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Customer service best practices: Alternatives to “happy to help”

Customers want to hear genuine expressions from customer service reps. Here are some better expressions to use than “happy to help” when delivering customer support.

By Susan Lahey, Contributing Writer

Published November 3, 2021
Last updated November 11, 2021

Catchphrases are like fashion trends or pop songs (“Baby Shark” comes to mind): For a while, they are ubiquitous and beloved. People can’t get enough of them, and if you can pull them off as part of your communication, it proves you’re cool. Then, seemingly overnight, the thing’s popularity hits a tipping point and no one can stand it anymore. That’s the case with overused customer service expressions like “happy to help.”

Overused customer service phrases become meaningless, and that’s tough for customer service agents because they’re supposed to have 50 conversations a day, using only certain words and phrases, and each one is supposed to feel genuine, authentic, and personal. A person is never supposed to be made aware the customer service support agent has already had 28 similar conversations that day and has another 22 to go. But saying the phrase, “happy to help”—while once considered a great alternative to the somewhat predictable phrase, “You’re welcome”—has gotten to the point where it grates on the nerves. If it is used at all, it should be used sparingly.

Reasons to avoid saying “happy to help”

Beyond being overused, “happy to help” doesn’t sound personal or empathetic. It’s supposed to sound like “I’m glad I could solve your problem.” But because it doesn’t reference the customer at all, it sounds a little more like “Just doing my job” or “That’s what I’m here for.” It doesn’t communicate that you’re interested in the customer’s happiness or in nurturing a relationship that’s important to you.

Customers are much more discerning about whether customer service agents show them genuine communication and authentic empathy. “Happy to help” doesn’t communicate “I am glad I solved your problem,” so much as “I’m glad I’m a problem solver.” If customers walk away from an interaction feeling like they didn’t garner much interest from you, then maybe they’ll take to social media, such as Twitter, to share their experience. And that’s not good.

Alternatives to “happy to help”

I live in Portugal, and people here tend to be helpful and show kindness. So far, my Portuguese is pretty weak, so I have a lot of empathy for people who get English phrases wrong. But one of my favorite “happy to help” substitutes came from a Portuguese airline agent who helped switch a flight for me. When I thanked him profusely, he said, “I took a big hug off your back.” I think he meant he took a big weight off my back, which he had done. But he was clearly so thrilled to have made my life better that I found his mistake charming. I fell instantly in love with him, with the airline, and with Portugal all over again. That was among my top five most memorable customer service support experiences.

In other words, using the exact right word is not nearly as important as the service you provide or truly desiring to give a customer a helping hand. Still, the response you give customers when they thank you may communicate your desire to help more than a different sentence. Something that communicates happiness about making the customer’s life better might include:

“I’m glad we were able to solve your problem today.”

“It’s my pleasure.”

“I’m glad for the opportunity to help you today.”

“We’re here for you whenever you need us.”

“I’m so happy this worked out.”

“I’m glad to be of service.”

“We’ve got your back.”

“I’m glad we could take care of this for you.

How to stop saying “happy to help”

You now have the alternatives to “happy to help,” but old habits die hard. How do you stop?

It starts with where you’re coming from: the heart. Perhaps at first, you’ll need to give yourself a pep talk before starting your shift, a way to remind yourself not to phone it in but to be entirely present and thoughtful. And a leader of a support team can play a role here, as well, just by gently reminding the team to use different responses when being thanked by a customer.

Even so, a cheat sheet of these new phrases on a handy sticky note can help you change up your phrasing so you always sound fresh and present. That might sound a little artificial at first—reading phrases off a sticky note—but by avoiding repeating the same thing over and over, there’s much less chance that what you say will come out sounding rote and meaningless.

Eventually, these phrases will come naturally, and sooner or later that sticky note won’t be necessary. Your customers will notice the difference.

Words have meaning

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