I don’t know if you’ve seen Allister Heath’s article in the Telegraph?  He says that companies must start listening to a public who feel taken for granted, and undergo a cultural revolution.  And he points the finger firmly at call centres and customer services teams as being to blame.

He says “most large UK consumer-facing service sector firms routinely treat customers appallingly.”

The angle of the article is that, somehow, UK businesses don’t give a damn about their customers.  But that’s not what I see.  Those aren’t the businesses I meet, whose customer services teams routinely go beyond what’s expected.  The ones who come in – even off roster – on Christmas Day to sort out problems.

Stick with me, but I’m going to make a bit of a leap… a lot of this aggression and negative feeling comes all too often from how things are said – the tone of voice customer service teams use when they write to customers.

Customer communication that sounds as though you don’t care?

The problem is that a lot of business SOUND as though they don’t care – their written tone of voice misses the mark.  They do the job and do it well, but then send the customer a tired, standard e-mail that reads a though it was written by a cross between the taxman and a traffic policeman with a headache.  They crank out statements that the accounts department loves but customers are baffled by.  The Support Desk does a cracking job fixing problems, but talks to customers in jargon they don’t even start to understand.

Over the last few years, on average, about 80% of big issues I’ve seen are down to the written tone of voice customer care teams use.

Most businesses aren’t even thinking in terms of a written tone of voice in customer communication yet.  They think it’s a brand issue or something the marketing department looks after.

Written tone of voice – sounding human

And even that’s not the fault of the people in those businesses.  Who’s explained that communicating with customers is THE most important part of their jobs?

Who’s been trained on tone of voice in customer communication so they can communicate with customers authentically, clearly and like a human being, not a corporate bot?  Which senior manager has started to look at creating a culture where customer communications matter?  It’s about turning everyday communications from an overhead to an asset.

Customer communication matters

Once businesses start realising – at all levels – that their written tone when they communicate with customers matters, the good hearts and eagerness to do a good job will start to shine through.  I’m looking forward to it.

In the mean time, if you’re a customer services boss, stick a big sign on the wall saying “I don’t like your tone.”  At least that will start reminding your team how important written tone of voice in customer services is.

If you’ve not read it yet you might like to take a look at Mr Heath’s article, “My plan to save big business and bring back public trust”.

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