Even a great product or service can be useless if we don’t effectively communicate with our customers. Follow customer communication etiquette rules to manage your customers the right way.

What customer communication etiquette is

Customer communication etiquette is the set of rules to appropriately and effectively engage and communicate with your customers. Such rules include:

  • The key communication principles.
  • The mistakes to avoid.

As an employee, you should respect customer communication etiquette to look professional, appropriately engage customers, and avoid any embarrassments.

As a manager or employer, promote customer communication etiquette in your team to ensure effective communication between your company and your customers.

Customer communication rules. The five most important rules to effectively communicate with your clients.

Customer communication etiquette rules

1) Customer communication style depends on the context

Your customers’ expectations depend on the context. Thus, it is best to adapt your communication style to meet their expectations. The context depends on the following factors.

Your company

What is the communication style of your company? Formal or informal? Friendly or rather serious? Follow the company guidelines to keep the appropriate style. Ask your managers if they prefer one communication style. Furthermore, you can observe how your coworkers deal with clients and mirror their positive behaviors.

Your industry

What is the common communication style in your industry? If you work in a formal industry, a too-informal communication style can disappoint your clients.

The product or service you offer

A key goal of customer communication etiquette is to build trust and create a connection.

A technical product calls for a technical language and tone. However, if you sell clothing, technical language could be inadequate, as your customers might expect an emotional type of communication. 

Put yourself in your client’s shoes. If you were to buy your product, what communication style would work best? What would build trust? 

The occasion

How you communicate to your customers depends on the occasion. Are you selling? Or are you providing support? It may be ok to be a bit pushy during a sale. While it is inappropriate to be pushy during customer support. 

The communication channel

Adapt your style to the communication channel. Email requires special attention to the tone and conciseness. When meeting in person, non-verbal communication is key. Over the phone, it is best to slow down and speak in a clear voice in order to be understood. 

2) Show your customers that you value them 

Show appreciation. Thank your customers for their time and preference.

Make them feel special

A personal touch in communication goes a long way. Call customers by their name. Mention the name of their company.  

Speed is a factor. It means that you value them and their time. 

Make strategic use of escalations. If you are dealing with a problem, or a difficult situation, it may help to involve other managers. Even if you do not solve the problem, escalations show that you made an effort. 

Promote proactive communication

Listen to your customers. They are trying to solve a problem or satisfy a need. Only if you understand what the problem or need is, you can help. 

Ask questions instead of making statements. Ask for clarification or additional detail. 

If possible, follow up. Ask customers if they are happy with their purchase or with the support you provided. Encourage their feedback.

3) Communicate the right content

Again, the main goals of customer communication etiquette are to build trust and create a connection. Thus, you must know your product or service. Be prepared to provide detail and additional information. 

Train yourself for objection handling. Customers will ask the same frequently asked questions about the same products. Prepare canned responses.  

Simplify concepts. Avoid jargon or too technical terms. Be concise. Do not overtalk, as it confuses the customer. Follow the key principles of business speaking.

Use consistent vocabulary. Use always the same word to describe one thing. Avoid synonyms, as they may create confusion. 

4) Communicate with your customers in the right tone

Use positive language. Avoid negative words, sentences, or remarks. Avoid starting sentences with a “no”. Do not antagonize customers. Ask probing questions instead. Be patient. Let them vent if necessary. Show empathy. How would you feel in their shoes? How would you want to be treated?

Do not interrupt customers. Let them finish their sentences. If you interrupt, you show a lack of interest in what they are saying. 

If you meet customers in person, manage your non-verbal communication. Show positive body language. Pay exclusive attention when they speak. 

5) Communication is an art: observe and adjust

We can always improve how we communicate with customers. One size does not fit all. 

Take the time to reflect on your past interactions. What went well? What went wrong? Why could it be? Maybe it was the situation or the type of customer. Identify the key communication factors that influence success in your role or industry. 

Observe others, such as your managers or coworkers. How they communicate. The way they respond to variations in content, style, or tone. Then, gradually adjust your style to mirror the best practices. 

customer communication etiquette mistakes

Customer communication etiquette: the worst mistakes

The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors. 

A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. More about the Rude Index and its methodology here.  

Avoid the worst customer communication etiquette mistakes. 

  • 9/10. Speaking more than you listen.
  • 8/10. Not adapting your communication style to the customer or the situation.
  • 8/10. Speaking in an inappropriate tone.
  • 8/10. Antagonizing your customers.
  • 7/10. Not paying exclusive attention when a customer speaks.



How should I greet customers?

Smile and use a neutral salutation. “Welcome”, “good morning”, or a simple “hello” work. 

How should I approach customers in a shop?

Offer help, but allow them to decline it. Get closer, but keep yourself at a distance. Make eye contact. Smile gently or simply be friendly. Ask them if you can help them with anything. If the customers decline your help, say that you are available to offer help later. Then discreetly move away.  

How can I deal with difficult customers?

The best way to deal with difficult customers is by asking questions. What are their needs? Or problems? Understand how you can help. Communicate clearly the actions that you plan to take. Show them that you are making an effort. Involve other managers if you need support. 

How should I deal with angry customers?

Let the angry customers vent their frustration. Show empathy for their situation. Ask questions. Understand what solution would be satisfactory. Show them that you are making an effort. Involve your manager if you need support.