Author:Abbie Mandry

Black History Month – Time for Change

The theme for Black History Month this year is ‘Time for Change’. We interviewed one of our black voice artists Damian Lynch to talk about unconscious bias and how building awareness is the best way to stop this happening.

We’d love to tell you what we’ve learnt from Damian. As a company that works with voice artists daily, we asked him: ‘What are the challenges you’ve faced in doing voiceover work that you would share with up and coming black voice artists?’

Damian explained that ‘one challenge I’ve experienced is, when you’re in the recording booth, people ask you to sound more black, but they do it by asking ‘“Can you sound more street or urban?”.’ He told us that he used to take this to heart because he thought ‘well I am black – what do you mean I don’t sound black?’. ‘If it happens now, I push back. I ask ‘What do you mean when you say more urban and more street? I’m from London so I can sound more London if you want?’ In the end, they drop it, but I can see people squirm and, I think, how dare you imply that a black person can only sound one way, you know?’ He points out that this is a type of microaggression.

‘So, I think, younger people in the industry may well face that still, it’s not something I face as much anymore but if there’s even a hint of it, I just nip it in the bud straight away, I’m not having any of that.’

If you don’t know what microaggression is, it’s subtle, and often unintentional, discrimination. Like when a black person opens their mouth, people are surprised and they say, ‘Oh god, you’re really well spoken’. Damian replies with ‘Thank you, I think, but how did you expect me to sound? Like I was from the ghetto or something?’. He told us that when he’s had this debate with people, some will say “you know, it’s a compliment”. But you have to think, well if a white person spoke, and they had clear diction and sounded ‘well spoken’ would people be shocked and surprised?

This comes across to a black person as ‘Oh wow, you can string a sentence together’ and it becomes personal and offensive. Damian clarifies the reason this feels like microaggression is because this question is asked more often to a black person than a white person.

Another example that Damian gave, is when someone hears an accent they don’t recognise, like Scottish for example, they ask and the person says, ‘I’m from Glasgow’ and people accept that. However, on several occasions someone’s asked “Where are you from?” he’ll say London and will get a response like “Oh that’s great, but where are you really from?”. ‘They mean your skin colour is different to mine; so you must be foreign in some way, let’s see how far back we need to go to work out why you’re not British.’ People may not realise they’re being micro aggressive, but this is what it comes across as.

Just to recap the main takeaways. Microaggression and diversity/inclusivity is still a common issue worldwide. Damian has explained to us that more recently, things have improved but there’s still a way to go, so what can everyone do to work towards more change;

  • Learn: read up on these topics and read blogs like this one to learn what you can do to be more diverse and inclusive in your workplace.
  • Bring awareness to the situation: share information with colleagues, friends, and family, share Damian’s story! Think about what we’ve written about today, and whether that impacts you personally or people around you.
  • Think before you speak: as Damian said, a lot of the time people are unaware that what they’re saying that could really offend or upset someone, this is called unconscious bias. This is something that everyone needs to be thinking about – it may not feel offensive to you but it could have a strong impact on someone else.

To end this blog, we want to shout out our fantastic voice artist Damian Lynch who took the time to chat with us and tell his story. Damian has appeared on TV on The Split, Casualty and Coronation Street over the last 6 months. If you want to see him in action, he’ll be hitting the stage for ‘A Sherlock Carol’ at the Marylebone Theatre in London from mid-November to January 2023.

If you’re currently struggling with any of the topics we’ve spoken about today, head to Stop Hate UK or Black Lives Matter UK for support and/or further learning.

Shelter: Helping to give people a warm, safe home

According to Shelter, 6 million households are denied the right to a safe home or are threatened with losing it. There are 4,750 people sleeping on the streets on any given night. 90,000 households are stuck in unsuitable temporary accommodation, such as homeless hostels. This a rise of 38% in the last five years.

Shelter is a charity that supports people who are homeless or in an unsafe home, to get the advice, support, security and hope that they need. During the colder times, it’s crucial that they get help and donations, to ensure people aren’t sleeping on the streets in freezing temperatures. For every £1 they receive in donations, 79p is spent on helping people directly.

