Traveling frequently to speak at conferences as well as for our consulting business I am always interested on how people interact & communicate with others.  Unfortunately in a world where “selfie” was considered to be the best new word of 2013 by the Oxford Dictionaries, we have seen other changes and additions to our lexicon.

How many times have you been asked when walking up to a hotel late in the day with your baggage in tow “checking in?” Or been asked by a so called customer service rep when calling a customer service line “can you spell your name?” The last time I was asked this I was tempted to say “Yes but I have struggled with it since kindergarten.” Or it seems like nearly every time you walk into a retail store you’re asked (and not always in a pleasant tone) “can I help you?”

These questions, however well-intentioned, speak to how robotic & often unengaged so many are in the customer service arena today. Worse, it creates exactly that same unengaged perception with clients and prospects. Interestingly, I have noted that the retail behemoth Walmart seems to understand the importance of this level of customer perception as they have recently changed their employees’ aprons from “Can I help you?” to “How can I help you?” and even McDonalds now “serves” burgers and no longer “sells” them.


Unfortunately those are not the only phrases that erode a client or prospect’s perception as to whether they are being serviced or engaged with in an authentic way.


I have called offices and heard many things that clearly are standard responses with no thought given to the caller’s perception. In the past week I have been asked to “hold on a second,” told “let me see if she wants to talk to you” and my favorite “I don’t know where he is, he never tells me anything.”


Unfortunately it doesn’t end there. In the sales and marketing arena too often words that lack conviction or direction such as sort of, kinda, maybe, & possibly are used to attempt to convey value. Yet their very use erodes the consumers’ confidence. Clients and prospects alike realize these are weasel words, which the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines as “a word used in order to evade or retreat from a direct or forthright statement.”


By most accounts, the expression weasel words first appeared in Stewart Chaplin’s short story “Stained Glass Political Platform,” published in The Century Magazine in June 1900:

“Why, weasel words are words that suck the life out of the words next to them, just as a weasel sucks the egg and leaves the shell.”

So lest you suck the life out of your client and prospect customer experiences and the value you deliver, assess your lexicon and create a word watch list to avoid these aforementioned lexicon pitfalls.

Think about using these replacements:

May I place you on hold?”

“How may I help you?”

And to convey value consider communicating your recommendations/solutions with conviction & enthusiasm. Use phrases such as:

And what this means to you…

And the benefit to you is…

Remember what you say and how you say it is part of the lasting impression you make. Just like a text or a posted selfie, you can’t get those words back.

C.Richard Weylman is a Hall of fame main platform speaker, bestselling author, Chairman of the Weylman Consulting Group, & CEO & CDO of The Weylman Center for Excellence in Practice Management.




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