“The customer is always right.”
It’s an old expression that most English-speaking employees know.
Does it mean that no customer has ever made a mistake before?
Are your customers really always right?
Of course not.
But the idea is that it’s important to treat all customers like they’re right. Treat them with respect, listen to their concerns, try to help them feel satisfied.
Not a bad tip for anyone in business, right?
Maybe you’re already totally familiar with this idea. But you just need to learn how to do it in English.
We’ll show you how to talk with customers in English while making sales and meeting their needs. We’ve got essential expressions for several crucial situations, plus advice on how to make yourself and your company look good.
But first, let’s set you up for success.
How to Prepare for Customer Conversations
Neil Gaiman has this rule about writing: “if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like.”
Guess what? That’s true for life as well, and it’s even good advice for communicating in English. If it’s your first day at your job, it’s quite alright to be nervous. But don’t make the mistake of showing it!
And remember, as long as you’re adequately prepared, it’s unlikely something will go horribly wrong. Just follow these steps to prepare for conversations with customers and clients:
- Get the right tone: Sales conversation is mostly about being polite, direct and using simple language. Make it a habit to use polite terms such as “welcome,” “thank you” and “have a nice day.”
Try to use the verb “may” instead of “can” (as in, “may I help you?” or “may I offer you a sample?”) which is considered more polite.
- Imitate business English dialogue videos: The more you practice, the better you’ll get. Search for business English dialogues on YouTube, like this helpful one from Twominute English, and try to imitate what you see. Pay attention to pronunciation and body language. Role play with a friend or practice in front of the mirror.
Another great resource for this type of practice is FluentU. This tool provides videos of authentic business English conversations—plus innovative learning features. Each video comes with interactive captions providing in-context definitions and pronunciations for any word you don’t recognize.
After you watch a video, you’ll get flashcards and exercises to make sure you remember what you’ve learned. It’s a powerful way to practice talking the way native speakers do at work!
- Research your customers and products: If you’re a retail employee or a telemarketer, it’s helpful to know the demographic you’re catering to. If you have a meeting with a client, take a look at his/her social media profiles beforehand.
Also, be prepared to have encyclopedic (very thorough) knowledge of the products/services of the company that you’re representing. Memorize the features, prices, warranty periods and advantages, and know the answers to the most frequently asked questions.
- Don’t rush the conversation: As I said, it’s okay to be nervous but don’t try to hurry the conversation. You want your customer to feel that you’re giving him/her your full attention.
And make sure you don’t do all the speaking. Listen to the customer and let them talk as well. Here’s a secret: customers love to be listened to! And while listening, don’t forget to make eye contact and appear deeply interested.
- Remember that each conversation has a purpose: You’re not just making small talk. Your goal is to satisfy your customer’s needs and, ideally, make a sale.
Think of it as a mystery-solving game, where every customer is a challenge and your goal is to come up with a solution that makes both of you happy. No, you don’t need to be an expert in human psychology for this, but you’ll actually learn a lot about psychology from these day-to-day experiences.
The key to a successful conversation lies in clear and direct communication. Here are some essential tips and expressions for speaking successfully with any customer.
1. Greet Customers Appropriately
Greeting someone is pretty easy if you know how to do it right. The goal is to be polite and professional, not overly friendly. Maintain a distance, because if you appear too eager or too excited, the customer is likely to be put off.
Welcome to [store name].
How may I help you?
Can I help you find something? (typically used in retail shops)
Hello, how may I help you?
Good morning, sir/ma’am. Can I help you find something today?
2. Casually Introduce Yourself and the Company
The same rules apply if it’s a telemarketing call or a new client. Speak clearly, at a moderate pace and never try to rush the conversation.
Hello, my name is [first name] [last name].
recently launched (referring to a product that’s new on the market)
new range of products/services (referring to a group or series of related products)
may be of use
may interest you
Would you be interested?
Hello, my name is Rishav Patel from Malcolm Services. We’ve recently launched a new range of products which may be of interest to you. Would you be interested in learning about them?
3. Understand and Respond to the Client’s Needs
Every customer has a particular need and your job is to find out what that is. Sometimes a customer’s need is very specific and they’ll be upfront about it. But the majority have only a vague idea of what they want.
You must talk to them to find out what would be the best product/service for them. And if you’re selling something that’s expensive, you must also convince them that your product/service is worth the price.
The easiest and the best way to do this is to observe before talking.
