I was having a drink with a mate a couple of days ago. He’s just landed a new job in corporate comms, making sure that no-one infringes his organisation’s brand guidelines. In other words (as I gleefully told him) he’s sold out and joined the Corporate Style Police.
After a bit more ribbing, I asked what he did about tone of voice for his Customer Services teams? How did he make sure all the customer communication matched the brand? What did he do about tone of voice in things like statements, invoices, customer complaints and compliance material? What training did he give the Call Centre teams on tone of voice?
Customers want you to sound human - not like a robot
He looked at me blankly (and I suspect four pints of Hooky weren’t wholly to blame). He’d not even thought about it. No remit. There was plenty in his organisation’s brand guidelines about how everything should look, but nothing about how it should sound apart from a few vague phrases about ‘active language’ that everyone ignores. So the thousands of customer letters, emails and complaint responses all sounded - he thought - like a cross between a traffic policeman and the taxman.
For customers, it's how you say it that matters
It’s odd that tone of voice – the way an organisation sounds – should be so far behind brand ID. They’ve got the same aims, after all. And they’re both equally important. In fact, your brand tone is probably more important, simply because your customers see more of it, particularly once they’ve bought. Think of all those customer service letters. When was the last time any of those went to the Corporate Style Police for a check-over? Who’s in charge of making sure all your customer comms have a consistent, brand-aligned tone of voice.
People look at your brand writing – on your website, in letters and e-mails and texts – for instruction, but also reassurance. They want to know that the brand they’ve bought into is real. That you’ll live up to the promises you’ve made. Your brand language needs to build authenticity and humanity. That’s what, in turn, builds trust & loyalty in what you say and the things you do.
And that's why it needs to run through everything you send your customers.
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