Language is a funny thing. It can bring great joy and great frustration, and the line between the two is often fuzzy. In business, this is even more true. Every day, companies communicate with customers, and as business owners, we must continually check that we are using the right words to send the right message.

Here are three phrases to eliminate from your staff's vocabulary to ensure that your company comes across with compassion in every interaction. 

1. "As a courtesy"

This concept is the abstract knife of death in the customer relationship. What follows is without fail something that is going to belittle your customer's concern, fuel his rage, or confirm that your company doesn't really care.

My company sends out a box late to a customer; the customer calls to complain and is told, "As a one-time courtesy, I can give you a shipping credit."  

Rather than letting him know that we share his disappointment and expressing our embarrassment at our mistake, this language implies no remorse on our part, and would surreptitiously place blame on our customer. This undermines the customer's trust and gives him motivation to find a new supplier. Not a message I want to send.

2. "I'll make an exception"

This phrase is meant to calm customers but, in actuality, does the opposite. An exception happens when someone has done something wrong but is going to get a pass on the punishment. In business, it is used to exonerate a company rather than a customer. It allows the company to avoid saying sorry, and instead asks the customer to shoulder the shame.

My company has a cutoff time of 2 p.m. for an order to be guaranteed same-day shipping. A customer calls at 4 p.m. after realizing he ran out of something sooner than he anticipated. He is told, "I'll make an exception and see if we can get your package out today." Rather than being grateful for his business, we would be telling him he should be grateful we're going to save him. This breeds a relationship of resentment instead of partnership. Not a feeling I want to cause.

3. "Our company policy is"

This expression is the absolute worst thing you can say to a customer. When a customer hears it, he knows you have not listened to anything he has said, that you will not act in his best interest, and that you are only interested in taking his money.

My company has a $100 minimum for orders, but a customer calls in having forgotten one thing on his order until the day after it shipped. The item is only $5.33. He is told, "Our company policy is that we have a $100 minimum."

Rather than letting him know that we care about his business and understand the predicament he is in, this language implies that our rigidity trumps our common sense, and would leave the customer no way to get his needs met. This communicates that the customer is a replaceable commodity rather than a precious resource. Not a value I stand for.

Words can be wonderful tools or dastardly weapons. When you build your business's vocabulary, it is important to vet the words carefully, think about their repercussions, and teach the whole staff why the things they say matter.