Which? best and worst brands for service – 5 spoken tone tips to keep you top of the league

It’s that time of year again. Service managers and directors across the UK are under even more pressure as Which? publish the results of their annual survey revealing the best and worst brands and call centres for customer service.

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Shoppers’ top 3 service likes    Source: Which? May 2015Looking at the results, ‘friendly and helpful staff’ topped the list of shoppers’ likes, followed by ‘knowledge of the product or service’ and ‘speed of service’.

When it comes to sounding friendly and helpful, tone of voice (how things are said) is key in communicating attitudes and emotions. A small change in pitch, intonation or pace can make a real difference to customer satisfaction and can even influence first call resolution.

Coaching and managing tone can seem a bit of a grey area, so I’ve got five quick tips to help your advisors ‘set the right tone’:

1. Warmth and empathy – call it a cliché, but it’s so true . . . you can hear a smile. One useful exercise is to ask advisors to record themselves (on their smartphone) talking about something they’re passionate about. And, then to record themselves speaking about something they really dislike. Listen out for tonal variations – warmth and engagement versus tension and coldness in the voice. Introducing yourself with your first name when you answer a call also shows a willingness to be accountable and friendly.

2. Confidence – using fillers like “err” and “um” or words such as “could” and “should” give a feeling of uncertainty which can lead to a call back. Be exact wherever possible, for example “you’ll get your policy documents through in the next 10 days” rather than “you should receive your policy documents in the next few days”. And, “we’re here from 9am to 5pm” instead of “we’re here all day”.

3. Clarity – think about volume, pace and articulation to make it easy for a customer to understand you. Avoid using company jargon and watch out for department names like ‘The Retentions Team’, which means something to you, but nothing to your callers.

4. Positivity – in the words of the song “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive”, focus on what can be done – not what can’t. It’s worth getting advisors to come up with a list of the questions or topics they find challenging or uncomfortable to answer and create a simple desk top reference guide of positive responses.

5. Adaptability – customers have different needs so it’s useful to be able to adapt your tone. Some want a call completed quickly and will appreciate concise language and a brisk pace. Others will be happier to chat and prefer more detail and discussion.

Our Improving service with advisor tone – 1 day workshop is a great starting point and a fun, interactive way for trainers, managers and even advisors to quickly learn about the benefits of developing tone as well as new techniques and skills.

Janina Heron