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by Mary Saldago


Mar 13, 2021

The Tone of Voice: Why is it important in Customer Service?

The business world is very competitive, and providing excellent customer service can’t be stressed enough. The tone of voice plays a crucial role and can demonstrate your empathy, expertise, or any attribute you would like to project to your customers, and that will set you apart from the competition. It can make or break your business, can start arguments and broken relationships. You can also gain the influence, trust, and loyalty of your customers.

The tone of voice

Have you heard about the 7-38-55 Rule?

In 1967, UCLA psychology professor Albert Mehrabian conducted studies to understand the importance of non-verbal communication better. His research concluded a communication model consisting of three core elements:

the tone of voice diagram

Spoken words at 7% are the actual words you use. Verbal communication is interestingly only a small fraction of the model.  Non-verbal elements such as the tone of voice, intonation, and volume account for 38% of communication meaning.  Also, non-verbal, visual communication in body language – posture, facial expressions, and gestures, takes up more than half at 55%.

Often, tone, body language, and facial expressions play a huge role in our communications. Yes, it’s particularly true when we communicate in situations where understanding emotions and attitudes are crucial. That is why we see emails as less effective than telephone calls, which are less effective than video calls, which are less effective than meetings done face-to-face.

What tone of voice should customer service use?

What can we learn from the 7-38-55 Rule? Nonverbal cues play a significant role in communication, and it’s not always about what you say but how you say it.

In customer service, tone of voice is a critical factor in determining a positive or a negative experience in businesses – an unsatisfied customer or a long-term opportunity. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to tell what kind of tone will be preferred as it’s a case-by-case on various support situations.

Let’s examine customer service tone tips to give a positive experience and create potential long-term business opportunities.

Casual or Formal Tone?

As much as possible, speak as naturally as you can when communicating with a customer. In writing, loosening up a bit helps too. Too neutral of a tone would sometimes come across as disinterested, distant, or monotonous, which might put off some customers. Finding the right balance between friendliness and professionalism is vital.

the tone of voice diagram

A survey conducted by the consulting firm Software Advice says that 65% of customers across all ages and gender demographics prefer a casual tone over a formal one for customer service and writing style.

You should always take context into account.

A denied customer’s request is a different story. The preference shifts significantly, and another research suggests that 78% of customers would be dissatisfied if their requests were denied using a casual tone. On the contrary, if requests were granted in a formal tone, only 35% said it would impact their satisfaction. To summarize, in denying a request, it is advisable to say it in a formal tone, and if granting a request, it is best to say it in a casual tone.

the tone of voice diagram

With ample training on communication techniques and developing an ability to pick up on customers’ tone and mood, an agent will manage situations where one has to tailor his/her tone to each customer appropriately.

There are boundaries. Learn when to draw the line.

In the new-age digital era, emoticons [;P], emojis, and colloquialisms [lol, brb] are common in digital communication. But when is it considered too casual and crossing the line? Another survey presented 35% of the respondents feeling that emoticons were too informal. 26% said the same for colloquial words in services like email or live chat support.

A thoughtful approach to reading the situation will be needed. If the customer uses emoticons and so forth, feel free to mirror and respond as deemed appropriate.

What elements do customers find too formal? Some 17% find traditional greetings and closings too much to handle, and the honorifics and courtesy titles put off 14%.

How to perfect your customer service tone?

The thing is, there is no perfect formula for finding the best tone for customer service. You have to adapt your tone of voice to the situation. It’s more than enough to let your customer know that you are there to help them and offer solutions to whatever problems they have. Treat your customer with respect and a top-notch positive experience.

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