[HuffingtonPost.com] Why Tone and Language Make All the Difference in Customer Service

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On this subject, here is an article about customer facing: Tone and language are the building blocks to customer perception. They determine whether a customer walks away elated and raving about your service, or, if used poorly, confirm a commonplace and pervasive belief that most customer service nowadays is laughable at best.

How many of us are walking around saying, “Jeez, there’s just so much great customer service I don’t know what to do with myself.” No, instead it’s widely known how it feels to be disregarded and ignored.

The glass half-full perspective, however, says that a low bar gives us the change to exceed these low expectations — there is a sincere opportunity awaiting those companies willing to do what others won’t; to take their service seriously and surprise customers through a channel that has lost some of its luster.

Everyday businesses are turning their customers away with the wrong tone and language. These customers are looking for choices but are afraid of falling into yet another fruitless relationship.

This also happens to be a company’s greatest opportunity, because while everyone else is racing to the bottom, ignoring empathy and a human touch, this becomes a defining moment where the right tone and language can change hearts and minds, where they create more room for conversation. This is evermore important for online businesses, because smiles and body language are invisible. We express what’s ultimately missing through language and tone.

What People Were Saying in 1993 about Customer Service

In Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service, Harvey Mackay writes in the foreword:

“Since most service is awful, America is ripe for a revolution. Although we may not be following mission statements and wall posters, the recognition of the need for customer service is there. More and more, managers in individual organizations are zeroing in on customers, and their success stands as a beacon for others. Five to eight years ago, the quality wave was about to break over us. We discovered quality isn’t enough. Today the customer-service is swelling larger than the quality wave, and when it fully hits, those not prepared will be washed into history.”

He wrote this in 1993!

I empathize with those in the hospitality business. Repetitive habits begin as cobwebs but can end up as chains, making dull, automated behavior an easy trap to fall into—but it’s no excuse.

Excessive automation inhibits personalization, and it is still those ordinary moments which are most responsible for positive memories.

It doesn’t require lavish treatment. A customer’s potential recommendation is directly tied to the memory of how he or she was treated. The “extra mile” has become a trope in customer service, but that doesn’t change the fact that the smallest gesture can often cause the largest ripple. It takes a company-wide mindset to consistently deliver this value to customers, however.

To start building this mindset requires an appreciation of language itself and the understanding that even a single word can make a difference. Let’s dig into why language establishes expectations and why every word you use matters.

Words Move People

In 1996, Yale professor John Bargh conducted a fascinating study on the power of words.

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