Don't Say That … Say This



Words matter.

Words reflect how we see ourselves (“No problem” can suggest “I didn’t really do anything special for you”), or how we see the customer (“Help” implies that I see you as someone who has a problem who is incapable of solving it for themselves). Words can re-emphasize what is negative about an experience (“a waiting room”), or create new ways of seeing the same experience positively (“a lounge”).

Because the Millennial generation prefers authenticity to formality, the scripted formal language that luxury brands like Ritz Carlton made so famous (like “my pleasure”) is giving way to a more informal, less scripted verbiage in premium retail and hospitality (such as “Absolutely!”). Another example of the trend toward informality is that most customers and clients today prefer to be addressed by their first names and not their last names. Youthful customers may take offense at being called “Mr. ___ ” or “Miss ___”. While our culture may be becoming more flexible with verbiage in the premium space, I still believe there are certain words and phrases that should not be spoken in a professional environment or premium space: “Boss”, “Big Man”, “Honey”, “Dude”, “Man”, “help” and “no problem” or “no worries”. Beyond this, the rule of thumb I encourage employees to use is to choose words that are

  1. Positive
  2. Energetic
  3. Genuine

in every situation. To see more on how Ritz Carlton and other brands are training verbiage these days, see Micah Solomon’s excellent article here.

Here are my top 2 verbiage choices that I feel matter most in professional and premium settings:

“No problem” or “No worries” — Substitute “Absolutely!” “You are very welcome!” “Certainly!” “My pleasure!” “Delighted to do it”

“Help” — Substitute “Assist”. (“How can I assist you?”)

Here are a few more words and phrases to avoid and some to use in their stead that were inspired by my work with employees at premium brands as well as by the Zappos list that I discovered on my recent tour of their headquarters:


Yep                                                           Yes

Nah                                                           No

You Guys / y’all                                  You all / You

Problem                                                Challenge / Opportunity

Unfortunately                                    Respectfully

Depend                                                  Rely

Cheap                                                     Bargain / Inexpensive

Impossible                                           Challenging

Early                                                         Punctual

End                                                           Conclusion

Error                                                        Oversight

Fanatic                                                   Enthusiast

Neat                                                        Interesting

Free                                                         Complimentary

We don’t have                                   Will have as early as

These always are “winning words” for our conversations:

Absolutely, Certainly, Abundance, Accommodate, Acknowledge, Appropriate, Champion, Courtesy, Excellent, Fabulous, Far Superior, Handled, Professional, Prosper, Quality, Reliable, Surely, Thank You, Terrific, Value, We.


Leave a Comment