It doesn’t really matter who writes the column at this point. When you reach out to Miss Manners, you pretty much know the customer experience you’re going to get.
You ask a question, and Miss Manners will either sympathize and validate your feelings, or she’ll take you to task for failing to see a challenging situation for what it is. Sometimes she does both.
Given that most of us can now query our friends and family through social media, I hadn’t given Miss Manners much thought in a while. Then, amid my usual look online for all things customer experience (CX), I came across a letter to her that was published in the Oregonian.
The “gentle reader,” who remained anonymous, wondered why so many customer service interactions had agents being overly “chirpy” and using phases like “Perfect” and “That’s a good question” as they work through their queue.
Miss Manners encouraged the gentle reader to be tolerant, but she admitted to finding such phrases grating too:
“Perfect” is one of several unwarranted superlatives in common use. Miss Manners finds “amazing” and “incredible” even more annoying when applied to unsurprising, perfectly believable actions.
It wasn’t covered by Miss Manners, but the same kind of thing seems to be coming up a lot as brands try to enhance their CX through self-service technologies.
I’ve gotten a lot of “amazings” and “perfects” through chatbots, for instance, and have no trouble seeing these words for what they are: attempts to fill in time while the system turns to AI or some kind of knowledge base to craft a response.
Watch your tone
As someone who provides a lot of content marketing services, I’ve had all kinds of clients share what they call their “brand voice and tone” guidelines with me. The idea is to make sure I write in a way that sounds like their organization.
There’s just one problem: all those brand voice and tone guidelines are usually exactly the same. Every firm wants to come across as authoritative but positive. Cheerful and also helpful.
“Chirpy,” in other words.
Alternatives to ‘That’s a great question’
It would be interesting if more brands developed such guidelines specifically for use in customer service.
Perhaps there the tone should be more soothing, even rueful in some cases.
There might be a need to replace “Perfect” when someone gives their account information with, “I realize we should already know who you are since you’re already a customer.”
Try this: If your company has brand voice and tone guidelines, take a look through and see if they are not only a fit for marketing but other moments along the customer journey.
If not, you may be creating a bad impression with the people whose investment keeps your business running.
And when they walk away, even Miss Manners probably won’t be able to help.
Shane Schick tells stories that help people innovate, and to manage the change innovation brings. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and Yahoo Canada and is the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.