5 Customer Service Phrases— To Help Make the Internet A Less Angry Place

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Few of my friends are aware of this, but — in addition to being a marketing extraordinaire (just kidding) — my resume includes a tenure in phone customer service.

After leaving a marketing job at a startup (shout out to Ecanvasser) I briefly worked as a Customer Service Associate (CSA) at Amazon — via a temping agency.

Although many think of working in a call center as the ultimate nightmare gig — and I won’t deny that it is mentally grueling — I actually rather enjoyed my brief tenure manning the phones and live chat lines for Amazon’s UK marketplace, which has a facility in Cork, Ireland.

For one — at least when I was working there — Amazon used Ubuntu (a Linux distribution) on their customer service rigs!

It’s also seldom boring — between live chats, phone interactions, dealing with email tickets there’s almost never a dull moment in a shift.

And — the best part of it — Amazon have their own weird internal lexicon for customer support.

If memory serves correctly, getting positive customer feedback on a satisfaction survey was known as a “warm fuzzy”. Or maybe that was just the Cork site. But either way between pressing carriers for customer package updates and sending people replacement orders (while hoping they were not scamming the system) it was weird but oddly fulfilling in its own special way.

One particularly abiding positive of this experience, however, has been that working at Amazon has instilled in me a lifelong love of customer service speak: That delightful mixture of platitudes and euphemisms that support personnel wheel out when dealing with one angry customer after another.

Customer service speak, I think, has evolved as a defensive mechanism of sorts.

For the hapless service representatives often on the receiving end of unwarranted person abuse, it’s sort of a company-sanctioned way of low-grade trolling the customers without the customers realizing that they’re actually being trolled.

It also gives the support agents an entire phrasebook-full of stock phrases to wheel out mindlessly — so that mental energy can be diverted to doing other tasks such as looking up the customer’s order while affirming that they will “do their best to look into the issue”. In a fast-paced support environment with KPIs to hit, sometimes seconds count.

For the customers, it lets them know very quickly that they’re dealing with an entity somewhere between a sentient human and an AI bot: an individual who will try to do their best to follow standing operating procedure and resolve their case but who, at the end of the day, isn’t really being paid enough to care too deeply about the fact that their jumper hasn’t come in the post yet.

And so because, last week, I made the mistake of getting mired in online political debates with those whose views are antithetical to my own I decided that it was time to present to the world: the power of customer service speak to make the internet a less angry place.

Here are some stock phrases you can start using on Facebook, Quora, Twitter, Reddit, or wherever else you encounter angry online trolls who you need to bore into stopping.

“Thank You For Sharing Your Views On The Matter So Candidly”

Thanking somebody for expressing their views with candor is a great roundabout way of avoiding saying that you find what somebody has written completely repugnant — however you would like to phrase that.

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A typical call center setup

It is particularly suitable when somebody has really shared their views candidly — perhaps by dropping a few expletives or ad-hominems into the debate.

Because it is also clearly a meaningless customer service stock phrase it also serves the second function of conveniently extricating you from an online flame war.

Sample usage:

Troll: Are you f**king insane? Biden would have NO idea how to handle a trade war!

You: I don’t appreciate the expletive and the aggression but thank you for sharing your views so candidly. It is time for me to go now.

“I’m Sorry To Learn Of That Challenging Experience”*

If there’s one thing that people posting on Facebook Groups, Twitter, and Reddit like to do it’s complain.

And I will not even attempt to deny this: at times, I’m right up there with the best of them.

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Friend got fired? You can acknowledge their “challenging experience”

Nevertheless, did you know that venting is actually counter-productive and just makes you feel worse about yourself and your problems?

For that reason, I try to keep my complaints at least ostensibly purposeful.

Such as by asking do other people feel this way? And more importantly, if so, have they figured out a way to feel better about this particular situation I am in?

Nevertheless, sometimes people may come online solely to vent — spurred on by those who tell them, mistakenly, that venting is “healthy” (as pointed out, science proves that it is not). It’s human nature. And a hard one to resist.

So the next time one of your friends posts a vent — to which you feel obliged to respond but do not really wish to because you know that, ultimately, you have nothing useful to say — you can retort that you are “sorry to learn of their challenging experience.”

They will quickly understand that you have little in the way of genuine empathy to offer and move on to engaging with somebody who does.

Sample usage:

Friend: What a nightmare of a day! My house got repossessed, I lost my job, and my daughter got diagnosed with an incurable disease!

You: I’m sorry to learn of those challenging experiences, although right now I am emotionally unequipped to provide the support I think that you need. Perhaps instead of sharing these difficulties with your Facebook friend it might be an idea to pay a visit to a therapist?

