For call center agents who are non-native English speakers but talk to native speakers, idioms can be tricky. Terrifying, even — especially for newbies. They could turn pleasant conversations into awkward ones, especially if your account requires you to pretend that you live in the same country as your customers.
An idiom is a phrase, saying, or a group of words with metaphorical meaning. Meaning, idioms are not to be taken literally.
If your customer says that it’s raining cats and dogs, it doesn’t mean that cats and dogs are truly pouring down from the sky. It just means that it’s raining very heavily.
So why use idioms? We use idioms to liven up our speech and writing! Idioms add color, life, and humor to our statements. There’s just way more punch with “It’s raining cats and dogs.” than with “It’s raining heavily.”
So in this article, you’ll learn the most common and useful idioms that call center agents should know. These are one of the most commonly used idioms in daily conversations as well as in call center conversations.
1. Cup of tea
When something is your cup of tea, it is what you enjoy or choose for yourself.
- Commuting to work is not my cup of tea but working from home is.
- Reading has never been his cup of tea so he usually just listens to audiobooks.
2. Ring a bell/ ring any bells
When something rings a bell, it means it sounds familiar or that it reminds you of a vague, distant memory.
- I’m looking for a missing woman, redhead, tall, with a rose tattoo on her left arm. Ring any bells?
- No, I’m sorry. Your description doesn’t ring any bells for me.
- Hold on, let me show you her photo to see if it rings a bell for you.
3. Go/walk the extra mile.
When you go the extra mile for someone, it means you’re doing more than what’s expected of you or you’re making an extra effort.
- What separates a great CSR from a good CSR is his willingness to go the extra mile for his customers.
- You know what, I love that company. When my order got canceled, the manager went the extra mile and gave me a $10 voucher on top of my refund.
- You want your employees to stay? Well, start walking the extra mile and secure their welfare!
4. Call a spade a spade.
When you call a spade a spade, it means you’re being blunt and you’re describing something with no sugarcoating, even to the point of rudeness.
- It’s been 3 months since I’ve been waiting for my refund. Why don’t you call a spade a spade and admit that your company is going bankrupt?
- She sounds like a strangled cow when singing. Let’s call a spade a spade before she goes out singing in public and embarrasses herself.
- A thousand-dollar monthly membership? I don’t know about you but I’m calling a spade a spade. This is a scam!
5. On the same page
To be on the same page with someone, it’s either you agree with, have the same understanding and knowledge as him/her
- Before you hire me, I just want to make sure that we’re on the same page regarding my rates.
- Before canceling an order, make sure you’re on the same page with your customer regarding the cancellation charges.
- I thought we were on the same page! You run the customer service, I run the marketing. Why are you meddling with my job?
- We’re clearly not on the same page here so I’m handing in my resignation letter.
6. That ship has sailed.
You say this when referring to an opportunity that has passed and is no longer possible or to a situation that can no longer be changed. In short, it’s too late.
- You should have grabbed that offer last month. Now, that ship has sailed and the manager has offered the position to another agent.
- First, you sent me a damaged item, and then the wrong color. And now you’re asking me to give you another chance? That ship has sailed! Give me my money back!
- You better get serious with your finances before that ship has sailed.
7. Call it a day.
When you call it a day, it means you stop doing something because you’re either tired or because it is not successful.
- Because of the unbearable stress at work, my decision to call it a day made perfect sense at that time. Now, I’m running my own business.
- You’re tired, I’m tired. Let’s do this tomorrow and call it a day.
- You’ve been working for that company for almost a decade now with nothing to show for it. When are you going to call it a day?
8. Keep (someone) in the loop.
When you keep someone in the loop, it means you’re keeping him/her informed/updated on something.
- I don’t use fax. Do you mind keeping me in the loop through email instead?
- Team Leads, please keep your agents in the loop at all times. We cannot afford to lose customers due to outdated information.
- Come on! You didn’t keep me in the loop with the office gossip and you expect me to know what’s going on?
9. Get the hang of (something).
When you get the hang of something, it means you’re becoming better or more skilled at a task that you’re not initially good at.
- I know it’s confusing but don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it soon.
- This is a difficult task. Don’t expect that you’ll get the hang of it on day one.
- I worked as an agent for 5 years but I never did get the hang of dealing with abusive customers.
10. Daylight robbery
You describe it as daylight robbery when someone charges you a massive amount of money for something that you think is unreasonable. Blatant overcharging.
