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English Conversation – Customer Service

Tuesday, September 25, 2012 @ 03:09 PM
posted by Jo

This is the preparation material for an English conversation lesson about customer service.  Customer service is providing a service to customers before, during and after a purchase.  It is designed to increase the level of customer satisfaction – that is, the feeling that a product or service has met the customer’s needs and expectation. Many stores have a special desk or area where people can complain if they are not happy about a service.  Good customer service is when a company offers solutions to help a customer get over their bad experience.  



In this video, which talks about the best and worst companies for providing good customer service, the reporter and the customers who were interviewed use a number of expressions and idioms. Can you work out what they mean from the context? 

  • Champs and chumps
  • Getting high marks for customer service
  • I can count on it
  • The number 1 customer
  • The bottom of the barrel
  • To be everything to everybody
  •  To be caught in a maze 


Adjectives describing personality characteristics 

For good service  For bad service






A good listener







Customer service verbs: 

Guarantee (quality)Provide (a refund)Handle (an issue)

Offer (compensation)

Ensure (standards)

Resolve (the problem)

Deal with (complaints)

Accept (an apology)

Make (mistakes)

Request (a refund)

Demand (an explanation)

Insist (on seeing the manager)

Phrasal Verbs: 

Put off After the service I received last weekend, I have been put off ever shopping there again!
Ramp up They really need to ramp up customer service if they want to continue to get customers.
Complain about I am going to complain about the service I received at the hotel.
Deal with The new company has been dealing with complaints ever since they started.
Depend on You can depend on them to provide quality service.



  • Have you ever received bad service in a restaurant? What happened?
  • Have you ever received bad service in a bank, post office or government department? How did you deal with it?
  • How would you describe the quality of customer service in your country?
  • Do you think it is a waste of time to make a complaint about service?
  • Which types of businesses do you think have the worst customer service?
  • What do you think are the best qualities for someone providing customer service?
  • What are the worst qualities?
  • What makes you annoyed when you are receiving a service?
  • How do you feel about automated call systems where you speak to a machine rather than a person?
  • How often do you make complaints about customer service?
  • Have you ever had to deal with a customer complaint? What happened?
  • What is the best way of resolving a customer complaint about service?
  • Do you think people who work in customer service need to receive special training?
  • What do you think it would be like working in a department that deals with complaints? Could you do a job like this?
  • Is there an organisation in your country that deals with consumer rights?
  • Which businesses in your country are known for good service?
  • Which businesses are known for bad service?
  • How can companies ensure they provide good service?
  • What is the level of customer service like in banks/ in fast food restaurants/ from phone companies/ from utilities/ from transport companies/ from airlines in your country?
  • How does customer service in your country compare to other countries you have been to?
  • Is the level of service in your country generally getting better or worse?
  • Have you ever written a complaint letter? What for? What was the result?
  • Have you ever demanded to speak to a manager or supervisor?
  • Have you ever made a telephone complaint?
  • What do you think is the most effective way of making a complaint?
  • What do you do if you receive bad service in a restaurant?
  • Has social networking made businesses more aware of the importance of good customer service? How? 


Making the complaint

  • I’m ringing to complain about…
  • I’m sorry, but I’m not satisfied with…
  • Unfortunately, there’s a problem with…
  • I am very dissatisfied with the service I received 


  • It really isn’t good enough
  • I’d like to know why…
  • I’d like an explanation for… 


  • If you don’t replace the product, I’ll complain to the manager
  • If you can’t deliver on time, we’ll have to contact other suppliers 

Useful Language – Dealing with Complaints 

Showing understanding

  • I’m sorry to hear that
  • Yes, I see what you mean
  • I apologise for…
  • I understand you're upset about

Getting the facts

  • Could you give me some details, please?
  • ·What happened exactly?
  • What seems to be the problem? 

Making Excuses

  • It’s not our policy to replace items
  • It’s not our fault that it hasn’t arrived
  • I’m afraid that’s not quite right
  • I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do 

Promising action

  • Ok, I’ll look into it right away
  • I’ll check the details and get back to you
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