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Part 4 of 5: Make Social Customer Service Seamless by Using Your Company’s Brand Voice

If your company’s marketing makes your product sound hip and your customer service emails, chats or tweets sound cold or legalistic, you’ve got a problem.
Source: Lake Murray Symphony Orchestra

Guest post by Leslie O’Flahavan, E-WRITE:

If your company’s marketing makes your product sound hip and your customer service emails, chats or tweets sound cold or legalistic, you’ve got a problem. It’s better to use the same voice both when making a sale and when solving a customer’s problem.

Here are three ways to enable your team to give customers a seamless experience.

1. Find and read your company’s Brand Book.

Most companies have a Brand Book, but most Customer Service teams have never seen it. The Brand Book, usually developed by Marketing, contains official brand standards, such as personality, logo and tagline, color palette, and typeface.

Brand Books also include advice about tone of voice. Some offer a list of words that align with the brand. This type of advice is golden for Social Customer Service teams. For example, Skype’s Brand Book has a “Words We Like/Words We Don’t Like” page. Skype likes share and calls. They don’t like telephony and peer-to-peer. The Brand Book provides guidance about which words support the brand and gives you the permission you’ve wanted to adopt a personal, friendly customer service writing style.

(Want to see some Brand Books? I’ve posted a Brand Book list, with examples from big companies such as United Way and Adobe.)

Example: Table of contents from Skype's Brand Book

2. Update your template library

Yes, your template library has been on your to-do list forever. It may contain templates that are out of date, unused, even wrong. Your Customer Service team is alienating customers if agents use templates that make them sound like bored lawyers and all your company’s marketing sounds like it’s coming from a hip friend.

To give your template library a brand voice update, start small. Choose the 10 templates that get the most use. Identify any glaring gaps between the brand voice used in your templates and the one described in your Brand Book.

For example, let’s imagine your company’s Brand Book describes tone of voice this way: We use a friendly, welcoming, and flexible tone of voice. However, your template library includes this gem:

You have work to do. Remember, your customer’s experience with your company began long before she chatted in to your contact center to ask if she can purchase three t-shirts in Toddler size. She fell in love with your products, and now she wants an exception. You don’t have to change your policy, but you do have to find friendly, welcoming, and flexible words to describe it. Here’s how the revised template might sound:

3. Give agents permission to loosen up

Most of the time, a company’s brand voice is friendlier than the voice Customer Service is using. For example, your company’s email blasts begin Hey there, Are you looking for a great deal on tires before the snow and ice set in? But your customer service chats start, Dear Mr. Smith, We have received your inquiry about the warranty on the tires you purchased from us in August 2016…

Because they’re used to using this formal voice, you’ll have to convince agents to loosen up. For example, if you want them to use contractions such as that’s and we’re, you will have to remind them that’s OK. In my writing training courses for Customer Service teams, I’ve had to convince agents that their brand voice would allow them to use:

You may be surprised at how fiercely agents resist a more casual brand voice. After all, that formal style is protective. It creates a distance that’s comfortable for agents when they have to tell a customer “No, we can’t do what you’re asking and we never will.”

Also, many agents perceive that a formal voice is more emphatic. They fear that a friendly tone will make them seem weak. Remind agents that giving customers a consistent experience makes them easier, not more difficult, to handle.

Remind agents that you’re asking them to write in your company’s brand voice, not their own voice.

[Bonus] For Startups: How to Begin Creating Your Brand Book and Template Library

If you’re a startup or company that’s growing quickly, it may be daunting to think about methodically writing a Brand Book or creating a template library. Start small by gathering any kind of brand voice-related information in a growing Brand-Book-esque shared document.

Think the same way about creating a library of customer service templates. The library can be pretty informal (Dropbox folder, anyone?) and still be very useful. You can finish your Brand Book and your template library “properly” when you have more staff or the pace of change has slowed down. Below are a few pointers to get you on the right path.:

Creating an ad-hoc Brand Book or Template Library

1. Gather brand book samples from other companies and fill in information for the various sections of your Brand Book as you acquire it.

2. Don’t be afraid to publish a draft of your Brand Book even if it has sections missing or “TBD.” It’s better for people to have some guidance than none.

3. Collaborate with your Social Media or Marketing team to create templates of answers for key service types:

4. Store the templates in an easy-to-find shared drive or CRM tool for your agents to access

You may never be able to close the glamor gap between Marketing and Customer Service. Marketing has hipster eyeglasses and ironic facial hair. Customer Service has standing desks and gift card incentive programs. But you should try to close the brand voice gap. We need to sound like we’re all from one company.

In our next post, we will provide tips on how to effectively manage social/mobile customer service (e.g., staffing, metrics, etc.)

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