5 Things Employees Should Say Instead of "I Don't Know"

Customer service in a retail space is often one of the first jobs a person has in their career, but it can also be the most challenging. No matter where a retail associate is in their career, however, there is bound to be a time when a customer asks them a question that they don't know the answer to. As honesty is usually the best idea in such a situation, it may feel natural for the employee to confess that they don't know the answer to the question. However, this is hardly ever an acceptable answer when you are trying to provide a superior customer experience.

With this in mind, here are five phrases that can be used in various situations that serve the customer better than simply telling them that you do not know the answer to their question.

1. "I am not sure, but please let me get that information for you."

This phrase is best when the information that they are asking for is something that might be easily at hand or can be quickly asked of another associate. This may include questions pertaining to an upcoming sale price or if a new product is coming in soon.

2. "That's a good question. Let me ask my manager."

This is best to use when it is a fairly complex or uncommon question that is very important to get correct and is something that only a manager or supervisor would be ready to answer. This should be used sparingly, and only when called for as supervisors and managers are busy individuals.

3. "I know an expert who can help with this."

This phrase may be used to build rapport with a customer who may be feeling frustrated that they are not able to find the answer that they are looking for. It puts the employee in the same boat and positions them as a facilitator to discover the answer together rather than just another obstacle to a customer who may have encountered several of them already. This is a great transition for the customer. You are able to hand them off to someone who can better understand their questions and provide them with accurate information. This should help the customer feel valued and more likely to become a repeat customer.

4. "I don't have that information, but my best guess is..."

This should be restricted to a question that may be vague or not require precise information. Questions that could be answered with an estimate, for example, should be estimated to as closely as possible. This answer should be used with care as it can be easy to give inaccurate information that could be worse than no answer at all.

5. "Here's what I know about that."

This phrase may work when an employee has incomplete information on the topic or it may be one that requires an opinion or impression rather than a fact. It may represent the best way to answer the question in a satisfactory manner.

In addition to knowing how to best respond, it is important to hire the right employees who will be pleasant and helpful. The employee should be able assist the customer and leave them with a great shopping experience. While these are not all the possible ways that an employee may answer a query that they don't know the answer to, adding these phrases to their customer service toolbox may better prepare them for when these questions inevitably come up.