Over the past several years, there’s been a lot of chatter in the blogosphere about branding. What is branding? What’s effective branding? And what is your brand?
Well, if Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, has any say in the matter, “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
If this is the case, then your brand is dependent upon your reputation–how what you put out in the world is not only received, but perceived. And while it’s easy to try and emulate Apple’s sleek product design or Amazon’s comprehensive shipping options, it may be important to consider that reputation isn’t built off of your product alone.
What your company communicates to a customer is often based off how well your customer service channels express your brand. According to Ronald E Riggio PhD, Professor of Leadership at Claremont McKenna College, “Charismatic leaders are essentially very skilled communicators – individuals who are both verbally eloquent, but also able to communicate to followers on a deep, emotional level. “
This is why the language used in your live chat channel is so important. If you can connect to your customers on an emotional level, you can gain their trust, leading them to lifelong loyalty.
Branding Comes from Within
You might be thinking, all right already! Tell me the magic words to give me the “brand” image that my customers will love.
But first, you’re going to have to take a step back first and see if you have truly identified your brand. Some companies make the mistake of trying to decide what their brand is without examining what brand already exists. The key here is to tap into who you already are, and how your customers perceive you.
#1. Know Thyself
The first step is to look at what language already exists to communicate your brand, and then interpret it. What does your website copy say about the service or product you deliver? How about your blog posts? Study:
- Blog posts
- Web copy
- White papers
- Video transcripts
- Social media channels
- Agent transcripts
Look for that sentence or blog post that feels unique, that stands out from what you’ve seen other companies do or say. This is probably the magic pulse–the thing that’s so uniquely you that you might as well embrace it. Do you have some funny jokes in your blog posts? Or maybe your marketing director makes a crossword puzzle every month for your newsletter. Perhaps your white papers are super authoritative, and way more professional than others in your industry. Whatever it is, think carefully about what it means.
After running this exercise, be sure to talk to others across different departments (especially marketing, sales, and communications), to see how they have interpreted this information–if they agree with you, you’re on the right track. If not, see what commonalities they express that you didn’t pick up on. If most people use the word “casual” to describe your customer service culture, pick that thread and run with it.
#2. Know Your Customer
So now you know more or less how your company sees itself. But do you know how your customer sees you? Better yet, do you know who your customer is? Does your key demographic value an individualized experience? A fast resolution? Your monthly sales?
While you may think the answer is all of these things, you’ll end up with a stronger brand if you emphasize a few qualities over the others. Your perfect brand is where your perception of your company and your customer’s perception meet. Consider studying the following metrics:
- Purchase history/Average spending
- Average resolution time
- Average age
- Referring URLs
When aiming to collect metrics through live chat, consider instating a pre-chat survey, that way you can collect information like age and social media accounts. A post-chat survey can also help you establish greater understanding of customer perception. For example, you might ask: Was your issue resolved in a timely manner?
If you are getting a lot of “no’s”, you can imagine that either your customers values a speedy experience, or your agents are getting bogged down for some reason. Use this information to discover the good, the bad, and the ugly of public perception.
Once you know who you are and what your customer says “once you’ve left the room,” you’re ready to dig into the fine art of branded language.
#3. Assert Your Personality
In the field of psychology, many professionals use the Big Five personality traits to broadly describe diversity in human personality and psyche. A Stanford marketing professor, Dr. Jennifer Aaker, has used this Big Five concept and created a parallel theory concerning business personalities. According to Aaker’s research, there are five dimensions of brand personalities: Sincerity, Excitement, Competence, Sophistication, and Ruggedness.
She has organized the following traits under each personality profile:
Sincerity: down-to-earth, honest, wholesome, cheerful
Excitement: daring, spirited, imaginative, up-to-date
Competence: reliable, intelligent, successful
Sophistication: upper class, charming
Ruggedness: Outdoorsy, tough
When considering the above brand personalities, ask yourself which rings truest for your business. Which of your strengths could be organized under one of Aaker’s brand dimensions? Once you’ve decided this, use the following advice to structure your live chat language:
- Sincerity: Use language that expresses a general cheerfulness, graciousness, and empathy. Use lines like, “thank you for your patience,” and “I’m really sorry that you had that experience. What can I do to help?”
