 seconds. Zip/nada/zilch.

So I said, “Hello? Are you there?”

A very irritated, annoyed voice came back with, “I’m checking.”

Wouldn’t it have been nice for her to tell me that? Ah, if the doctors only knew.

There are many more; these rose to the top!

Good luck!

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To download our eBook, Hidden Gems, click here.

Nancy Friedman, president of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training, is a keynote speaker at association conferences and franchise and corporate meetings. She is the author of eight bestselling books. Call Nancy at 314‑291‑1012 for more information or visit her online at Follow or connect on LinkedIn.

Her specialty? Customer service and engaging the customer.

Email her at She replies to all emails (and quickly).

Nancy Friedman

Nancy Friedman

While temporarily halting her ‘travel’ onsite programs, Nancy has been thriving and having fun with her popular ZOOM programs at meetings and conferences through the past year. Like they say, “Ya can’t hold a good gal down.” Nancy’s ZOOM programs are interactive, fun and downright laugh out loud. If you need a COVID RX shot and want your folks to laugh and learn, book a 30 minute or 1 hour session with Nancy. Audiences have applauded her GOLDEN NUGGETS program on Zoom with high accolades. Sure, she hopes to be back on the road with her clients soon. But until then, these sessions haven’t let anyone down. Corporate or franchise, large or small groups, let Nancy know if you’re interested. CALL 314-291-1012 (she’s central time, St Louis, MO) or email her directly