Over the past 2 years:

  • Shelter’s helpline team has advised 22,644 households
  • 18,590 households were seen by their face-to-face services
  • They had 19,170 webchat conversations
  • 6.5 million households visited their online advice and services pages

Our 3 Wise Christmas bots represent three essential tone of voice traits we know help good service communication – warm, human and empowering. Shelter represents all three, but we picked them as the charity that brings the gift of warmth.  

Shelter is warm because of the kindness the charity brings – the warmth, love and joy that gives and receives from human to human throughout the charity. It’s the selfless act of doing something to help make someone else’s life better and giving a family their Christmas. It’s the warm tears of happiness from families across the community. Not only the people who donate, volunteer and created Shelter, but also the families they’ve helped; it brings them warm food, a warm drink, a place that has heating, hot water, and a fireplace to stay toasty during the winter seasons. It’s having a smile back on their face, seeing their family and children happy, feeling comfortable, safe and protected and having someone there for them that cares. Having a warm bed, warm clothing and receiving and giving a warm hug.

Warm is giving people a place to call home.

We have a national homeless crisis. Winter in the UK reaches freezing point and sadly causes the most common and highest level of deaths for homeless people. At Christmas time, many of us spend hundreds on Christmas presents, and even £1 can help charities like Shelter help people have somewhere safe to call home and save lives.

If you would like to join us in spreading the gift of warmth this Christmas, please donate to Shelter. Please stay warm and safe yourself and have a wonderful Christmas and a happy new year.

Energy Price Rise: Reassuring customers worried about their energy debt

On the back of the energy price rise crisis, consumers are now panicking about whether they can switch whilst in debt and what will happen if they can’t get an energy provider. This continues to drive demand for answers from energy suppliers … putting more pressure on customer-facing teams.

The key issue is for customers whose supplier goes bust; will any new supplier allow them to transfer over if they’re in debt?

Policies and onboarding new customers could vary between suppliers, but the general ‘rules’ seem to be supportive of consumers whose supplier has gone out of business – subject to policies about the size and age of their energy debt.

So how do you stop the demand on agents from existing customers, or potential new ones – who want reassurance and help from advisors?

Build more reassurance into digital and written comms and channels.

  1. Make it clear, concise, caring and confident

When reassuring customers and communicating in difficult times, stick to the 4 Cs:

  • Make things as simple and clear as possible to your audience: Break things down into bite-size pieces of info. Be clear and straightforward – ‘this is the issue, this is what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, and here is how it benefits or helps you’. Don’t use jargon – customers won’t understand and will end up getting more confused and frustrated.
  • Be concise: Bullet point information, adding in the key ‘must haves’, ideally in bold for a quick understanding.
  • Be caring: Show empathy… come at it from a customer’s point of view… show that you’re listening and can understand the customer’s troubles. Be sympathetic, show kindness and use positive language such as ‘help’, ‘fast’ and ‘easy’.
  • Show confidence: Be straight-to-the-point. Avoid hedge words such as ‘approximately’, ‘might, ‘possibly’ as this implies doubt.
  1. Use more active language
  • Active language will also help, as it’s more personal and fosters connections. Whereas passive language is more robotic and has no personal relation.
  • Active language: ‘We’ll send your bill to you’


