Formal vs. Informal Customer Service: Which Voice is Best to Use?

For people who’ve been in the business world for a long time, it’s tempting to stick with straightforward, professional business speak. Unfortunately, when it comes to working with customers, this type of frank speech can harm your business more than help it. How do you know when to remain proper and when to loosen up a bit? It’s all about being in tune with your industry and your customer.

Parrot Their Speaking Style

How is the customer speaking (or e-mailing)? Are they loud and boisterous, quiet and reserved, formal or informal? A modest amount of mimicry can help you create a rapport with them. Just don’t overdo it or else it will come off as obvious that you’re copying their speaking style. Sometimes, you can get a feel for a speaking style before you even get on the phone. Certain industries tend to have specific levels of formality. Financial and legal services are generally more formal, for example, while creative services and Internet companies may lean towards the informal.

Drawbacks of Straight-Laced Customer Service

Formal speech can create the feeling of hierarchy, which may be fine in your corporate climate, but not when it comes to customer service. Consumers want to feel like they’re in charge. When it comes to a big business that the customer respects and admires, they want to feel like they’re an equal. Stuffy conversations create an, “I’m better than you,” atmosphere, which isn’t a great incentive to buy.

Persuasion That’s Undetectable

Let customer interactions unfold naturally. Instead of pushing the consumer to buy, lead them to a certain outcome. Sales agents and customer service reps have to think on their toes in order to guide the conversation based on the answers the customer gives. This is where informal speech comes into play. Speaking casually with a customer exhibits camaraderie and can sometimes uncover shared interests. Since you’re not speaking down to the customer, they’ll often feel motivated to make a purchase. Informal chatter gives the customer the feeling that they’re making decisions too, not just being told what to do.

Informal vs. Unprofessional

Remember, informal doesn’t have to be synonymous with unprofessional. “Casual” can still mean having all the answers, knowing the business inside and out, being organized and having in-depth knowledge. Just make sure to remain cheery – jokes and sarcasm can be easily misconstrued online.

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