Everyday the internet is full of blog posts that explain carefully and in detail what to say and what not to say. Among the most common suggestions when dealing with customers are:
Never say you are sorry.
Never say it’s your fault.
Never say no.
Never express impossibility.
All these suggestions might be quickly and easily summarized in a single line: “Always sound impersonal, never take responsibility”. How could this be the foundation for excellent customer service?
Imagine a supermarket where the cashier doesn’t always ask the same overused and scripted questions. Imagine calling a call center without being greeted by a bored, inexpressive voice. Imagine getting a mail where they explain in plain, simple words where the problem is with the product you are complaining about and how to solve it.
Imagine if we could talk to customers like we really mean it, without being tied down to scripts, policies, best practices, foggy formal words and marketing jargon: wouldn’t it be nice? But why can’t we?
Why can’t we use more natural language?
Many companies seem to have this feeling, that something horrible is bound to happen if they allow their customer service representatives to be personal and friendly: clients might think that agents are being impolite, the company might end up taking extra risk, or having to pay extra money, the agents might take too many liberties.
They talk about giving excellent support, yet they drop it in an impenetrable coat of very polite and very meaningless words that simply exasperate angry customers.
To avoid trouble most companies prefer to use business language instead of a more natural one: those vague and impersonal words will protect agents from making mistakes and taking responsibility. But it could also prevent customers from getting the right solution.
Also, it’s all part of a certain “culture”: if you are a professional, you must sound like a professional. Any personality is tagged as “non-corporate” and strictly forbidden: it might hurt the brand. We’ve all spent years optimizing our words to avoid potential problems with refund policies, legal actions, angry customers. We want to get personal with clients, but we’re afraid of the risk that will come from this.
Being superficial and impersonal is easy and risk-free… but “choosing to dig deep and say more, though, is where both risk and reward live” – Seth Godin
The power of trust
How can we stop this downward spiral of nonsensical jargon? With trust.
We must trust our agents, invest in their training and empower them to be personal and allow them to find their own solution to each and every problem that customers bring up. We must trust our customers, and really accept that if they have a problem it’s our fault and we must admit it. And we must trust our brand and believe that different personalities will bring it value and make it stronger.
A brand or a company isn’t made of ready-made scripts, lawyer approved policies and answering guidelines: a brand or a company is made of people, those who work in it and those who buy from it.
To allow agents and customers to connect freely, and in a natural way, is the essence of customer care at its deepest. Words are, of course, just the beginning: but it is a good place to start if we truly want to better communicate with our client base.
We must get rid of all the marketing, legal, foggy jargon that we are using as an armor and allow customers to see us naked and as we are.