Author: Julien Rio, Head of Marketing at RingCentral Engage Digital
A crucial component of a brand’s identity is tone of voice. As part of a company’s communication materials, the formality and cadence of words are important to deliver your message to customers. Having consistency with a tone of voice becomes part of the identity and is essential for unifying communications.
Companies that communicate across a number of channels in written form are increasing quickly, particularly with the growth of digital. Developing a consistent tone of voice can support and strengthen this. Communicating by email is not the same as messaging and the new norms in the way we communicate reflect this.
The era of conversation is upon us and thanks to the advent of digital channels, messaging is now the primary focus. Gartner says that conversational interfaces "enable interactions between companies and customers. They mimic human dialogue and do so at scale." One of the major trends for businesses is the rise of conversational commerce, which allows customers to complete purchases within messaging apps.
The format of messages should be adapted to the norms of messaging apps: customers do not want to receive emails copied/pasted within a messaging app. Messages should be kept short and split into multiple blocks if they are long.
The conversational mode means that brands can get quick feedback, helping to send shorter messages. For example, instead of asking a long list of questions, they can send them progressively and adapt the flow to the customer’s answers.
A major advantage of messaging channels is the integration of features such as file sharing, live location, and voice messages. These are used in personal communications and streamline customer interactions. For example, when a customer is faced with a product issue, they can easily send a picture, instead of describing it.
Another common request is to find the closest branch (of a retail store, bank, restaurant). Rather than trying to find the address where it is and type it, the customer can simply press the live location button and the agent will then suggest the nearest location.
Messaging can display a welcome message (shown before the customer sends a request) or send automatic replies. These can be used to communicate the customer service opening hours or confirm the message reception, with the expected response time. These features help maintain the conversation and provide instant feedback.
While a less formal tone can be adopted on messaging channels, it should stay consistent with the brand identity. If a company is used to talking in a very formal way but uses a very casual tone on messaging channels, it will be confusing for customers. For example, when talking to a bank or luxury brand via messaging: customers will appreciate having a conversation with fewer formalities (simpler sentences, shorter greetings…) than via email, but they still expect a certain level of formality. They would probably be surprised if these brands were talking to them as if they are friends.
A good practice for defining the tone, that applies to any channel, is to keep in mind the target audience. If a business is only talking to Millenials, it makes sense to talk the same language as them, using their first name and emojis for example. Companies like McDonald’s are even developing this tone of voice in their advertising, by launching campaigns only based on emojis, to talk the same language as their target audience.
Agents are an essential part of any contact center and therefore they are the ones you need to help provide the right tone while aiding customers. In written communication on digital channels, they should be trained to know the different nuances that are used compared to talking on the phone. It is of great benefit in this instance, to employ agents with digital skills.
The real challenge is to train agents with a certain degree of empowerment. Companies need to implement the defined tone of voice with a balance of guidance and autonomy. The more natural the conversation flows between agent and customer, the more likely the relationship will strengthen. To do this, it is necessary to stay far from the obsolete practices of traditional channel management and move into the omni-digital age.
An essential part of messaging channels today is chatbots. On Facebook Messenger alone, there are more than 300,000 chatbots currently active.
Despite the fact, they are relatively new for customers. Brands should consider informing customers whether or not they are interacting with a chatbot. This makes sure that the customer experience is not diminished and confusion is avoided. Reinforcing this case is that 59% of customers want chatbots to make it clear that they are a bot. It is not uncommon for customers to receive a welcome message indicating that a bot is involved, by giving it a name and introducing itself as: "Hi, I’m M, your personal assistant".
It is important to keep in mind during the chatbot implementation, that customers will interact with both a chatbot and an agent within the same conversation. This means that the tone of each party should be aligned to some extent. For example, if an agent is using a casual tone, chatbots should adopt the same style of language.
Messaging for customer service requires companies to implement a number of changes to their strategy. These channels are a great possibility to strengthen the connection with customers, by being better aligned with their everyday habits. Rather than replicating processes from other channels, companies can take advantage of messaging specificities to maximize customer satisfaction and create more personal conversations.
About RingCentral, Inc.:
RingCentral is a publicly traded provider of cloud-based phone systems for businesses. It is headquartered in Belmont, California and has offices in Denver, Colorado; Manila, Philippines; Xiamen, China; St. Petersburg, Russia and Odessa Ukraine.
Published: Wednesday, March 18, 2020
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