Adapting Language and Tone for Customer Communication

“Always strive to understand your customers’ likely emotional state.” Adapt your word choice and tone accordingly” – Jay Ivey

Among the top ways to building sound relationships with customers is effective communication and this is possible when a company is able to tailor its messages to suit the target audience. It is imperative for a company to ensure that the language and tone for customer communication aligns with the customer’s expectations and the culture of the company. When customer communication is effective, it would engage the audience quickly and produce optimal results.

As with everything else, it is necessary for a company to know and understand its audience before attempting to build a relationship with them. Since every company would have all kinds of customers, adapting language and tone for customer communication is quintessential to the success of its communication strategy. The aim of every communication should be to achieve certain goals, get across to a target set of customers, and help customers to get valuable information, which they can use to their benefit. To adapt the language and tone for customer communication to ensure maximum reach, it would be prudent for a company to segment its customers based on certain common needs and address each customer segment individually. By sending out an ‘umbrella’ communication, the probability of converting customers and bringing in more sales would be reduced significantly.

The reason for adapting language and tone for customer communication is for a company to be able to design its message appropriately. A company can use the data and information it has about its target audience, tailor the message with appropriate language and tone, and therefore would be better prepared to anticipate the reaction of the customer segments the message goes out to. Based on the reaction and feedback, it would be easier for a company to refine its next communication to do a better job at meeting the objectives of customers and its own business. The fact is that every customer / every target audience is different and unique. To maximize the effectiveness of messages on various audiences, the approach for each must be different – for example certain words that may be appropriate for one set of audience, may be completely inappropriate for another. Failure to modify and adapt the language and tone for customer communication can potentially result in misunderstanding, offence, and serious issues with customers, which sometimes may be irreparable. Rather than taking such a risk, it would be better for a company to spend extra effort and time on its customer communication.

Customers are a demanding lot, and are extremely sensitive to demeanour and ‘attitudes’ expressed through any means of communication from companies. It is therefore, necessary for a company’s service team to receive thorough and consistent training on the nuances and subtleties of language and communication, and know exactly what language and tone must be used for customer communication. Customer communication must never be generalized – it must focus on the recipient’s needs, expectations, and emotions. Choosing the right language and tone for customer communication is not a one-off task – it would need consistent improvement and evolving in order to keep pace with the needs of the varying customer base. Service staff must be empathetic to the needs and emotions of customers – for example if a customer seems upset, all the customer would want is that the problem be resolved swiftly and effectively. All that the service staff need to do is to give the customer what she or he wants.

The point to be remembered is that adapting the language and tone for customer communication is not always as easy as it may sound. There is no way of knowing what kind of language and or tone a customer would be happy with, and getting a grip around these two important aspects is extremely essential for a company, and one that requires constant work and effort. The fact is that the language and tone for customer communication should depend on the situation and the news to be delivered. A light and casual tone will work just fine for a fun new product, whereas such a tone would not work if the company were reaching out to a customer in duress. For instance, if an insurance company were denying a claim, and the communiqué had a casual and breezy tone with jargon-filled language, there is no doubt that the customer would become even more irate, negatively affecting customer satisfaction. It would seem obvious that an informal tone in a sensitive situation would be an extremely poor move, and companies must pay close attention to the kind of language and tone they use for customer communication. It is important to find a balance.

The focus of customer service is and should be to listen to customers and offer them the best and speediest solutions. The best way to depict this to customers is create customer communication that is ‘humane’ and seems adapted to the specific needs and expectations of the customers. A company must strive to show customers through the communiqués that the company considers their feelings, and is committed to supporting them and their business. If a company were unsure of the language and tone for customer communication, a neutral tone would work best. This does not mean that the tone appears robotic and rote – natural flowing language, interspersed with interesting information would be extremely appropriate. In the example mentioned above, the study shows that at least 78% customers would be miffed if their request were denied using casual language and tone. On the contrary, if the request were granted using a formal tone, customers would not really give it much thought and neither would the fulfilment of their request using ‘appropriate’ language affect their satisfaction levels with the company.

Dealing with irate and dissatisfied customers is a lot harder – they would be a lot more sensitive to poor language and tone. Apart from adapting language and tone for such customers, a company would need to rely on other techniques to alleviate the anger and dissatisfaction of these customers. The use of colloquialism and emoticons are a strict no-no when dealing with irate customers, and even other customers. Even though these two traits seem to be common for digital communication, it does not imply that customers find them acceptable. However, if a customer seems to use emoticons a lot, it would be acceptable to mirror the style – in fact, this might even please the customer. It is best to assess the situation carefully before formulating any communication.

Adapting the language and tone for customer communication does pose a challenge, especially since we know that every customer is different, and even if a particular kind of communication style may have worked with a customer earlier, it may not necessarily work in the future. Service staff must know exactly what customers need, the level of discretion they would have to meet those needs, and the kind of communiqués they could send out to customers. Without empowerment, service staff would be unable to satisfy customer requests, making their job even more stressful. Adapting language and tone for customer communication is an important and critical part of service excellence, and everyone in the company must know exactly what is required to please the customers of the company.

The future of customer communication will possibly be through online and mobile tools and companies must streamline their communication process to provide customers with the very best. Adapting language and tone for customer communication is just one of the many things a company could do to keep their customers happy and satisfied for a long time.

Create interactive decision trees for customer service management, cold call scripts or self-service. Improve sales performance metrics and customer delight across your call centers.

Interactive Decision Tree