Do you work in customer service, or are you looking to break into the industry? Do you need to brush up on your Business English skills? If so, you’ve come to the right place! In this blog post, we will take a look at 16 of the most commonly-used Business English idioms that you’ll hear in customer service jobs.
We’ll provide examples of when and how you’d hear these idioms in the workplace so that you can better understand them and use them in your conversations. So, without further ado, let’s dive right in!
1) On the ball
This is a phrase which means to be on top of things and prepared. It implies that the person is organized, efficient, and up-to-date on current tasks and deadlines.
You may hear this phrase when you have to be prompt and prepared for a task or meeting. For example, if your boss needs a report by tomorrow morning and you’ve already submitted it, your boss might say “good job, you’re really on the ball”.
In customer service roles, this phrase can also apply to being aware of customers’ needs, being able to answer their questions quickly, and being able to think on your feet when the situation requires it. It is important to be on the ball when customers come in with requests or complaints.
In customer service, you may also hear this phrase from your boss if they need you to complete a task quickly or efficiently. For example, if your boss needs you to help restock shelves and get the store ready for customers, they may say “let’s get on the ball and get this done quickly.”
2) Under the weather
The idiom ‘under the weather’ is used to describe feeling unwell or feeling sick. You might hear a customer service worker use this phrase when talking to a customer or colleague. For example, if an employee was feeling unwell and was about to take a break, they might say, “I’m not feeling very well. I think I need to go home, I’m feeling a bit under the weather.”
This idiom can also be used as a figure of speech to describe someone who is in a bad mood. For example, if a customer was having a bad day, you might say “It looks like you’re feeling a bit under the weather today.”
Using this idiom in customer service roles is a great way to show that you are understanding and sympathetic to your customers’ emotions. It’s also a subtle way of asking them what is wrong without being too intrusive.
3) Back to the drawing board
When something doesn’t work out or the results of a project aren’t what you were hoping for, it’s time to start all over again. This expression is often used when we want to show that we need to go back to the beginning and try something new.
For example, if you’re trying to make a cake and it doesn’t turn out right, you might say “Back to the drawing board!” and start all over again.
This expression can be used in a customer service job when dealing with a difficult customer who isn’t happy with the solution you’ve come up with. You might say “Let’s go back to the drawing board and see if there’s another way to solve this problem.”
In customer service jobs, you’ll likely hear this phrase a lot. It’s important to remember that going back to the drawing board doesn’t mean you’re starting from scratch; it just means that you’re rethinking your approach and looking for a different solution.
4) Ball is in your court
This idiom is used to tell someone that the decision or choice is up to them. It implies that the speaker has done all they can and now it is up to the other person to decide what happens next.
For example, in a customer service job, a manager may say to an employee, “We’ve discussed all the options – now the ball is in your court. You need to decide what you want to do.” This means that the manager has given all the information needed, and it is up to the employee to make the final decision.
In another example, a customer may be trying to decide between two products or services. The customer service representative could say, “The ball is in your court now – which one do you think is right for you?” In this case, the representative has given all the information needed, and it is up to the customer to make the final choice.
Using this idiom can help make it clear to customers or employees that the decision is up to them, while also emphasizing that they have all the information they need.
5) Bite the bullet
This phrase means to accept a difficult situation, make a difficult decision or do something you would rather not do. It is usually used when someone has to face an unpleasant reality and make a difficult choice.
For example, if you’re working in customer service and you know that you have to do something that may be unpopular with customers, like raising prices or refusing a request, you might say “Well, I guess I’ll have to bite the bullet and do it”. This means that even though it may not be popular, it’s still the best course of action.
You may also hear this phrase when someone has to accept a tough situation and move on. For instance, if you’ve been laid off from your job, you might say “I guess I have to bite the bullet and start looking for another job”.
By understanding the meaning of this phrase, you can use it in conversations with native English speakers and sound more professional
in customer service roles.
6) Cost an arm and a leg
This idiom is used when something costs a lot of money. For example, if you bought a new car and it cost $50,000, someone might say “That car must have cost you an arm and a leg!” In a customer service job, you may hear this expression when customers are discussing expensive items or services. This expression is meant to be humorous and light-hearted.
7) Get my ducks in a row
This is a common business English idiom used to refer to when someone is trying to organize and get everything in order. It can be used in any context where someone is trying to get organized, such as planning an event or preparing a presentation.
It’s important to use this phrase correctly when speaking with native English speakers as it implies a sense of urgency and efficiency. For
example, you might say “I need to get my ducks in a row before the meeting tomorrow” to show that you understand the need to be prepared and organized.
8) Hang in there
This is an important idiom for customer service jobs, as it expresses encouragement and support when someone is going through a tough time. It encourages the person to continue trying and stay positive despite their challenges.
You will often hear this phrase used in customer service roles when dealing with a difficult customer or challenging situation. For example, if a customer is being very demanding and pushing for something that isn’t possible, you could say: “I’m sorry we can’t do that for you, but I understand how frustrating this is. Hang in there – I’m sure we can find a way to make this work.” By using this idiom, you are showing the customer that you are sympathetic to their situation and that you are willing to try to help them solve the problem.
9) Hit the ground running
Hit the ground running is a popular phrase used to describe a situation where someone starts working or doing something with energy and enthusiasm from the beginning. This expression is often used when someone takes on a new job or project and needs to make an immediate impact.
For example, when an employee begins their first day at a new job in a customer service role, their manager may tell them to “hit the ground running” to encourage them to work hard and focus quickly. It can also be used to describe a situation where someone has already been working on something for some time and is now able to get back into it quickly without needing any further introduction.
