In Customer Service, It’s What You Say and How You Say It


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Whether it’s answering the phone, an email, a chat, a ticket or a tweet, what you say and how you say it makes a big difference. Satisfactorily handled customer service interactions are associated with high levels of brand loyalty, but while it’s easy to ask customer service representatives to walk the walk and talk the talk, when it comes to customer care, consistent delivery just doesn’t seem to be happening.

The most recent Customer Rage Study conducted by CCMC, in collaboration with the W.P. Carey School of Business and the Center for Services Leadership, shows a great divide between what customers want and what they receive when they complain or request assistance:

  • to be treated with dignity (94% wanted, 35% received)
  • be assured that their problem would not be repeated (84% wanted, 21% received)
  • have the company representative put themselves in their shoes/empathize (83% wanted, 23% received)
  • apologize for the problem (76% wanted, 32% received)
  • be spoken to in everyday language instead of a scripted response (76% wanted, 32% received)
  • be thanked for their business (80% wanted, yet only 33% received).

Once More, with Feeling

Customers pick up on whether a brand representative is carrying on a conversation with them or just reading the lines. And while customer service scripting does have its benefits in creating a consistent message and customer experience, a little improvisation or customization can go a long way.

In a recent survey from Software Advice’s Customer Service Investigator, 69% of consumers polled said it improves their customer experience when customer service agents aren’t reading from a script. Beyond just the basic question, CSI Investigator asked just how much it improved the customer experience and more than half (51%) said either “a lot” or “tremendously.”

The Magic Words

Those surveyed were also asked what words or phrases made them feel as if the customer service agent was being respectful to them. The results show that customers are wise to the more scripted responses such as using the customer’s name frequently, saying they understand how the customer feels or repeating back everything the customer tells them. The most favorable response came from something very simple, however – the customer service representative saying please and thank you.

Put it in Writing

Software Advice conducted a similar survey regarding tone in writing, particularly email customer support, but that could easily translate to chat, social media, ticketing or text. The results showed that customers across all age groups prefer a more casual response from customer service representatives over formal ones (65% to 35%), except in negative or very serious situations where those surveyed viewed casual responses by the customer service agents as dismissive or flippant. Emoticons were also found to be a little too casual with more than 35% saying they should be left out of written support interactions.

It’s All in the Delivery

A 2013 experiment on email tone gave compelling supporting results that it’s both what you say and how you say it. Two different emails were sent from a software provider to visitors who had abandoned the brand’s free trial. One was more formal and product focused in tone; the other, more casual and empathetic. The sender saw a 349% positive uptick in response to the latter, which they referred to as the “customer service tone.” (Read more here.)

For customer service response, the words are important, but it’s still all in the delivery.

Does your brand or organization have certain words, phrases or best practices in regard to speaking to or responding to customers that have worked or not worked well? Would love to hear your thoughts or about your experiences in the comments below.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Tricia Morris
Tricia Morris is a product marketing director at 8x8 with more than 20 years of experience at technology companies including Microsoft and MicroStrategy. Her focus is on customer experience, customer service, employee experience and digital transformation. Tricia has been recognized as an ICMI Top 50 Thought Leader, among the 20 Best Customer Experience Blogs You Must Follow, and among the 20 Customer Service Influencers You Must Follow.


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