  • Passive language: ‘Your bill will be sent out to you’
  1. Make policies clear and accessible on digital channels
  • What’s your policy on taking on customers with debt? Is it clear and visible from the homepage or your app?
  • Make banners and online links specific to different customer groups e.g. ‘Customers with debt older than 28 days’, ‘Customers with prepayment meters’
  • FAQs: Have a clear section about ‘taking on customers in debt’
  • Adopt a simple FAQs bot to deliver facts and answers in an easy, conversational style
  1. Optimise social media for service
  • Ensure your social teams know the rules and policies relating to customers in debt and arm them with the relevant URLs, to quickly steer customers to specific, online help
  • Build empathy – ensure your social teams understand the different circumstances and situations consumers might be in, so they can respond accordingly
  • Prioritise tone of voice training so that teams can flex styles and tone to fit the situation – more sympathetic, reassuring and understanding
  1. Make your IVR take on some of the load
  • Start the IVR with a reassuring alert message to pull potential new customers to the relevant online help  
  • Manage expectations by being clear about ‘our advisors here on the phone’ can and can’t help with
  • Prep callers for the call, by telling them what information they’ll need to have to hand e.g. ‘current bill details’, ‘information relating to your debt and household bills’
  • Keep alerts up to date and check in with advisors to see that the IVR is working effectively
  • Don’t be tempted to add long-winded info and policy messages into the IVR. Human brains can only take on so much information in voice messages, and none of us are good listeners when we’re stressed or anxious.

For more ideas and information, drop me a line at



Energy Price Cap: 5 ways to help customers

On October 1st, the energy price cap will jump by 12%, costing millions of households £1,277 per year (on typical use).

This increase – combined with chaos in the utility sector, which has already seen seven energy suppliers going out of business – is driving consumers to contact their suppliers; for reassurance, better deals and payment solutions.

While the contact is unavoidable, there are ways energy firms can use existing channels and communications to help give customers information and take the pressure off front-line teams. Here’s our top five:

1. IVR: Add an alert message to the top of your IVR and change it daily

Having a clear, reassuring message at the top of your IVR is your best opportunity to acknowledge your customers and their needs, at a critical point of contact.


  • Tone of voice: Calm and reassuring – empathise
  • Keep your message short – 20 seconds max
  • Make it clear how and where customers can access help
  • Use positive sentiment – ‘best place… fastest… help’ etc
  • Avoid long URLs. It’s better to say ‘go to and search ‘best tariffs’ in the search bar’
  • Set expectations about what advisors ‘here on the phone’ can help with
  • Update your message daily, so that it clearly addresses anything you know customers are hearing in the news

2. IVR: Tell callers the best way they can access your cheapest tariffs

If your cheapest tariffs need to be bought online, use a helpful deflection message to steer customers there. This will help drive happy hang ups and in return, reduce both queue build-up and AHT.

Customer success: This week, we helped one of our energy clients reduce calls to agents by 29%. Just with one simple IVR deflection, that promoted online tariffs and help, right at the top of the IVR.

3. Online: Add a banner to the top of your home page

Adding a banner alert to the top of your homepage is the simplest and easiest way to show customers they can access information online about the price cap and how to get to your best tariffs. This will keep customers in the digital channel, by giving them information and links to everything they need help with.

4. Social media: Give your Social Team good scripts to tackle any service problems

It’s inevitable that some customers will hit social media. To keep stress levels down, give your Social Team scripts that answer key customer questions about your service – put the emphasis on service communication, over more typical marketing and social promotion.  

Ensure your Social advisors know how to:

  • Empathise and say sorry
  • Set expectations about how they can help (or not)
  • Share the best days and times to call or chat with your contact centre
  • Frame online help, apps and URLs in the most appropriate way
  • Steer customers to the best tariffs

5. Chatbot: Get a simple FAQs bot live, to answer questions and promote the best tariffs

FAQ helper bots are brilliant at answering simple questions. They can often be the fastest way customers can get both answers and reassurance. As long as you keep bot conversations simple and straightforward and prioritise getting customers fast answers, you can keep your customers in the digital channel.

If you want more ideas, get in touch with the team via

Telcos: Communicate the Mazaru Way

According to 10 Customer Service Facts That Would Blow Your Mind – CXService360 – Customer Service Articles, Stories and more; Zappos employee Steven Weinstein holds the record for the world’s longest customer service call at 10 hours, 43 minutes. Could you stay with your customer that long?

Sybil (a friend of Daniel’s) has given us some great insight on a customer service issue she experienced with a Telco. Sybil explained that she was trying to call them up, she was on the call for a very long time and kept getting passed on to different advisors. In the end, Sybil gave up and said that it had ‘ruined her life’ and she ‘will be switching providers once her contract ends’.

