In school, we’re taught to write in a professional manner. Nobody in grade school would think to use their real voice in an essay, even if that essay was an opinion piece. We write in one voice, text in another, talk on the phone in multiple voices depending on who we speak with. Sometimes at work or in business it can be easiest just to stick with writing professionally.
I don’t think that’s always the best case. Let’s face it, most businesses are formal with their clients and customers. If you pick up the phone and call your phone company, chances are they will answer the same way each time because they are likely scripted to do so. They have no chance to bring in their own voice, to sound human, to relate to you. Sure, they’re asked to be personal with the customer when the chance arises, but most large companies would rather not leave those conversations open to chance.
I have a friend who works in a call center for a large hotel chain. She is required to follow a point by point script. She is allowed to add in other items, but she must hit all of those points in her conversation. She tells me that most of the time, it’s impossible or just sounds strange to add in those points during a conversation with someone booking a room. If a manager listens to her call, she can get a warning for not following the script, even if she does book the reservation. (They are graded on the amount of reservations they book).
I get it. A huge company like that can’t possibly let it’s employees speak for themselves…..or can they? Take Zappos for instance. They revolutionized customer service and even made it a desirable job because they allow their employees autonomy when interacting with customers. This article from Business Insider shows the lengths the company goes to in order to please customers. Examples include sending flowers to a woman who had ordered 6 different pairs of shoes because her feet were damaged due to medical treatments. Another instance involved an agent who physically went to a competitor’s store to get shoes for a woman when Zappos had run out.
How do they provide such amazing customer service? They don’t use scripts! They realize that people want to talk to people. If you wanted to talk to someone reading a script, you might as well talk to an automated machine.
My friend despises her job. She has no say in anything, no authority to help customers. If people want more help than she is allowed to offer she has to transfer them to someone else. I told her about Zappos and she knows how great of an idea it would be for the company she works at. She sees customers calling all the time needing help but she has no ability to assist.
So why do companies still insist on having people speak like robots? My idea is that their afraid of what might happen. Companies like having control, they want to know exactly what their employees are supposed to be doing, and give them instructions on how to do it. Their is fear in giving your employees control like Zappos does. Sure, there is also the monetary point of view. Sending flowers to the customer cost money. And sometimes Zappos might lose money on a customer that they go out of their way to assist. But the end goal is that they are known for having customer service that beats any other competitor. All because they let their customer service reps use their own voice.
Now how can you use this in your business? No matter if you are a laundromat or a pizza place you can utilize this idea. You can start small, by writing in your own voice to your customers who post on your social media pages or write reviews. Don’t use canned responses for everything, people can find it disingenuous. Instead, spend some time writing personally to the customer. They took the time to write to you, so do them the same courtesy in your reply.
Next, start giving your employees more autonomy. You don’t have to go crazy if you’re still hesitant about the idea. Instead start slow. If your pizza delivery driver knows of a customer who orders every single week and has tons of gnomes in their yard, go get them one! It will surely put a smile on their face, and will benefit you as they will likely stay a customer for a long time. It’s little things like this that can help you create a loyal customer base AND stand out from the competition. This is increasingly important especially for those businesses in very crowded industries or those where your product or service can be seen as a commodity like a nail salon or plumber.
CEO of Zappos, Tony Hsieh, wrote a great book on his company called Delivering of Happiness. It’s all about corporate culture and how that can have a huge effect on your business. Happyfox.com has a list of 25 customer service books that I think you will enjoy. Start learning how you can get your customers raving about your business, by taking it a step above and beyond your competition.