Simple tips for improving tone of voice in customer service

People forget what we mean all the time, but they never forget how we make them feel. - and that’s where the tone of voice comes in. In this article we cover a few tips which are very essential to improve your communication and tone of voice.

Some people are born with the ability to communicate effectively. Most of us have to put in some effort.

But it’s worth it.

Words have a lot of influence. When used effectively, they have the ability to drive, encourage, and empower us to take action. They have the potential to make us lose hope if they are used incorrectly. The wrong tone of voice will detract from even the best customer service. Even the most serious complaint can be defused and resolved if handled correctly.

Customers must believe that you are listening if you want them to give you truthful input. The tone of one's voice has a significant impact on this. Also, if you want to increase your NPS ranking, it turns out that your tone of voice will make a significant difference.

So, it’s worth getting right…

1. Don't be afraid to talk and write in a natural way.

The best piece of advice I got from a professional speech writer was to compose, talk, and present using only the language you'd use if you were having a casual conversation with a friend over coffee.

So, if we're speaking or writing to our clients, we'll put them at ease and they'll enjoy doing business with us more if we keep the tone clear and casual.

It's not just the words that matter while speaking; it's also the rhythm, tempo, volume, and pitch

For example, I recall sitting through a US airline's safety briefing, and the cabin crew member who delivered it seemed to be attempting a speed record. I couldn't understand a word she said, and while I'm sure she meant to encourage protection, it seemed like she was only going through the motions.

    So instead of…
  • Felicitations!
  • Our continuing gratitude for your patronage. Please ensure that should any aspect of the services we render cause disgruntlement in yourself that you touch base with us promptly.
  • Your account is now due for settlement. We implore you to carefully scrutinise the data herein to ensure no errors or omissions have occurred on our part, before enclosing your remittance with alacrity.
  • Yours most fondly, The Enterprise Energy Billing Team
    Perhaps try…
  • Good morning,
  • Your monthly bill is now due. We hope everything has been OK, but if not, please get in touch – we care about putting things right for you.
  • Please check that everything in your attached statement is correct, before making payment via bank transfer.
  • Thanks again, Chris Thorpe, Enterprise Energy Billing

The issue arises when we use a language that is not common to us. It can make you seem insincere at best and difficult to understand at worst.

So, when speaking or writing, use the "as if to a neighbour" test for the best performance.

2. Don't take a defensive stance.

Have you ever called a customer service department to try to resolve a problem, only to discover that the person who answers the phone assumes their company did nothing wrong and that the blame must be yours?

It's aggravating. Without a question, the call handler is behaving with good intentions, attempting to defend their company's interests. However, whatever the issue was, this solution just serves to exacerbate it.

Since there is an issue, the person who is calling is already stressed. They now have to negotiate with someone who isn't interested.

It doesn't matter who is to blame at this stage. The best thing for the call handler to do in this situation is to begin by saying "sorry."

It's important that everyone understands you're not admitting fault or liability. You're simply expressing your regret that your customer has encountered a problem and assuring them that you will do whatever possible to assist them.

Saying "sorry" expresses sympathy rather than admitting guilt.

Nobody will sue you for apologising. If you watch a crime drama on TV and the detective says to the victim's family, "I am sorry for your loss," they are not confessing to the murder. They're simply expressing their condolences and mourning the loss of a loved one.

You must establish a rapport with the customer and make them realise that you have their best interests at heart in order to achieve the best results for both the company and the customer. Saying "sorry" when necessary is a good place to start.

3. Don’t be anonymous.

When people step up and take responsibility, we feel stronger.

We have more respect for someone who is willing to take responsibility for a decision, justify it, and stand behind it than we do for "The Marketing Team" or "The Customer Service Team," even if the news is grim.

But I understand if you're the boss and you're concerned about getting a barrage of phone calls.

To be frank, you deserve those calls if you're doing anything that's unjust, or if you're not communicating it well. Such are the lessons you must remember. Regardless of whether you're sending an email to a particular customer or a newsletter to all, it benefits the brand if consumers know they're dealing with a real individual rather than a faceless corporation.

