Tone of voice is the identity and personality of your brand, and no brand should have multiple personalities. Customers engage with many areas of your business – from marketing to customer care – so it’s crucial these all feel like the same entity.
An oversight in tone of voice in any of these areas could undermine the integrity of others. For instance, if you’re edgy in your marketing yet your operators sound like insurance salespeople, your business has a dramatic identity crisis. Customers will pick up on this, and at best the jarring experience can leave them confused, but at worst, it can cause them to doubt your authenticity.
Consistently nailing your brand’s tone of voice across all channels is the best way to bring cohesion to the customer experience. It’s especially tricky to master your tone of voice in your customer service strategy, so let’s take a look at how you can do it.
How to approach brand tone of voice in customer care
Tone of voice can be difficult to manage in customer care due to the sheer number of variables in play. These largely arise from the fact that live communication leans more heavily on improvisation than, say, the carefully crafted messaging of a marketing campaign.
On top of that, it’s quite the task to project a singular tone of voice from every public-facing individual in your workforce. Employees have their own personalities too and they can’t, nor should they, be squashed. Besides, customers don’t want to feel like they’re talking to a robot either.
At FM Outsource, we advocate for the use of a set of guidelines, rather than strict rules.
Harshly scripting your customer interactions is doomed to undermine your customer service, but guidelines allow operators more room to be themselves. Not to mention, it yields a much more authentic tone of voice.
How to create brand tone of voice in customer care
At the very least, customers expect a friendly, helpful, and straightforward tone of voice when they get in touch, so the following should be your foundation in virtually all cases.
Try using positive language like “absolutely”, “definitely”, “of course”, or “delighted”. These are reassuring for a customer. Similarly, avoid using negative language except in the context of a service failure. Words like “unfortunately”, “sadly”, or “regrettably” bring the tone down. The idea is to maintain optimism and a cheerful attitude.
On top of this, whatever the query, you should reassure the customer that you’ve encountered a similar problem before. This again maintains optimism and faith that you’ll be able to resolve the issue.
Customers don’t have to use your business, so also lightly remind them that you’re thankful for their patience. This can ease tension and reassure them that they’ve made the right decision to get in touch.
Use simple, clear language
Customers just want to get to the bottom of their query and understand your explanation. Jargon will only frustrate them, so whether you’re interacting with a customer over the phone or digitally, always speak unambiguously.
In keeping with this is to set realistic expectations. As tempting as it might be to promise a customer the world just to get them on-side, it can easily backfire when it turns out you can’t deliver it. This will doubly frustrate the customer, so make sure you’re not setting them up for a nasty surprise when they ask for an estimated delivery time on their delayed order. Be proactive in providing them with information.
Being personal and accountable
In the cases of errors or complaints, any apology or attempt at accountability will crumble if the customer gets a whiff of a canned response. Just like in our personal lives, a sincere apology goes a long way.
In the case of a complaint, it’s worth remembering that customers are generally happier with solutions they choose for themselves. Hold off on making decisions for them and instead frame solutions as options.
To find your tone of voice beyond being helpful, liaise with all your departments that have direct contact with your customers and the public.
Come to a consensus on what characteristics define your brand – are you quirky, straight-talking, traditional, edgy? What are your customers like? What do they expect? How do they speak? Consider the precedents you’ve set or want to redefine.
For example, if you’re a fashion brand with young adult customers, you might want to consider tasteful use of emojis in digital correspondence. They’re humanising and help break down the business-customer barrier. Plus, most importantly, the demographic fits.
On the other hand, if you’re an accountancy firm, the expectation there is formality, diligence and pragmatism, so we wouldn’t dream of throwing an emoji into a greeting. It would undermine the brand.
Only you know what tone is appropriate, but at FM Outsource, we can help you define that tone of voice as part of our services. We’ll read your business personality and suggest how that translates into tone of voice for customer care agents. Once it’s established and implemented, the key is consistency.
How to tailor your brand’s tone of voice on the fly
The above serves to illustrate guidelines for fair weather engagement, but what about frostier customers, customers in a hurry, customers with unique needs, or more complicated enquiries?
The solution is to collate and group data about the types of enquiries you receive and the types of customers that contact you. With this, you can find themes and plan handling strategies behind the scenes, so your customer service advisors will be ready to address them in a live setting. Think of these as mini tone of voice guides, or a set of tone of voice protocols when an additional customer need is identified.
At FM Outsource, we’re prepping and rolling out new strategies for operators based on constantly evolving data all the time. This data-led approach gives us total understanding of the customers contacting us and how to best suit their needs while maintaining a consistent brand identity.
If you’d like to see what we can do for you, get in touch.