Customer Service Can Be the Easiest Use Case to Harness Language
Chris West is the Founding Partner of Verbal Identity, a leading strategy agency specializing in the power of language. His firm has guided global and national brands, relaunches, and startups from B2B and B2C to tech and luxury and everything in between. Chris is a multi-award-winning copywriter and the author of the highly acclaimed book: Strong Language: The Fastest, Smartest, Cheapest Marketing Tool You’re Not Using.
This episode discusses the key takeaways from his book, including insights into how strong language can be deployed in customer service delivery.
Chris is a copywriter by background. He has written in every medium ranging from short films to newspapers. He loves the power of language to share ideas and build relationships. He founded Verbal Identity to help brands harness the power of language in their business.
The Inspiration to Write the Book – Strong Language
Chris has been running Verbal Identity for more than ten years. When his firm was a boutique advertising agency, clients frequently asked him to write copy across the spectrum of the business, not just for advertising, for example, customer service use cases. He witnessed clients becoming more aware of the need to write copy to support their entire business. This inspired Chris to focus on language. After being asked by many people how to harness language, he decided to write a book about it.
How to Know When Your Brand Voice Isn’t Working Well
How does an executive team determine if their current use of language is working for their business? It’s more accessible in customer service because the people on the front lines are closer to the customer. They’re able to observe engagement with customers in response to the language used. Executives can observe how agents are talking to customers or communicating on social media channels when delivering omnichannel support. What they often discover is a disconnect among different channels with different voices using inconsistent language. Sometimes, they find that their brand voice sounds the same as everyone else in their space. In that situation, their brand lacks differentiation and value. This can result in customers not remaining loyal to the brand, which can result in lost revenue.
Key performance indicators (KPIs) such as Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Churn, and Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) scores can indicate how ineffectively a brand communicates during customer care delivery. Improving language can be a fast, smart, cheap way to improve customer service metrics.
How to Find Quick Wins Using Strong Language
When executives recognize they need to change their language, they usually want to find quick wins. Most companies don’t approach changing their language with the mindset of allocating a big budget, particularly assigning a lot of time to it. Chris recommends mapping out where people interact with your brand in a high-impact way to identify the areas where you can change the language to measure a change in business impact quickly. These quick wins allow teams to understand the power of language, often leading to a willingness to invest incremental budget and time in impacting other business areas ranging from marketing to sales to customer service.
How to Measure the Value of Updating Your Brand Voice
All stakeholders want to measure the value of updating their brand voice. When considering this, Chris suggests starting with the metrics you care about most. Consider the contributing factors to those metrics. CX professionals use a different set of metrics than sales, marketing, and operations people use. Chris suggests dividing metrics into two categories: self-serve engagement and human interaction engagement.
We’re living in a time of higher staff turnover in many businesses. By shortening the learning curve to effective language among employees, we can impact the business faster. This is especially true in customer experience delivery. The more effective the language is the more effective the customer experience delivery. This has a direct correlation with contact center agent job satisfaction, which impacts employee retention metrics.
Ultimately, the best way to measure the value of language in your brand is by reverse engineering it. Start with the key metrics that are important to the business. Identify how language is used to impact the current state of those metrics. Standard metrics on an executive’s dashboard include revenue pipeline, actual sales, employee retention and attrition, inventory turns, and others unique to each business. These metrics are essential, and the use of language is a crucial factor influencing them. Changing the language to improve any one of these metrics is a great way to measure the value of revising the language.
Decision Making Process in Language Change
The decision process in language change varies for each company. In founder-led companies, all decisions get approved by the founder. In other companies, it’s more decentralized. Language programs that compare your brand to one or more competitors help get c-suite awareness and support.
Another approach is to run an internal survey to gauge the current effectiveness of language. When internal stakeholders express their opinion about the ineffectiveness of existing language in a particular use case, it can influence the c-suite’s interest in making change. Often, the c-suite appreciates calling attention to the inconsistency and the opportunity to remedy the situation to improve key business metrics.
How to Develop a Consistently Distinctive Brand Voice
Chris shares that the original title of his book was, One Business, One Voice. Executives can all agree, whether it’s marketing, customer service, investor relations, sales, or operations, the language of their brand should always sound like one voice for the company. But how does a company create one consistently distinctive brand voice?
Strong Language (the book) documents a framework made up of three levels of communication.
- The first level is the ten thousand foot view of what your business stands for and against (i.e., your worldview).
- The second level is the one thousand foot view, your brand’s personality (how you express your world view).
- The ground level is about your jargon, grammar, and style.
Splitting it into three levels helps people have a common framework for harnessing the power of language. Sometimes the feedback tells us that the language for the world view is great, but the personality language doesn’t support it. Or vice versa. This simple framework allows for congruency among the overarching worldview narrative, internal and ground levels. It is a simple method to enable stakeholders to agree on the language needed to guide people in language development, resulting in one business, one voice.
What Chris Does for Fun
In response to the “what do you do for fun” question, Chris has three activities that make him smile. He is an avid reader, which should not surprise anyone, given his passion for language. He is also an avid swimmer. Chris is a husband to an entrepreneur and father of two amazing kids.
Visit VerbalIdentity.com to learn more about their approach and Chris’ book – Strong Language: The Fastest, Smartest, Cheapest Marketing Tool You’re Not Using.
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