Why Tone of Voice in Customer Service Matters Online

Tone of voice in customer service

Last Updated: December 2023

An upbeat tone of voice in customer service that conveys a genuine desire to help is critical to building a lasting relationship with customers. Don’t let the word ‘voice’ fool you. Tone does not apply to verbal conversations alone, it relates equally to any content you put out, including social media and blog content.

At its most basic, customer service is about helping a person discover answers to their problems-  including how they want to feel as a result of using your product. To become their preferred online store, the personality of your brand needs to shine through in every interaction.

Tone of Voice can be classified into four broad categories – serious or funny, casual or formal, irreverent or respectful, and factual or enthusiastic. It is critical for it to be consistent across channels. In time, customers will begin to relate to your brand on an emotional level which can eventually turn them into brand advocates or as marketing boffins would put it: Net Promoters.

It can be easy to confuse ‘voice’ and ‘tone’ as they are often used interchangeably. However, a simple way to differentiate between the two is this: You would normally associate a voice with a person, say a family member or work associate. In effect, the voice acquires a distinct identity in your mind.

The tone is how you feel when you hear their voice. In other words, the effect created by the inflections in someone’s voice becomes their tone.

Think about the times when you didn’t feel appreciated as a customer. The first thing that probably comes to mind is the quality of communication – the words that were used, the perceptible confidence or unease in the agent’s voice, and perhaps even the finer aspects such as rate of speech, intonation, verbal fillers, etc. Whether the agent was able to understand and empathize with your situation would have played a large role in your decision whether or not to buy from the same company again.

According to UCLA professor and non-verbal communication guru Albert Mehrabian, words only account for 7% of the meaning conveyed in a conversation. 38% of it comes from the tone of voice used.

To create rapport, a customer service rep needs to be aware of the feelings his words are evoking. After all, humans are emotive beings and it is virtually impossible to describe a problem without acknowledging how it made one feel.

How to model the right tone of voice

The right tone of voice for each customer interaction depends entirely on the type of customer you’re dealing with. Experts say that mirroring the customer’s tone can build instant rapport and put them into a more receptive state of mind. This can make it easier for customer support agents to overcome objections and to collaboratively find solutions for the customer.  Mentally summarizing the caller’s emotional state in a single word can help an agent to adapt his or her own voice to elicit a desirable reaction from the customer.

When it comes to website or marketing copy, it is critical to know who your audience is and what they expect from you. Building a customer persona – a make-believe character with the attributes of your ideal customer – is a good first step in deciding whether to have a formal or casual tone of voice.

Studies show that the brain processes words and emotions separately.  Words are processed by the logical left and right brain while the creative right brain is associated with tone and emotion. 

It is also vital that the context fits the tone of voice used, especially when it comes to marketing or website copy. For example, a Call to Action inviting website visitors to sign up for a monthly newsletter should clearly answer the ‘What is in it for me?’ paradigm. A clear value proposition is essential to drive customers to take action.

Here’s why getting the tone of voice right matters for your business:

Makes you relatable

CRM-Specialist-GrooveFor e-commerce stores, a friendly and knowledgeable tone of voice can drive sales and engagement. Using everyday language makes it easier for customers to quickly identify why your product is worth buying. It can help you create an engaging narrative around your product rather than just give readers a bland summary of its features

Interestingly, a study by CRM specialist Groove found that 65% of customers preferred a casual tone of voice. This explains why ‘humanizing’ online content is helping brands build context, driving authentic conversations with customers.

Pro tip: Use playful words and provide real-life examples to keep customers engaged.

Makes you trustworthy

Shoppers buy products not only for the utility they provide but also because they share the same values that a brand represents. To build a genuine relationship based on trust, you need a tone of voice that is consistent throughout the customer journey. Skip overselling or making promises to customers that you cannot keep in terms of features or prices. Avoid the use of marketing terms that the average joe would have trouble understanding.

Even if you’re facing severe delays with your shipping or delays due to out of stock items (as many businesses operating during COVID-19 lockdown have been), be honest and upfront with the customers. Let them know the exact situation on the ground and what you’re doing to help them. As soon as you notice a problem, be proactive in reaching out to your customers, NOT reactive. This will help you score extra brownie points even during a catastrophe.

Pro tip: Be honest and direct, take ownership of any problems and demonstrate solutions.

Builds credibility

Unlike in the past, shoppers will have thoroughly researched your product and compared it with your competitors before making a purchase. This is where choosing between a professional voice or a human (friendly, casual etc) is most critical. If yours is a specialty niche or when writing product safety guidelines, a professional matter-of-fact tone is required to ensure correct interpretation.

On the other hand, if you sell general use products and want to create a personal connection with your audience, a casual tone may work best..It can help you come across as authentic to the customer. Moreover, the average closing time for a sale can be reduced when you earn credibility in the minds of your target audience, increasing the potential for repeat sales.

Pro tip: Use words that reflect experience, authority, and value.

Helps you create a distinct identity

What is so different about an average brand and an icon like Tesla or Apple? Their founders are true champions of innovation and stagecraft. Steve Jobs exuded a charisma that is unmatched to this day. He had a way with audiences, leaving them eager to lap up anything he had to say. A passionate or quirky tone of voice can help your store create a distinct identity and create a rapport that will help you engage your audience without reading from the same tired marketing script as the rest of the competition.

Pro tip: Be distinctive in your views, compare and contrast different ideas, and question the status quo.

Increases revenue

A-survey-by-LucidPressThe tone of voice also has implications on the revenue you generate. A LucidPress survey found that brands can make up to 23% more money if they maintain a consistent tone of voice across channels. Depending on whether you want to have a professional, friendly, or playful brand image, the corresponding tone of voice – formal, casual or irreverent – will attract customers that resonate most with the messaging.

Regardless of whether your products are in the premium or affordable category, a sales copy that is simple and gets to the point quickly is ideal for product descriptions and FAQ pages.

If you get the tone wrong on your customer service communication, for example, your customer service team may have to deal with a barrage of calls or emails from customers who might potentially find you inconsiderate. During peak shopping season, the right tone of voice can even help reduce WISMO or Where Is My Order queries, letting you focus on giving customers a better quality of service.

An honest and direct tone of voice can help you inform, educate, and entertain your audience. Sales and revenue will then be a natural outcome. For example, if you sell fitness products like resistance bands and want to speak to the health needs of customers, demonstrate that you value health and well-being by adopting a tone of voice that is personal and empowering. A crisp, formal tone of voice may be at odds with the customer relationship outcomes – in other words, repeat business and referral – you want to create.

That is why distilling the DOs and DON’Ts of tone of voice into a one-page style guide is so crucial. 

Also read:10 Best Customer Service Automation Software For Your Business

Final Words:

One of the simplest ways to help your team create web copy or customer support scripts consistent with your preferred tone of voice is doing a quick roleplay, putting them in the customer’s shoes. The key question to ask is: How do we want to sound? It is also important to know what you do not want to sound like. When in doubt, look at your mission statement for clues. If you don’t have one, check customer comments on your social media or blogs for the words they use to describe your brand. Know what makes you different and use it to your advantage.

A great tone of voice can put customers at ease and drive sales and engagement. However, they could feel rushed if you’re short on staff, giving them a less than favorable impression of your store.

As a customer support outsourcing specialist, Helplama has helped small businesses and online entrepreneurs stay on top of the competition by delivering superior service. We take care of your customer service process from start to finish so that you can focus on what you do best. With flexible pricing plans and fully managed training, Helplama gives you the biggest bang for your buck. What’s more, you’re covered under our 100% zero risk guarantee on signing up. Call us today!

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