"It's Not What You Say, but How You Say It!" The Importance of Voice in Customer Service.

Technology is advancing at an exponential rate. Only a few years ago you might have been expected to offer just one or two communication channels for your customers. But over the last decade we have seen the arrival of web chat, of customer forums, of smart phone apps and social networks.

With all this excitement you might be forgiven for thinking these new channels are going to reduce the number of calls you get on the traditional telephone in your contact centre. However, we believe the addition of these channels will actually drive an increase in voice calls as your customers see that you are more approachable, more personal and more human.

Communication is more than words

Have you heard of Albert Mehrabian? In 1967 he published two papers that looked at the relative contribution to communication of the words that were said, the tone of voice, and the body language of the speaker.

His study resulted in the famous 7%-38%-55% rule.

  • 7% is the words that you say
  • 38% is the tone of voice that you use
  • 55% is the body language and facial expressions that you use

Often this is summarised as "it's not what you say, but how you say it!"

Have you ever known you were about to receive bad news before your friend opened their mouth, or been excited about something just because of the look in their eye?

Newer channels rely on the words only

Customers will demand better communication

The majority of the newer channels that you are investigating are probably text based - customer forums, web chat or social networks. Each of these channels removes the tone of voice and the body language of the writer leaving you just with the words that are written.

Imagine a client whose order has been delayed because it was sent to the wrong address.

If you were sat in front of that customer you would subconsciously adopt a body language that said you were sorry. (In fact, I'm finding it very difficult to put that body language into words which I guess is the point")

On the phone you would lose the body language but still have the tone of voice. You'd focus on allowing silence whilst you listen to your customer, and providing a calm and collected voice in response.

On your text based channels you lose tone of voice as well leaving you just with the words. You might be saying exactly the same thing "Your order was shipped to the wrong address. We're sending a replacement" but it can easily appear cold and un-feeling. The client's response can suffer from the same interpretation and this can easily result in an escalated conversation as response after response are miscontrued.

When this conversation is then returned to a high touch channel like voice, video or face to face then it can be easy to diffuse a situation as you bring back tone of voice and body language.

Return of high touch communication

As your customers become amazing communicators with their friends and families via Skype and Google Hangouts the demand for high touch communication is going to increase rather than decrease.

The customer's cry "I just want to speak to someone" will endure, and perhaps be superseded by "I just want to see someone!" When considering new channels for your customer service offering be sure to review your voice channel as it is likely to receive higher volumes as you add in more ways for your customers to contact you.

Have you any examples of recovering a poor customer experience by picking up the phone? How do you prefer to communicate with your own suppliers?

We hope this post has been useful. If so please share with your network. For more information on how ContactWorld can improve the routing of calls into your contact centre just visit the ContactWorld page on our website.

Charlie Cowan
Charlie Cowan

Charlie is passionate about cloud computing and how it can help real businesses to run more profitably.

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