When I was running customer support at a large software company, I used to either sign customer messages with my name or allow one of my team members to do so if it was anything special to their location. I was anxious at first, but by the end, I was sure enough that I'd provide my cell phone number on occasion.

What's more amazing?

I only ever had a couple of phone calls. All of the others went through the usual networks, which were teams that were set up to deal with day-to-day problems.

And I'm grateful I got those personal calls because they were from high-value customers. Things had gone horribly wrong for them; their standard methods for dealing with customer issues had collapsed, and they were clinging to life by a thread.

Even though hearing the bad news wasn't pleasant at the moment, I was grateful for the opportunity to save them. At the very least, we were able to resolve the situation and keep their company.

Of course, if every customer called you directly, you wouldn't be able to manage it. (They aren't going to do it.)

As a leader, though, you should have teams and processes in place to answer those calls. Managers who know how to handle escalations. Procedures for determining when messages will be sent out and ensuring that you have the resources to respond. Also, make arrangements on what you'll do if anything goes wrong.

It's your responsibility to create a machine that delights and retains customers. If you do that, you'll find that the vast majority of consumers can use the reliable communication networks that have been set up for them instead of trying to track down an executive who is most likely in a meeting.

They won't try to contact you directly unless something has gone horribly wrong, not least because they'll assume you don't know how to use your company's IT systems (at least in my case). It would only be as a last resort if they contact you.

So instead of Perhaps try…

And, if you have the misfortune of hearing from one of the small percentage of customers who are unreasonable and irrational (less than 1% in my experience), you are the one with the authority, experience, and judgement to advise them to become a customer of one of your competitors instead.

As a result, don't hide behind a title or a team. Take the initiative! It will all work out in the end.

4.Don't make any grammatical errors.

When we talk to one another, we use the words "you" and "me."

When I'm a client, however, I always hear the words ``yourself" and "myself." “I'll email the documents to you.”

On the positive side, I think people do this because they’re trying to be polite and respectful and I applaud the sentiment.

On the plus side, I believe people do this out of a desire to be courteous and respectful, and I appreciate that sentiment.

Without a doubt, I want to go to great lengths to please my clients. But I've discovered that they value clarity, authenticity, and keeping my promises over flowery language.

5. Don't use cliches.

When I first started working in industry (around the time fax machines became popular), big companies' phones were answered with the phrase "Your call is important to us."

I wasn't sure at the time, but 30 years later, I still hear the same word, spoken by a recorded voice now (as it was then). It's just that instead of a disc, it's now a machine.

I can't help but think that if my call was really "important," someone would answer it instead of a computer asking me to wait. It would be more helpful if I was told how long I would have to wait or when I would be less likely to have to wait.

Otherwise, the word 'important' is devalued.

Clearly, I'm getting old and, according to my adolescent son, grumpy.

Words, on the other hand, must have intent. They can either benefit your company or irritate customers and make you look insincere.

So don't use phrases like: unless you really, really mean them and can back it up with fact.

“We are committed to…” …valued customer…” For your convenience…”

Since the clients and customers have heard them before and know that the company using them isn't doing what they think they're saying. You're being forgettable at best, and you're irritating an already irritated customer at worst.

KFC, the world's largest chicken-frying franchise, recently experienced major delivery issues in the United Kingdom. For a chicken restaurant, no chicken is bad news, and hundreds of locations were forced to close.

KFC did an excellent job of apologising for the unfortunate turn of events. Here's the national newspaper advertisement they put. Notice how they express regret about what happened instead of using tired platitudes like "valued customers":

Always strive to be unique, authentic, and modern, and use phrases that really mean something to your customers. This guide will assist you in finding more genuine ways to connect while staying on brand.

The note by the power outlet wasn't stiff and starchy the last time I travelled by train. “Feel free to charge your phone and laptop, but please no toasters or kettles,” it said. It got the point across, but it felt more human, and it made this grumpy man smile.

Good luck with your tone of voice – it can be difficult to break free from the cliches and phrases you've grown used to, but the benefits of developing a two-way partnership with your customers are well worth the effort.