This is a guest post from our friends over at Recruiterbox. Sarah Caminiti will share why tone of voice in your communication with customers is important, and how it can be used as a unique hiring tool.
How do you come across to your customers? Are you received as being professional and reassuring?
One of the most vital pieces of building a support team is setting the right tone for your customers. It wasn’t until I joined a remote team that I realized how choosing a teammate with a similar tone makes the unit more cohesive.
How does tone of voice affect communication?
Working for a web-based product means interacting with customers via email, chat or over the phone. This has tons of benefits such as giving you time to create a truly helpful response. But there is a downside — when interacting over a computer you can fall victim to misguided inflection.
Dun dun dunnnn
What happens when you use a misguided inflection?
Imagine, you are invited to a birthday dinner, and you’re busy at work but you know your friend needs the RSVP ASAP. So you send a reply hastily. “Sounds good”. You are really looking forward to it, but you didn’t include 17 exclamation points and three dancing ladies emojis. Suddenly you’ve gone down a rabbit hole of passive aggressive replies from your friend. Why? What the hell?
Your friend interpreted your response as “Ugh…I guess I’ll go if I have to”.
It’s not your fault! Your reply has been tarnished by your friend because she couldn’t see you smiling as you typed.
When you work in customer service for a web-based company, this happens frequently. That’s why tone is so important!
How can you bypass inevitable misinterpretations?
Working in an office where you are face to face with your customers, there’s never really an issue about tone and inflection. Unless you’re a robot, the clients can see your enthusiasm or concern. They may even read your body language and expressions more than they pay attention to what you’re saying. But living in a tech-centric world, going to an office to speak to someone happens less often. So where does that leave us?
Web-based communication is awesome. It’s fast, convenient and frees you up to manage multiple things at once. However, losing the humanistic approach in speaking to your customers can not only send the wrong message, it can really hurt their experience with your product.
A recent survey of 2,000+ online customers (across all ages and genders) found that 65% prefer a casual tone in customer support.
And a survey of 500 consumers found that 69% of customers believed that their call experience improved when the customer service agent doesn’t sound like they’re reading from a script.
That’s why tone is a big part in successfully building your team.
A simple way to be interpreted as you intended is by smiling while you’re responding. I know, it sounds silly when they can’t see you. But they know you’re smiling.
When you’re on the phone and smile when you speak, the listener can hear it, and when you’re typing and smiling the words you choose and the structure of your sentence take a different route than if you’re agitated and slamming keys on your keyboard.
Another way is by not being afraid to show emotion. A smiley face can go a long way :).
When I worked in an office and received an email from a client with a smiley face in it, it brightened up my day.
How would you reply to your mom if she asked you how to turn on “The Netflix” for the 15th time? You’d probably send the reply you always send her with a smiley face at the end. Simple, easy, but effective.
Also – use punctuation. I’m a serial user of the exclamation point. I’m not ashamed! It shows you’re engaged, it can display empathy and it lets them know they aren’t bothering you with their questions.
How do I find candidates with a similar tone?
Now that we know how to avoid being misinterpreted when speaking to clients, how do you find someone for your team who can deliver messages consistently in the most appropriate tone? Why is a cohesive tone even important?
A cohesive tone is how you project yourself as part of a unit, rather than as an individual. The last thing you want is for your customers to think:
“Man, I hope Larry answers my technical question, he’s the only one that gets it.”
“Please, please, please don’t let Marge get this email, she always makes me feel guilty for reaching out.”
Your customers need to know that whenever they reach out, day or night, they will receive the same level of support no matter who gets back to them.
When you’re hunting for candidates, looking at only a resume is equivalent to picking the next book you read solely by the cover art. What did we learn in elementary school? Never judge a book by its cover!
There are many applicant tracking systems (such as Recruiterbox) that allow you to customize your application form. Don’t wait until you are three interviews deep with a candidate to learn that their writing style is too different or that they have no empathy. You can find out by asking questions up front! Make them think!
Provide a couple of sample scenarios and have the candidates show you who they REALLY are. Examples:
Your system isn’t letting me log in and it is REALLY ruining my day! Someone get me in ASAP!
Thank you so much for this new feature, it saves me so much time! You guys are the best!
Using the examples like those above, or more company specific scenarios, will reveal the tone used by the candidates when someone is upset, and when someone is loving what they’re seeing. Both come up every day so you want to be sure you’re considering someone who can display a level of empathy, gratitude, and excitement that’s consistent with the rest of your team.
You’ll probably receive fewer candidates than if you only asked for a resume, but you’ll receive quality candidates. They will be excited about the position and complete your application form thoughtfully.
Even if someone has 15 years experience in customer service does not mean they will answer your questions as you hoped they would. And even if someone has only two months of experience, they may be a skilled problem solver and answer with care.
The importance of tone of voice in communication
Remember, when you’re building a team the employees you choose are an extension of you. You’ve spent the time creating your process and begun to develop relationships with the customers. You have to decide who you want to convey the voice of the company when you’re not there.
About the author
Sarah Caminiti is a Customer Happiness Specialist for Recruiterbox and a contributing writer to Startup Study Group. She’s been in the customer service world for the past 15 years and loves to make people smile on a daily basis. In her spare time she likes to live vicariously through her puppy, Eleanor.