My working life is a Venn diagram of branding, customer service and social media, and proving to people that verbal identity occupies the overlap in the middle.

I’ve spent long hours into the night  self-teaching, reading technical journals, but seeing little role for copywriting or tone of voice in the Customer Service theology. Instead, mid-sentence I find a glut of inappropriate capital letters and TLAs about NPS and FCR values.

Then, there’s this beauty from Harvard Business Review, http://hbr.org/2010/07/stop-trying-to-delight-your-customers/ar/1

Despite introducing another TLA, this paper also proposes a fundamentally anarchic thought in the world of Customer Service: stop trying to make pissed-off customers happy. Instead of throwing money, free shipping and free months’ line rental at them because you screwed up, shrug and move on.

You can spend your money more wisely by setting things up so the next customer won’t end up in the same situation.

It might just be of course that in the modern world there’s no amount of money that a brand can spend that will make up for the fact that I lost an hour of my life on hold to a Manila call centre. But after looking at 75,000 people who’d interacted with different call-centres, the article does find evidence to do things differently:

Anticipate the need for follow-up calls. Bell Canada sales team now gives customers a quick tutorial on how to use a new feature, on the phone, when they order it – not a week later when they call back because they’ve been struggling with it on their own and are completely pissed-off.

Minimize the need for your customers to switch channels to fix a problem: if they’re already shouting at you on Facebook because they’re unhappy, making them go to Twitter to tell you their account number is not going to make them happier.

Don’t value speed over quality. Unfortunately most call-centres (or ‘contact centres’ as they prefer to be known) say that a shorter average call time means the place is being more productive.  When an Australian telecoms provider eliminated all productivity measures, the average call time increased a little, but repeat calls fell by 58%

And finally, there’s something that lies plum centre of my verbal identity Venn diagram. The lighting company Osram Sylvania examined call transcripts and found that there was a significant correlation between certain words the rep used, and what happened next. It’s now used language skills to avoid the trigger words which lead to negative outcomes. Even better, a UK mortgage company teaches its reps how to listen for clues in the customer’s language which indicate whether they are talking to a “controller”, “thinker”, “feeler”, or “entertainer” – and then they tailor their conversation appropriately. This use of verbal identity has reduced repeat calls by 40%.

In the paper’s stats, it shows that amongst dissatisfied customers, the proportion who are likely to say something negative are twice the proportion of  satisfied customers who’ll say something positive.

It’s something I’ll bear in mind when I finish writing this evening and finally head home.