Take care that you don’t say "have to" in the wrong place – this is why

Kulturelle Unterschiede drücken sich ganz besonders im Sprachgebrauch aus. Seien Sie daher – gerade am Telefon – vorsichtig mit dem Verb "müssen". Im Englischen klingt das nicht sehr service-freundlich. Secretary Today erklärt Ihnen, warum.

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"I’ll have to ask my boss," "I’ll have to find someone who knows," "I’ll have to call you back." How often do you say things like this to callers? You’re doing your best to help, and there’s nothing wrong with telling someone you will find an answer, but it’s important that you choose the right words.

If you say you "have to do" something, it sounds like you don’t really want to do it. It would be much better to say "I’ll be happy to ask my boss for you." Notice that I have made two changes: as well as removing "have to", I have added "for you" – one of the magic phrases in customer service!

This is what you should say instead:

  • Would you mind holding while I check with my boss?
  • I’d be glad to find out for you. Can I reach you at this number this afternoon?
  • I’ll need to get back to you on this one. Why don’t I send you an email later today?

Of course, there is one thing worse than "I’ll have to." Yes, you’ve probably guessed it: it’s "You’ll have to." For example, "I can’t answer that question. You’ll have to call another number." It’s easy to find a better alternative, for example:

  • I’m sorry, I don’t know the answer myself, but my colleague Christian Thiele in purchasing should be able to help you. Let me give you his telephone number.
  • I can’t tell you myself, but I’ll find out for you and call you back. Would you like me to use the number you called from?
  • I’ll get someone from accounts to call you back this afternoon. Shall I use this number?

It’s little things like this that make a difference between good and very good. And if you add a smile to your voice, you’ll be providing excellent service!

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