I researched the Telco market to see what we could do and discovered that there’s quite a large customer communications problem. This negative feedback is being projected on social media! Social media is such a huge platform and people read EVERY comment, this is the same with online reviews and this is why we want to help Telco companies to move their customers from public reviews to online, discreet feedback.

But how do we do that?

We help the world have conversations – human to human, human to bot, or bot to human we can do it (although these conversations don’t take 10 hours and they always put the customer first). ‘The first rule of social media is that everything changes all the time. What won’t change is the community’s desire to network’ – this goes for everything in customer communications too.

Having worked with different Telcos including Sky, Virgin Media, EE, TalkTalk, Vodafone (across different channels and platforms), these are the some of the positive results we’ve achieved:

  • Operating cost savings of £1 million
  • Improved bot conversations to reduce calls by 20% boost self-service by 10%
  • Improved IVR, natural language self-service containment by 54% (although with one application we got up to 77% against a target of 32%!)
  • Improve customer satisfaction and the overall quality of digital experiences

Quick tip – one great way to improve your customer satisfaction across social media is to ensure that you respond to your customers in a reassuring and responsive way.

If you’re a telco reading this, we’d love to help you with your customer communications and channels to help you save money and get better customer feedback! ‘Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try’ Positive Message – St. Francis (

Shout hello – or head over to our social media platforms where we can have a chat over there! We’d love to hear from you!

About me ….

Hey guys!

This is my first blog post with many more to come. I’m Abbie, I am 18 years old and I am Mazaru’s Social Sensei (social media executive in professional terms).

My job role is to communicate, create brilliant and interesting conversations on social media, create content for our socials and many more cool tasks. I am a loud, bubbly and confident person who loves a chat, super interested in editing and creating content and doing anything and everything creative. I cannot wait to interact with you all, our customers and clients on social and start creating great conversations with you all!

Catch you on our socials!

Abbie 🙂

Black lives matter: Why we need more conversations about colour

At a time when the world needs black voices more than ever, how can we help drive equality across voice tech?  

If you ask Siri, Alexa or Google whether black lives matter, they’ll tell you they do. They’ll even counter the common ‘all lives matter’ refrain and might even point you towards the proof online. But are the middle-class, North American voices they use part of the problem? What about the voices you hear in IVRs and voice bots across contact centres? 

When it comes to choosing voice talent or creating a human-like digital voice, there are many considerations. Does the voice sound trustworthy? Likeable? Is it energetic and engaging enough? Regional accents and dialects will be considered based on their perceived friendliness and relatability. Ethnicity rarely plays a part, if at all. 

While race isn’t a defining factor in any of the above criteria, voice-based communications aren’t colour blind. As with many areas of life, black voices are woefully under represented.  

Research into voice preferences generally focuses on male or female, real or synthetic and high or low pitch. For example, the pitch of a woman’s own voice predicts their preference for masculinity in men’s voices. Both men and women prefer a female-gendered synthetic voice.

But data isn’t always the deciding factor.

Because the final say on voice casting and synthetic voice development is often made by senior stakeholders, inequality within organisations has likely played a role in the proliferation of white voices in these areas. As has been historically true of corporate recruitment and career advancement, white executives are often more likely to choose the familiar. The voices that sound like their friends and family. As a result, unconscious bias has served to deliver white voices for white people.

And that bias, is a key factor.

Stanford University research in 2019 identified that voice recognition tools from companies including Google, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft find it harder to understand black voices. Innovation moves at light speed in Silicon Valley, but this is likely the result of such systems historically being ‘taught’ by white voices, with a lack of diversity present in the samples analysed by their algorithms.

These unintentional yet impactful actions are at the root of the diversity challenges the world faces. Across all business areas, more must be done to counter hidden prejudices and drive equality beyond a simple box-ticking exercise.

Our sector has a key role to play.

