“Mastery of language affords remarkable power”
In 2018, Stanford conducted a study on the impact of language on gender equality. Researchers found that even the most well-meaning phrases such as “girls are as good as boys at math” can perpetuate biases and stereotypes. It seems innocuous, but the sentence structure implies that boys have a natural ability in math. Interestingly, when the opposite was offered (“boys are as good as girls at math”), the outcome changed: participants were less likely to infer that boys have a natural ability in math. This demonstrates the power of sentence structure and how it can influence the way text is interpreted by the reader.
In short, how we say things matters, and in business, how we talk to customers really matters. We recently wrote about the challenges of launching Live Chat as a channel for your customers, and one of the concerns we hear about frequently is around transitioning established email macros and scripts (meant to be used as one-time robust responses) to the new chat channel that’s inherently designed to enable a more free-flowing conversation. This is of particular concern in heavily regulated industries such as Financial Services, where it’s critical that customer service agents only use approved language when dealing with delicate issues and topics with customers.
Some of you out there may be thinking: wait, what’s the problem with using existing macros? As we talk to CX leaders who’ve recently launched Live Chat, they’ve found that:
- Email macros are too long, and customers are often frustrated that these lengthy responses don’t address their specific questions or issues.
- Email macros tend to have canned apologies that seem insincere and lack the right positive language for the conversational flow in Live Chat, which turns customers off
- In Live Chat, customers tend to bring up more than one issue or concern during the conversation, and agents often struggle to answer the customer quickly and effectively when trying to piece together different macros to create a response – essentially they are slowed down by using macros
Key tips for effective, positive communication in live digital channels
We know there are key tactics to effectively handling conversations in customer service, especially in Live Chat: demonstrate responsiveness and empathy, take ownership of the issue and work quickly to resolve the issue.
In our work with our clients, we’ve also found certain approaches to handling these difficult conversations can generate better outcomes and higher customer satisfaction. When dealing with challenging issues, we’ve found the following formula works best:
- Validate the customer’s feelings. This first step is critical to de-escalating the conversation and is often missed. Taking the time to use positive language like “It makes absolute sense that you’d be frustrated since you were expecting to receive your shipment last week” can really make all the difference when dealing with a disappointed customer.
- Apologize and act. We’ve studied apologies and have found that the best apologies include an action statement outlining what steps will be taken to correct the problem.
- Offer an alternative. Sometimes there’s not a way to correct the customer’s problem – and that’s ok. In these scenarios, agents should focus on what they can offer (ex: a coupon for the future), instead of what they can’t (ex: a refund now). This helps keep the conversation positive and shows the customers that they matter.
Agents should also avoid complex or formal language that wouldn’t be used in day-to-day life. The way we talk to our customers should be no different than the way we talk to the people in our life that we care about.
Scaling best practice customer service language with an out of the box solution
Some organizations have tried to create effective scripts for Live Chat agents by repurposing phone scripts or email macros. What’s ultimately needed is a library of best practice customer service language, designed for Live Chat, and the ability to easily adjust that language based on what your customers are responding positively to.
Loris provides both through its language library, where you can see the language that Loris suggests to your agents based on the customer sentiment and tone, and you can adjust that language as you see fit. The Loris Customer Experience team will also partner with you to optimize the language based on what’s performing best with your customers.