You want to give good service? Here are seven things you shouldn’t say on the phone

An attitude of service should be second nature to you as a secretary or PA. So do you have one? The best secretaries and PAs think they have. But unfortunately, many choose words that are not quite right – and pass on a different, not quite so professional message.

Here are seven things you should not say to people when you want to give them really good service. Do you use any of them? If so, rethink the way you are talking to customers and use the alternatives given.



  • Sorry to have kept you waiting.

What’s wrong? This focuses on the negative act of waiting. Focus on the positive and thank the caller.


  • Thank you for waiting.

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  • We can’t process your order until we receive payment.
  • You have to pay a deposit before we can deliver.

What’s wrong? This sounds as if you don’t think they’re going to pay. You can say it in a much nicer way without changing your customer policy.


  • As soon as we receive payment, we’ll be glad to process your order.
  • If you give us a deposit by next week, we can deliver by the end of the month.



  • I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

What’s wrong? This may be true, but it is too vague. When is ‘as soon as possible’? Within an hour, in two days, next week?


  • I’ll find out for you. When can I call you back?



  • I’m sorry I didn’t get back to you, but I have been really busy.

What’s wrong? Don’t make excuses, just focus on the purpose of the call.


  • I couldn’t get back to you sooner, but I’ll do my best to find the  information you want now.



  • I’m sorry, but that’s not my responsibility.

What’s wrong? If a customer calls the company and you pick up the phone, you ARE the company. Your job is to solve a problem or provide help. If you have to pass the person on to someone else, use positive words.


  • You need to talk to Margaret Mills in accounts. Her extension is 2222, but hold on and I’ll put you through.

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  • You’ve got that wrong.
  • I don’t know who told you that but it’s not correct.

What’s wrong? This is a classic cover line. But the caller doesn’t care whose fault it was.


  • I’m sorry that happened. Let’s find a solution.



  • What was your name again?

What’s wrong? This means you didn’t ask the name in the first place or it was not important enough for you to remember.

Good: Ask for the caller’s name at the beginning of the conversation, then use
it. If the name is complicated, ask the caller to spell it. If you still forget it,
ensure you apologise.

  • May I ask you your name?
  • Could I ask you to spell that, please?
  • So, Mr Miller, how can I help you?
  • I’m so sorry but I didn’t quite catch your name. Could you give it to me again, please?