Mazaru and others like us can mobilise to help counter these underlying trends and act to drive better representation for black voices in voice tech. This will ultimately help the brands we support to do the same.

We, as an agency and a sector, need to think more about what we’re overlooking and what we can do to effect change.

In January – pre-pandemic and ahead of the death of George Floyd – we were in the last stages of delivering a CX project for a global travel brand. This included finding a new voice for their IVR. We had pitched a young, talented voice artist – he was a perfect fit for the brand, their customers and their ethos. He was also the first black voice artist we’ve seen selected for a big brand IVR project. It’s a shocking fact that serves to highlight just how much work there is to do.

If business as usual means a lack of diversity, traditional approaches need to change.

Our internal discussions are on-going, but as first steps these are some of the actions we at Mazaru will be taking to help drive change:

  • Build up our portfolio of black voice artists to ensure more equal representation across digital and voice tech.
  • Have conversations with black voice artists – understand more about the specific blockers they face in seeking work and what they need from us to support them.
  • Initiate conversations with clients, to help them be more diverse in their use of voice talent in digital conversations.

We don’t want to end things there. We want to help drive change much faster.

Our internal conversations about BLM have generated more questions than answers.
We believe those conversations should continue beyond our walls, to ensure the action we take is fast, impactful and permanent.

With that in mind, we want to hear from you:

  • What initiatives do you have underway, to help all of us hear more black voices across our sector?
  • What do you need to see from agencies like Mazaru, to help drive more equality in the use of voice talent in voice bots and IVRs?
  • What questions do you have and how can we collaborate to find answers and drive change faster?

These are challenges that can’t be solved overnight, but must be dealt with at speed.
Social media only has so much patience and t-shirts and slogans will only get us so far.

By working together, we can keep racial inequality front of mind and a part of all our conversations.

Drop me a line at, I would love to hear your thoughts.

Coronavirus: 5 ways we can help today

With things changing hour-by-hour, we know that you’re feeling the strain across your organisation now. Worried customers need your support and that’s putting pressure on your frontline teams. Conversations are getting tricky and contact has soared.

We can help
We can act fast – within the hour. Here are 5 ways we’ve helped our clients: 

  • Manage Demand – Tactical IVR deflection messages can have huge impact, fast.
    Here are 3 results we’ve delivered to clients with immediate results:
    HMRC: 2,000 hits to YouTube (to self-help videos)
    John Lewis: 27% less calls to agents (hang-ups & callers ‘flipping’ to digital)
    UCAS: 53% less calls to agents (better take up of digital channels)
  • Setting realistic expectations – Stick to absolute facts, and update them frequently.
    We’ve created simple messages upfront, to explain the types of query organisations are able to deal with over the phone at the moment – you need a clear, straightforward tone.
  • Getting customers to use other channels, fast – We’ve helped a client prepare to have most agents working at home. Our deflection message will encourage customers to use chat, explaining how to get access and the help they’ll receive.  
  • Online FAQs – Getting the right information online has been a real priority.
    Our customers have asked us to help create clear, transparent and honest messages, that won’t generate more calls.
  • Reassurance – Anxious customers want answers and reassurance.
    Many companies have asked for our tips to communicate with empathy while reassuring customers that they remain their top priority.

If you need to support your customers differently, get in touch now. We can help you get something live, within the hour.

Call us now on 0330 123 9930, text us on 07710 032 275, or email

Helping the world have great conversations, this Christmas

We hope you’ve had a great 2019.

We’ve enjoyed a year of creating content to empower people to have great conversations, all over the world.

(Watch in full screen)

Whether it’s actionable exercises to bring tone of voice to life, comms re-writes to personalise the customer experience or webchat training to build advisor confidence, our content has had an impact, far and wide.

What are your challenges for 2020? If you’d like to improve your conversations with customers, to wisely cut contact and improve sales and CSat in the process, drop us a line at, wherever you are in the world.

5 small changes: Ways to get more, from the things you already have

With pressure increasing on organisations to cut costs and improve service contact, it sometimes feels like the only answer is to invest in sexy, new digital or AI-enabled tech. But you might be missing a trick, if you rule out making more from what you already have – your people, as well as your tech.  

