Customer Service Software

Paraphrasing: Customer Service Success’ Secret Weapon

Published by in Customer Service Software

Customer Service Success

Created by Sam Garner from the Noun Project

Don’t be this guy:

Customer: Hi, I am not able to login to my machine.

Engineer: Ok! No problem, I will reset your password.

Customer: What! I know my password, I am getting an error.

Engineer: Oh I am sorry ….

What went wrong? The customer is upset and the engineer has made a lasting impression, but not a good one. It’s now going take more work on the agent’s part to get that goodwill back than if they’d made a positive impression to begin with.

Here’s what should have happened.

Customer: Hi, I am not able to login to my machine.

Engineer: I’m so sorry. Would you describe to me what happens when you try?

Customer: I enter my username and password, hit enter, and then I get an error message that says “file not found.”

Engineer: So you enter your username and password, but instead of logging you in, the system gives you a “file not found” dialog box?

Active listening and paraphrasing differentiate the first and second interactions. Here’s why paraphrasing or recapping is a best practice as well as THE thumb rule of customer service.

Paraphrasing establishes trust.

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It’s imperative for us to establish trust with a customer within the first few minutes of our support interaction. Recapping or paraphrasing helps us do that.

Always remember, every time we interact with a customer we either make a trust deposit or a trust withdrawal. When you look at the benefits of paraphrasing, it’s obvious how it helps you make trust deposits:

  • Ensures you have received the communication just as the customer wanted
  • Allows them to correct misinterpreted information
  • Lets the customer know you understood their problem
  • Determines the further course of questioning
  • Focuses your attention on the customer’s perspective.

Unfortunately, I am seeing too many engineers jump to connect to a customer’s machine, then find their way towards the solution. It’s an understandable instinct for an engineer. You know how computers work, people are tricky. But the machine isn’t going to decide whether to buy your product again.

And it’s not the computer that fills out a satisfaction survey. Are you getting feedback saying that the engineer did not know the product or the engineer was trying trial and error on their machine when you know your engineers know your product and computers? That’s because they’re not actively listening.

Paraphrasing lowers resolution time.

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Statistically, resolution time is inversely proportional to customer satisfaction. Resolving issues quickly makes customers happy.

Paraphrasing is one of the most important steps towards a speedy resolution.

One obvious point that’s frequently forgotten in the heat of the moment is that it’s easier to find a solution when you know what the problem is. Going back to the conversation at the beginning, if the agent had logged in to change the customer’s password, it would have wasted their time and frustrated the customer. We can’t resolve issues we don’t understand. Attempting to make a customer happy when you aren’t perfectly clear on why they’re not happy right now is a waste of time for both of you.

Sure, active listening can feel like a waste of time, especially when you think you know what the problem is. But, ironically, taking the time to listen well enough to paraphrase is step-one of the kind of listening that saves you and the customer time in the end.

Paraphrasing creates goodwill.

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Paraphrasing assures customers that they are being listened to and understood. A customer that feels this way has faith in you to solve their problems. Here’s the second way paraphrasing saves time: It makes customers more cooperative. People don’t like talking when they feel like they’re being ignored or misunderstood. But you need your customers to talk to you to understand and solve their problems. And people don’t like following instructions from people they don’t trust and don’t like. Creation goodwill saves time by making customers more compliant.

While we try our hand at recapping we need to understand that the voice and tone matters a lot. We need to sound attentive and interested. Our tone sends an unspoken message, which is why we need to be very careful and positive at all times. While we paraphrase we should send a signal that we are hearing everything the customer says and trying to understand. We need to be open to correction. This give a very good picture of you in customer’s mind enabling him to correct you without the fear of being judged or going unheard.


Active listening and paraphrasing take your customer service from ordinary to extraordinary. Paraphrasing establishes trust, lowers resolution time, and creates goodwill.

Do you include paraphrasing as a matter of course in your customer service interactions? Is it part of your agent training? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments!

Images by Abby Kahler

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About the Author

Ravi Verma

Ravi Verma

Ravi Verma is an experienced support delivery manager with more than 10 years of experience providing thorough and skillful consumer support to enterprise-level internal and external users.


Comment by Charles on

Doing the “recap” kills all rapport that was built up during the call. It sounds so scripted no matter how it’s stated. It’s horrible! I just got “recap” by 24 Hour Fitness CS and then the person mentioned the “survey”…… seriously STOP IT! It’s retarded!

Comment by Omar Abu-Affar on

This article outlines THE very important basics of “Enduring Customer Relationship”.

Thanks a million Ravi.

Comment by Mark Stephenson on

Good Stuff Ravi!!
Indeed very informative and needed for people in the service industry.

Thank you!

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