That Sainsbury's sign is a great example of how looking again at the language we take for granted to represent us can yield surprisingly effective results. For one thing, "customer service" is a tired phrase, internally-focused and distancing. To talk of "customers" is to refer to a third party when a clear you-we relationship is what's going on. "Customer service" is not exactly a phrase that lives up to its own billing.

For many of us, too, the Customer Service desk is traditionally a slightly forbidding place where you go to haggle for a refund when you've lost the receipt. (We note that behind the desk the refund policy is very clearly and helpfully displayed.) But in fact this desk is there to help anyone with anything that simplifies or improves their interaction with the store -- from asking where the catfood is to making a suggestion about the traffic jams in the car park to seeing if anyone has handed in your daughter's woolly hat (they hadn't). Which is why the deceptively simple phrase "here to help" is so clever. It works on two levels:

  1. as a physical marker: here, literally, is where you come when you need our help
  2. as a statement of intent: our aim is to provide whatever assistance you need

This warmly embracing phraseology will no doubt attract more people to the desk than before. But that means more people who will find their way around the store, more satisfied customers, more queries answered. Both sides of the relationship can only benefit.

Online, a phrase like "here to help" probably needs some work from an SEO point of view, and it doesn't quite have the same "physical marker" effect. But look again at your buttons and labels and headlines: are they as warm, helpful and instantly informative as they could be? Is there a better way to say 'About us' or 'Services' or 'Resources' or 'Features' or 'Other news' or 'Library'? You know there is...