Here are 5 ways we’ve helped clients push CSat up, increase sales or reduce contact… by helping these organisations have better conversations with their customers, without making big investments in new tech.

1. Build more rapport and empathy into phone conversations, to push CSat up 

We helped National Trust push CSat scores up, by helping their outsourced, front-line teams build emotional connections with new customers.  

How we did it:
Developed some simple, light-touch, actionable exercises… helping agents bring the Trust’s tone of voice to life, in calls. Exercises are geared to help everyone get clear on what rapport really is and in turn, find easy ways to develop it (and have more of it!), in joiner conversations. 

2. Cut calls and retain more customers by saying less (and less often) in emails, letters and white mail  

We’re helping this energy company streamline joiner and leaver comms, to cut frustrating contact and improve retention.  

How we’re doing it: 
For this utility, nearly 25% of total calls were being generated by their leaver comms alone. Retention opportunities were being stifled, with customers looking for clarity on refunds and exit fees. These are the key elements of our approach, geared to getting better outcomes for this client and their customers: 

  • Review comms as ‘end-to-end journeys’ rather than individual emails, letters or print. Explore the dates and times customers receive comms to consolidate and cut anything that ultimately doesn’t help the customer 
  • Make comms specific and personalised e.g. ‘As you pay by direct debit…’ reflects a knowledge of the customer. ‘If you pay by direct debit…’ doesn’t 
  • Create Guiding Principles, that apply to everything. This maintains a rigour and consistency around ‘how we talk’ to customers (regardless of who sends the communication, or what form it takes)  
  • Use simple, everyday language and positive sentiment, to demystify financial terms and processes (and make them less scary). The harder it is for customers to understand, the much more likely they are to contact you for clarity or reassurance  
  • Consider the ‘best channel’ for the customer’s call-to-action. In this case, we signposted customers to webchat; it’s good for sharing links, help videos and giving customers detail they can refer back to at a later date  

3. Reduce calls to agents by using the IVR to set and manage customer expectations (with simple, friendly words and tone) 

We streamlined this High Street Retailer’s IVR experience, and reduced calls going to agents by a whopping 27%. 

How we did it: 
It’s tempting to use an IVR to ‘inform and promote’ – which is a fancy way of saying ‘get the machine to tell customers lots of stuff’. But you can get much better performance out of an IVR, by keeping things very simple. Treating the IVR as a bridge to get customers to ‘service’, and messages as signs on that bridge to help get them there, with minimal effort.  

For this retailer, we used messages at the top of the IVR to sign-post the best, quickest and easiest ways to get service (resulting in 18% of callers getting what they needed and opting to hang up). And messages lower down through the IVR to promote the benefits of digital service (resulting in a further 9% choosing to ‘flip over’ to a new digital, SMS (async messaging) channel.  

4. Use webchat time to get to know customers a little better (to find ways to help them and grease the wheels for easier sales conversations) 

We’re helping Dyson build sales-through-service confidence, in everyday webchat conversations.  

The definition of chat is ‘to talk in a friendly and informal way’, so it makes sense to help advisors find ways to use webchat time, to get to know customers a little better and apply a little bit of Dyson ‘everyday problem solving’.  

How we’re doing it:
Like most frontline teams, Dyson’s chat advisors already have great product and communication skills to build on. Our role is to find small, simple, fast ways to help advisors uncover customer needs from the offset and have natural, easy sales conversations. 

5. Spend time with frontline teams – listen to calls, observe chat and email contact, talk to advisors and get a real picture of what’s happening across and within channels 

Spending time on (and with) the frontline is one of the best investments you can make.  

In the 4 examples detailed above, our first step was do exactly that. It’s the most effective way of getting a picture of who customers are, what they want and what’s getting in the way for them (and your customer-facing people).  

If you’re looking for simple, actionable ideas to wisely cut contact and improve sales and CSat in the process, drop us a line at