By Nancy Friedman, Keynote Customer Service Speaker; President, Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training


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 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 Sayings to Sabotage Your Business today:

  1. I Have No Idea

This is normally used as an excuse more 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?” There normally is a certain blank stare accompanying this statement. Sad.

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

  1. 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.”

  1. 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.

  1. I’m New

Ohhhh, 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? So 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.

  1. 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!

Nancy Friedman

Nancy Friedman

Communication and customer service expert Nancy Friedman, The Telephone Doctor, founder and chairman of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training, is back in the saddle again. Well, back into live onsite programs, and still offering her ZOOM programs, in a cost saving manner. Whichever you choose, onsite or Zoom, you’ll be glad you did. The reviews are excellent, and audiences have loudly applauded her in either area. Sales, customer service and communication skills are her area of expertise, and she welcomes calls, texts, or emails. You can reach her directly at; through the website at, where you can sign up for her newsletters; or call/text directly at 314-276-1012 central time. Bring it on. Whether you need a keynote speaker or workshop/breakout speaker on customer service and communication skills, you’ll make a great choice.