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The language of customer experience
05 February 2015

Customer Experience: The Power of Language

In the customer experience, it’s interesting the difference a few words can actually make! They can charm, inspire, motivate, and persuade or equally discourage and dismiss. One thing’s for sure – whatever we do, the words we decide to use, combined with the tone we communicate with our customers and clients, will ultimately contribute to building or tarnishing the customer experience.

Believe it or not, our simple choice of words has more of an impact than any other area of the customer experience. Interestingly, most companies probably give more thinking-time and energy to creating effective language used in their latest marketing campaigns than the language used in the daily conversations with customers face-to-face or online.

After our first face-to-face interaction with a company, most of us as customers, generally create an overall impression from the conversations and daily interaction. There is more focus on this rather than the cleverly crafted branding material. Remember, the customer experience doesn’t end there as the way your customers feel about this interaction will often be passed on to others as we all know so well, both good and bad.

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Keep Your Communication Consistent

Think about this. Have you or your company actually thought about the style you talk to clients or customers? Do all staff members generally use positive customer service language? If you haven’t at least thought about email, social networking accounts, signage and telephone language to ensure a consistent customer experience based on language, appropriate style in line with your company brand at all levels, perhaps it’s time to start?

Hitting the target with a consistent style of service language across the whole company, won’t happen overnight. One way is to develop an internal phrasebank created by you, the people who’ll be using the language. Naturally, with external training and some brainstrorming you’ll be able to grasp key phrases relevant to your business to make the customer experience that touch stronger and in turn, further strengthen the customer relationship. Small steps with your customer service words can go a long way.

Another idea is to consider developing a short ”Negative phrasebank.” Essentially, phrases and words that should be avoided. These are often shorter, simpler and easier to learn, and certainly new phrases that seem to cause problems can be easily added to the updated list.

When employees begin to understand the benefits of adjusting how they communicate, they’ll take this on board as a healthy challenge rather than a company crackdown. With the right approach they’ll also see that it’s a collaborative, positive move forward with only benefits to gain.

A Few Words Can Change the Customer Experience

Let’s take a quick look at some examples of good/bad language choices.

“What do you want?” or “How may I help you?”
“I didn’t mean it.” or “Please accept my apology.”
“It’s in the instruction manual.” or “Let me answer that for you.”
“We don’t have any more.” or “I can order that for you now.”
”You owe . ” or ”Our records show a balance of . ”
”You need to . ” or ”We find it usually works best when . ”
”Please hold.” or ”Could I briefly place you on hold?” (and then actually listen to the caller’s answer)

What a difference a few words can actually make! You’ll understand this is even more highlighted when you want to improve your customers’ experience. Every word and phrase you choose conveys tone, mood and meaning and the trick is to find the right balance. Everywhere we go, brands and companies do their best to convert us into loyal customers, we’re confronted with words and phrases that ultimately help us along this process and steer the customer experience.

Changing The Way We Speak to Customers

Let’s start in a bathroom of Le Meridien Hotel in Hong Kong. A short note with a direct message in bold letters which read: “Should you need other amenities, please do not hesitate to call our Solutions Centre. Press 0.” Sewing Kit – Nail Kit – Razor Kit – Dental Kit – Mouth Wash – Hair Kit – Others” Now be honest, would you call a “Solutions Centre” and request a “dental kit.”? I imagine this note didn’t manage to improve the customer experience.

Alternatively, in the bathroom of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Dubai, you’ll find a small note with a delightful message that probably would improve the customer experience in some way: WITH OUR COMPLIMENTS: “Should you require any essential toiletries, please contact reception. We will be pleased to deliver to you with our compliments: shaving cream, razor, comb, toothbrush and toothpaste, cotton wool or female sanitary products. Welcome home.”

You feel at ease, assured and cared for. I’d also be more inclined to talk to reception if I was in need of anything else. As you can see, positive customer service words both written and spoken is one of the most important skills in communicating with customers. Often we don’t even realise we’re sending out the wrong message. Here’s an example: your line of business is retail and a customer contacts you with interest in a particular product, but that product isn’t available and happens to be in stock next month.

Original response: I’m sorry, it’s not available at the moment. I can’t get you that product until next month”

Response with positive language: “That product will actually be available next month. If you’d like me to, I can place the order for you right now and I’ll make sure that it’s sent to you as soon as it reaches our warehouse!”

Time to Take Action

In the shoes of one of your customers or clients, could you think of words and phrases which come across as positive and helpful, courteous, respectful and assuring? Which words sound off-putting and confusing, corporate or perhaps condescending? How about making a list customer service words and phrases according to your company to improve the customer experience?

To gain more insight and to benefit from one of more of my various customer service training sessions in Croatia or further afield, get in touch to help move your company in the right direction. I’ll leave you with this last thought – whatever it is we do – offer something, explain a process, respond to an email or giving advice, we need to carefully choose the correct customer service words to keep our customers satisfied, delighted and ultimately on board.