(*This particular point was not intended literally)

“I’m Sorry That You Feel So Angry About This Issue…. But Thank You For Bringing Your Passion to Bear On This Matter!”

Acknowledging people’s anger about an issue by telling them that you are “sorry” to learn about it achieves three powerful things:

a) It calls the angry person / internet troll out on their anger. This, subtly, lets the person know that their aggression is not appreciated;

b) It conveys empathy (I’m sorry that you feel that way);

c) It conveys sympathy (we’re both sorry that you feel that way)

The second clause here might make the phrase seem even more troll-like and disingenuous. So use at your own risk.

Sample usage:

Troll: That’s some of the dumbest sh*t I have ever read on this sub [Reddit]

You: I’m sorry to learn that my viewpoint has aroused such anger in you, dear Redditor! However, as I can see that the dialogue between you and I is unlikely to be constructive, I will refrain from explaining it further.

“I’m Glad To See Such A Plurality of Opinions in This Debate!”

The disarming power of so many customer service phrases — and examples of corporate-speak — is that they often simply point out the obvious.

In doing so, they have the effect of subtly steering toxic conversations into shutdown mode and forcing trolls to move onto another target to unleash their anger: which is sensible because trolls derive their enjoyment primarily from agitating other internet users.

This phrase can be rolled out whenever your blog post, tweet, or Facebook share has unleashed a cacophony of angry hatred directed towards you rather than what you have shared:

(And by hatred I mean hatred; debate is great — unwarranted anger and abuse are not).

Troll: You have ZERO idea what you are talking about! You should never write about this subject again! The World IS Flat!

You: Wow, I’m glad to see such a plurality of opinions in this comments section! However, I do in fact have a PhD on this very topic, have observed the curvature of the earth from an airplane, and do not require your permission to continue writing about it — even if it seems as if are viewpoints are not in alignment.

“Thank You For This Spirited Exchange of Views!”

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One thing I’ve come to believe about internet trolls is that — in the majority of cases — it’s simply not worth engaging with them.

If you say this outright, then trolls will often engage in gaslighting — accusing you of being unwilling to engage them in debate or answer their points. They will also often claim that you have made no points in an argument — which likely isn’t true, it’s simply that they don’t like your points or ascribe any validity to them.

This, in my view, is perfectly fine: If you look hard enough you will find no shortage of people on the internet with views opposed to you who are prepared to engage in debate marked by civility and decorum. You might learn a thing or two by engaging with them — or even change your mind on an issue entirely.

The ones that aren’t? My advice is not to waste your (digital) breath.For that reason, sometimes it’s best to reach for a quick exit.

The above is a decent formulation for thanking your adversary for participating in the flame war — but simultaneously making it clear that you have no interest in continuing to participate in it.

Troll: You have made NO points but you keep attacking ME for being “aggressive”. Do you have ANYTHING intelligent to say here?

You: Thank you for engaging in this spirited debate! The paint is currently drying on my walls. So I think I’m going to have to go now and watch that happen instead. Good evening!

Kill Them With Kindness

Our trainer for the temp gig at Amazon used to constantly repeat that the best way to deal with angry customers was to “kill them with kindness.”

In a sense, these formulations — with the exception, perhaps, of the attempt to evade getting caught up in somebody’s pity party —subtly follow that same approach.

When dealing with internet trolls and cyberbullies, it’s helpful to understand that their anger and frustration comes from an internal place.

Often, looking at their post history is enough to demonstrate that their animosity and anger actually represents a longstanding pattern of vitriol doled out towards anybody whose viewpoint, or political allegiance, is not the same as their own. That can be helpful to observer, because it can make transparent that the anger is not directed specifically towards you — and it wasn’t because they woke up on the wrong side of the bed either.

There are a few ground-rules for reasonable debate that you can scribble at the back of a notebook — don’t use insults and attack the person not their argument are two good ones to start with. These can help ensure an atmosphere of civility even when the interlocutors are diametrically opposed in their opinions.

If that fails you can use the above phrases to try to defuse the situation and get out of it. If the troll continues to bait you and won’t let go — the best thing you do is turn off post notifications and let them be without getting ‘pinged’ every time that they write a new comment (I advocate blocking if the troll is personally abusive, but I don’t think it is warranted in all circumstances).

Because, truthfully, life is truly to short to put up with abuse from anonymous internet users who are simply out to attack.

Happy browsing!

Written by

Nonfiction ghostwriter. Thought leadership for B2B technology & public affairs clients. Site: DSRGhostwriting.com. Book: amzn.to/2C3jkZS

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