Why “How You Sound” Matters to the Customer

Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/bearpark
Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/bearpark

How do you sound to the customer?

Customers are engaging your brand in more than one channel and especially on their phones. That means that the same customer might be talking to you on email, on Twitter, via phone, or in some other channel – at any moment. It’s important to consider how you sound to customers when they contact you. They react to what they hear and read, not just to what you meant when you said it or wrote it.

Increasingly, the best place to interact with that the customer is inside your native app. You’ve already got their attention if they are using your app, so why not consider that location a channel that’s just as important (or more so) than email, Twitter, or phone? How you sound when you interrupt your customer’s app use has to be friendly, informative, and useful.

Companies are struggling with who holds the brand's megaphone and impacts how the company sounds

Who is speaking for your company and how?

By using the term “How You Sound” I mean the words you use and how the experience feels to the customer (as if they were talking to you on a phone or in person). When you talk to the customer across different channels, that customer measures your performance by where you provide the worst experience. If you’re going to talk to customers in your app, on Email, via Phone, and by Twitter, the tone and message should be appropriate for that channel yet still seem like your brand.

You get to the goal of “How We Sound” by building the experience you want the customer to feel, and then by checking how it feels in each channel. You can do this by standardizing (and specializing) the content, and by setting up a workflow that allows for success in each channel. To use a programming metaphor, the subclass of each interaction channel might not implement service-specific methods, and you should always ensure that the prototype methods (contactMe() and IveGotAProblem()) are easy to find in every channel.

What matters most to “How You Sound”?

Most people instinctively feel that a brand should look consistent when you encounter it in a different medium – think of the logos we use and the color schemes that ensure that a web experience “feels” like the mobile experience as well – and have a harder time extrapolating that feeling to other parts of the service experience. They just know that something feels “wrong” or “unprofessional.”

Using a common language

The best method you have for ensuring a common experience is to use common nouns, verbs, and sentences in your service design. When you are referring to the customer, always use the same words. When you ask the customer to do something, use consistent nouns to describe the parts of your product or service. Customers will need to use these terms as a “grammar” to assemble the pieces of your service experience into the “sentences” that solve their problems. If they need to know how to “Add” a “User” to have the rights to view a “Filter” as a way of making sure a certain customer can see certain information, you need to make the procedure and steps to get this done really clear.

Using a common method of handling

Using common language is a great place to start in your service design when you want to make the experience consistent across channels. You should also think about the information you need in each channel to identify the customer, to understand what they need, and to tie their other contacts together.

When a customer contacts you on Twitter, you should already know that this is the same customer who has an open support case, or the same customer who bought a product or service from your company, and that you can respond to them in a channel-appropriate method.

What’s a channel-appropriate response?

This is a fancy way of saying that you shouldn’t share information in public channels (like Twitter) that people wouldn’t want to share. So while you might respond to someone’s request for help on Twitter with “Sorry to hear you’re having issues. We’ve got it – will follow up via dm or email,” you should limit the sending private information that the customer doesn’t want to make public.

And Don’t Cross the Streams unless the customer does it first. If the customer responds to you in email, they probably want a private response. On the other hand, they might send up a message flare on Twitter when they’d prefer that you pay attention to them RIGHT NOW. Use your best judgement and you should get close to the tone, speed, and privacy that your customer prefers. The customer who often emails you might be fine with a Twitter Direct Message if they’ve contacted you this way before; and if they’ve never Tweeted at you or DMed you, perhaps you should stick to email or phone.

What’s the Goal of “How We Sound”?

You want to deliver the confidence that the experience will feel the same to the customer (and to you) no matter what the contact method. Today you might be having conversations with the customer in channels called “Phone,” “Email,” and “Twitter.” Tomorrow the names of those channels might be a lot different, and might require different inputs (Smell-o-vision, anyone?) The interaction challenge will be the same.

When you respond in a way that feels consistent to the customer, you’re well positioned to add new interaction channels that sound the same, no matter where they appear. And that consistency and emotional experience is the thing that builds and reinforces your brand.

this post originally appeared on the Apptentive Blog.




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