10) Keep your chin up
This is a phrase you’ll hear often in customer service roles when things are getting tough. It means that even if the situation doesn’t seem to be going your way, you should try to remain positive and optimistic.
For example, if a customer is being particularly difficult and not giving in on their demands, you might say to your colleague, “Keep your chin up! We’ll get through this.” This phrase can also be used to encourage yourself or someone else to stay motivated and confident.
You could say it to a customer if they have a long wait, or if you’re trying to get through a tough day at work. In any case, the phrase is meant to be uplifting and remind people to stay focused on the positives and keep going.
11) Let sleeping dogs lie
This is an idiom used to warn against interfering with a situation that is not your business or not worth the trouble. It is usually used in a context of avoiding unnecessary drama or conflict. For example, you might use this phrase if a co-worker asks for your opinion on another employee’s job performance. You could say, “I think it’s best to just let sleeping dogs lie and stay out of it”. This phrase can also be used when dealing with customers.
For example, if a customer comes to you with a complaint about another customer, you could say, “I think it’s best to just let sleeping dogs lie and try to focus on the issue at hand”. By doing this, you are suggesting that it would be better to not get involved in the conflict and just focus on the problem at hand.
12) On top of the world
This idiomatic expression means to feel extremely happy, as if you’re on top of the world. You can use it to describe your feeling after accomplishing a big goal or milestone. For example, you could say, “After I passed my exams, I felt like I was on top of the world!”
This idiom is commonly used in customer service roles, particularly when a customer has experienced an outstanding experience. You might hear an employee say to a customer, “I hope you feel on top of the world after your stay with us!”
13) Pull out all the stops
This is a common English idiom which means to do whatever it takes to get a job done. For example, if you were working in a hotel and needed to take care of a customer quickly, you might say “Let’s pull out all the stops to get this customer taken care of!” It’s also used in other contexts such as sports or school work, and it simply means to use all of your resources and energy to accomplish something.
The phrase comes from when an organist would need to get the most sound out of an organ, they would “pull out all the stops” – meaning they would pull out all of the knobs that control the organ’s sound.
14) That’ll be the day
This is a common expression used to express skepticism or disbelief. It can be used in any situation where someone thinks the chances of something happening are slim to none. For example, a customer might ask you when the restaurant will get a certain item in stock, and you could say, “That’ll be the day!”
It’s also an expression of optimism and encouragement, especially when someone has been trying to accomplish something difficult. For example, if your boss has been trying to close a big deal for weeks, you could say, “That’ll be the day!”
In customer service, this expression is often used when customers make requests that seem impossible or out of the ordinary. For instance, if someone asked if they could bring their pet with them when they come to the hotel, you could reply with a smile, “That’ll be the day!” This would let them know that while it isn’t possible, you appreciate their enthusiasm and ambition.
This expression is usually used as a joke or light-hearted comment. It’s best not to use it when someone is being serious about a request or complaint. That way you can maintain a professional and polite attitude at all times.
15) Throw in the towel
This phrase is used to describe giving up or accepting defeat. If someone is trying something but they realize they won’t be able to do it, they might “throw in the towel” and accept that they won’t be successful. For example, if someone is trying to get a job but can’t get an interview, they might throw in the towel and accept that they won’t get the job.
In customer service roles, you might hear this phrase used when a customer has an issue that can’t be solved. If a customer is asking for something that isn’t possible, the customer service representative may throw in the towel and tell them that the request can’t be fulfilled.
In any situation, throwing in the towel usually means accepting defeat and giving up. It’s not necessarily a bad thing—it just means admitting that you can’t do something and moving on.
16) Stay on the ball
This phrase is used when you want to tell someone to stay focused on their task and remain productive. It is often used as a reminder that someone needs to keep up with their workload and take initiative in order to succeed. ‘
For example, if you are working in customer service, your boss might tell you to “stay on the ball” in order to ensure that all customers are taken care of in a timely manner. Similarly, if you are part of a team, you might use this phrase to encourage your colleagues to stay on top of their tasks and complete them in a timely fashion. In general, staying on the ball means staying organized and motivated so that you can get the job done quickly and effectively.
Summary of Idioms for Customer Service Students
Being able to communicate effectively in English is essential for any customer service job. Knowing the most common idioms used by native English speakers can help you communicate better with customers and colleagues.
Here are 16 of the most common business English idioms that customer service students should know:
1) On the ball: This means someone is quick and able to stay ahead of tasks.
2) Under the weather: This means feeling slightly ill or having a bad mood.
3) Back to the drawing board: This means to start over with a different plan or strategy.
4) Ball is in your court: This means it’s your turn to act or make a decision.
5) Bite the bullet: This means to accept something unpleasant.
6) Cost an arm and a leg: This means something is extremely expensive.
7) Get my ducks in a row: This means to get organized or prepared.
8) Hang in there: This means to stay motivated or positive during difficult times.
9) Hit the ground running: This means to start off with a lot of energy and enthusiasm.
10) Keep your chin up: This means to remain positive and optimistic.
11) Let sleeping dogs lie: This means to leave something alone and not make it worse.
12) On top of the world: This means feeling very happy and successful.
13) Pull out all the stops: This means to use all available resources or methods to achieve a goal.
14) That’ll be the day: This means something is highly unlikely or impossible.
15) Throw in the towel: This means to give up or quit.
16) Stay on the ball: This means to remain alert and focused on what needs to be done.
By learning these idioms, customer service students will have an easier time understanding and using them when communicating with customers and colleagues in their daily work.