- Excitement: Offer specials in a way that seems more spontaneous. Instead of the standard, “Enjoy 50% off your purchase with this code,” try, “Would you like to learn how to earn 50% off your entire purchase today?” Use words like “awesome” and “cool” to stimulate the excitement of a younger demographic.
- Competence: When trying to communicate competence, it’s important to give customers a peek of your structured internal policies. When you have to gain permission from a superior to grant a discount, for example, don’t just say, “Hold for one moment please.” Instead, try a line like, “Will you hold for one moment while I forward this issue to my manager?” Additionally, you should inform customers about policies when relevant. Customers who like competence appreciate consistency.
- Sophistication: If you’re trying to develop a brand of sophistication, this is probably because you offer a higher-end product. Avoid contractions or slang, and find small ways to make your customer feel glamorous and special. Sometimes these shoppers might want a personal opinion, much like a fine diner might ask a waiter what his favorite dish is. Be prepared to discuss all the specs of your products to help aid customers in the decision-making process.
- Ruggedness: If your company sells outdoors equipment or a limited number of products, this may be the brand personality for you. Contractions here are more than acceptable–they’re expected. Don’t weigh your customer down with long winded explanations. Use economical language that will appeal to your customer. Instead of, “How may I assist you?” say, “How can I help you?” Avoid sounding erudite. When in doubt, look to Ernest Hemingway for inspiration.
#4. Be Precise
“If your customers are made to feel as if they are outsiders, they will eventually find a competitor who makes them feel better about doing business with them.” – Shep Hyken, author of The Cult of the Customer and The Amazement Revolution.
You’ve discovered your brand and you’re in the process of fine-tuning your chat scripts and email signatures. But before you get carried away, don’t forget to integrate the one trait that is completely mandatory in every brand: effectiveness.
Because of this, your customer service language needs to be precise. Its purpose is not only to convey a general company brand, but also to be exceptionally helpful. What does that mean in practical terms for you? Consider the following:
- Navigational vocabulary: When customers ask where to find certain features or pages on your website, consider things from their perspective. How do they see the website from where they are, and how does it differ from the agent’s perspective, if at all? Then offer precise instruction. Use key terms like: left, right, up, down, corner, menu, toggle, browser, web page, beneath, above, next to, etc. For example, if a customer asks how they can view the contents of their shopping cart, you wouldn’t want to say, “Click on the shopping cart icon.” Instead, it would be better to say, “Navigate your cursor above the red, 50% off banner. Do you see the shopping cart icon in the upper right hand corner?”
- Promotional information: Be sure to give customers all the information they need to know about a sale. It’s not enough to tell customers what the sale is, but also which items qualify, and at what time the sale expires–including the time zone. Don’t say, “Today we have a 50% off sale!” Instead, it would be more helpful if you said, “Today we are offering 50% off selected winter merchandise. The offer ends after 11:59 pm EST. Let me know if you have any questions about the sale.”
- Personalized language: According to Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, referring to someone by name makes them feel validated. You should refer to your customer by name several times throughout your chat, to let them know that this conversation is personal, and that they are important to you. Additionally, use their customer history to establish good rapport with them. For example you might ask, “How did you like that coat you bought last month? Is it keeping you warm this winter?” This can help make customers feel remembered and valued.
No matter what qualities of your brand you choose to assert with live chat language, you want customers to associate your company with “great” customer service. When in doubt, use language that communicates a willingness to get through the toughest of problems. Ultimately, a helpful company inspires more loyalty than a “hip” or “sophisticated” one that can’t work through customer pain points.
And remember, the next time someone says “talk is cheap,” consider what your company brand would be without a customer service channel to communicate your excellence to the world.