When a customer enters a store, after greeting them, watch them look around for a bit. You’ll notice that they may keep coming back to one product, or they may compare one product to another. That’s when you know that they’re pretty certain about what they want, and now you just have to convince them that they really need it.
For instance, a woman may enter a mobile phone store and focus on Samsung smartphones. By observing her, you already know she prefers Androids to Apple products and you have a general idea of her budget.
Now, you can ask her what kind of features she expects in her new phone, and suggest accordingly. Also feel free to ask specific questions.
check out this [product/service] (when you want to introduce a product/service to a customer)
This product would be a good fit…
Innovative features/new features/exciting features
Have you used this or something similar?
What do you think? (engage with the customer; get their opinion on the product/service)
You may be interested in an Acme laptop. It would be a good fit for your needs. You’ll see that the price range is very affordable, and we’re currently offering a discount as well, which makes this laptop a great bargain.
In fact, if there’s a discount/sale involved, don’t try to lure in your customer with that, but save it for last, like a prize. And make sure you adequately pause between sentences, so that your customer can speak as well.
4. Successfully Negotiate with a Customer About Pricing
Sometimes, a customer may actually be interested in buying a product, but might be held back due to the price.
In such a case, your first priority is to emphasize the features of the product and prove that it’s worth the price. You can do this by comparing it to other models and explaining why the others will fail to fulfill the customer’s needs.
If the cost is the only issue, you can highlight different payment options. These may include discounts, payment installments or even refund options, if necessary—we’ll provide and explain vocabulary for this below. You can also add some urgency by saying the product is in great demand and therefore is in short supply.
If you feel the product is genuinely unaffordable for the customer, then you can suggest a similar product that has a lower price. Ideally, the customer will leave the shop with a lighter wallet, but also feeling uplifted and glad about the purchase.
great find (let the customer know a deal like this is rare)
may be out of stock soon
cheap for its price and features
alternative payment options
pay in installments (where the customer can pay for a product in small amounts over a period of time)
money back guarantee (where buyers can return the product if they’re not satisfied with it, and get a refund, within a certain time period.)
Yes, it does appear expensive, but you if look at all the features it comes with, it’s actually a bargain. Since this product is in limited supply, it’s a great find.
If you don’t wish to pay the whole sum right now, you can look at our alternative payment options such as paying in installments.
5. Deal with a Rude Customer Without Being Rude Yourself
Sometimes, the customer may become rude and verbally lash out at you. Maybe he/she is in a bad mood and has decided to take it out on you. At such times, it’s important to learn from the situation and not take personal offense.
Your job is to placate (soothe/appease) the customer by apologizing as politely as you can. The expressions below will help you do that.
(However, if the customer becomes violent or starts using offensive language, promptly call management or security.)
We’re very sorry if our product failed to meet your expectations…
I would like to personally apologize…
I understand that you feel upset…
We’re very sorry for any inconvenience.
I can remedy the situation by… (if you have something you can offer the customer as a solution/fix)
I am sure we can reach a solution
We’re very sorry if our product failed to meet your expectations. However, I can remedy the situation by offering you a free exchange for another product.
I understand that you feel upset, and I would like to personally apologize for any inconvenience. If you’d be so kind as to answer a few questions, I am sure we can reach a solution to this issue.
6. Conclude a Conversation by Sealing the Deal
Once the customer has made up his/her mind, you can steer the conversation to payment and close the deal on a positive note.
But leave a small opening for the future, too!
Thank you so much for shopping with us.
We hope you enjoyed shopping with us.
We hope you’ll visit us again.
Looking forward to seeing you again.
Feel free to call us anytime if you have any questions.
If a friend/family member needs something similar, we’d be happy to help.
Thank you so much for shopping with us. We look forward to seeing you again!
We hope you enjoyed shopping with us. Please feel free to call us anytime if you have questions about your new [product].
The secret to a successful conversation lies in balancing empathy and professionalism. In the course of the conversation, you have to play several roles. At first, you must be a polite stranger, ready to help out. Once you’ve established a rapport, figure out the best product to suit the client’s needs. As soon as the decision is made, carefully guide the conversation to the payment options and finally close the deal on an optimistic note with the promise of a future visit soon.
And just remember to be positive, follow your instincts and go with the flow.
Archita Mittra is a freelance writer, artist, ideator and a self-taught Italian speaker. Contact her for business inquiries.
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