- One thousand dollars for a monthly membership! That’s daylight robbery!
- This is daylight robbery, plain and simple. No wise customer would ever pay that much money.
11. Costs an arm and a leg
Costs an arm and a leg means something is very expensive. What distinguishes this from daylight robbery is that you don’t necessarily think of this as unfair pricing, only that it’s super expensive.
- Listen, I’d love to subscribe to your monthly membership but it costs an arm and a leg so I guess I’ll pass for now.
- This dress cost me an arm and a leg but I don’t regret it. This is just so gorgeous!
- Is it possible to vacation in Europe without it costing an arm and a leg?
12. Read between the lines
When you read between the lines, you’re trying to understand what is truly happening in a situation or what someone truly means or feels even if he/she isn’t being straightforward.
- Some customers aren’t direct. They could say one thing but mean another. Therefore, a CSR must learn how to read between the lines.
- She didn’t exactly admit that she stole the money but reading between the lines, I just know she did!
- I refuse to play mind games. I’m tired of reading between the lines. Will you please tell me what’s going on?
13. Stand/hold one’s ground
When you hold/stand your ground, it means, you refuse to withdraw, compromise, or change your opinion, belief, or decision despite being pressured to change them. It means you’re standing against an insult or attack.
- Guys, as soon as a customer becomes verbally abusive, hold your ground and make it clear that you won’t tolerate it.
- Instead of running away, she stood her ground. And then the lion retreated.
- She’s just a kid! Why can’t you hold your ground and say no?
14. Start off on the right/wrong foot
Start/get off on the wrong foot means beginning a relationship or interaction badly or incorrectly while start off on the right foot is the exact opposite.
Variation: get off on the right/wrong foot
- Look, I think we started off on the wrong foot. How about we forget about that incident and try again?
- The conversation started off on the wrong foot when the agent ignored the customer’s joke.
- The job interview started off on the right foot when the applicant made the CEO laugh.
- I want to get off on the right foot with my boss. Would you give me some advice?
15. Apples and/to/with oranges
This idiom refers to items that cannot be compared to each other because they’re completely different, or they belong to different classes or possess non-identical attributes. An unfair comparison.
- Dude, stop comparing Samsung A51 to iPhone 12. They’re not in the same price range. They’re apples and oranges!
- To compare Taylor with Adelle is to compare apples with oranges. It doesn’t make sense!
16. Apples and/to/with apples
This idiom refers to items that can be practically compared with each other because they are very similar. A fair comparison.
- Since your mood tends to sour in the afternoon, why don’t you interview all applicants in the morning? This way, you’re comparing apples with apples.
- Just because you’re comparing the prices doesn’t mean you’re comparing apples to apples. You must also consider the features and the quality.
17. Go cold turkey.
To go cold turkey is to abruptly and completely stop taking a substance that you take on a regular basis. This also applies to bad habits.
- I tried going cold turkey from antacids but every time I do, I suffer ten times worse.
- Nicotine patches and gums did very little to cure my smoking addiction. You know what I did? I went cold turkey! Best decision ever.
- If you want to get over your ex as fast as possible, just go cold turkey. No texts, no calls, no Facebook stalking. Nothing.
18. Hands are tied
When you say your hands are tied, it means you’re unable to help, act, or intervene (even if you want to) because it is not under your control or is not your decision to make.
- I want to help her but my hands are tied. It’s company policy.
- If it wasn’t for the peak season, I would approve your leave. I’m sorry, my hands are tied.
- Even my manager’s hands are tied. This order came from BBB so we have no choice but to follow this down to a T.
19. Not the sharpest tool in the shed
If someone is not the sharpest tool in the shed, it means he is not very clever, a bit slow, or even stupid.
- not the sharpest knife in the drawer
- not the sharpest tool in the box
- not the brightest bulb in the box
- Don’t transfer me to Amber, please. I have to admit she’s not the sharpest tool in the shed. She can’t even spell my name.
- I’m not entirely sure if I trust his judgment. He’s not exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer.
- I know I’m not the brightest bulb in the box but I’m loyal and honest. That should count for something, right?
20. Get cold feet
When someone is getting cold feet, it means he’s losing confidence and courage or has suddenly become frightened to do something he had originally planned to do.
- I was once engaged but I got cold feet and decided to call off the wedding.
- She was about to skydive but when she saw the great height, she got cold feet and begged to stay on the plane.
- I thought I want kids. But after hearing my newborn nephew scream his lungs out today, I’m getting cold feet!
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