As the reliably hilarious comedian Steve Martin once said: "Some people have a way with words, and other people...oh, uh, not have way." Point being, there's a right way to say something - and a whole lot of wrong ways. This is especially true in the business world, and particularly pertinent for customer interactions. A deft description or articulate message can sway a customer toward your product or presentation, while even one word out of place can lead to head-scratching - or worse, irritation. It's important to understand how the words we use have a profound effect on the way customers perceive brand strategies, and that there needs to be real meaning communicated in everything - from an email subject line to product descriptions and the fine print.
The Internet has had an incredible effect on the way people and companies use language - and we're not just talking about "LOL" entering the common vernacular. Words become increasingly saddled with extra meanings, connotations that differ sharply from the word's original use and irreverence that can often turn a phrase's meaning on its head.
The words you can't say in e-commerce
Recently, Econsultancy contributor Shane Jones interviewed Patrick Speijers, the co-founder of e-commerce customer service support company ROBIN. Speijers discussed several words that should be expunged from e-commerce customer service, with choices ranging from those that sound simply outdated in this day and age to words that can actually make the company seem colder and more difficult to deal with. There were several great choices on his list, but here are two of them:
Agents: A no-no for a new paradigm
"No one wants to be handed over to an 'agent'," Speijers told Jones. "This word is not conducive to customer satisfaction. You can't have a real conversation with an agent."
Customer service can be fraught with difficulty, as both customers and companies are all too aware. But at this point, everyone's seen a few too many spy movies and heard phrases like "Agent Orange" to make "agent" a cheery, helpful-sounding word, even if the representative is a cheery, helpful source of assistance. A representative is a much better option, as it implies someone who is working on behalf of the company to fix a customer issue - not to infiltrate and destroy the problem.
Delight: Not what the customer ordered
This is certainly an interesting choice. No, delight doesn't have a secret double meaning - it's just that it offers something that customers aren't actually looking for. Delight is usually reserved for seeing a cute picture of a new pet or cooking a delicious meal, not getting a product problem resolved. And that's not a bad thing - it just means that organizations should look to use more actionable, decisive words, like "enhancing," "improving" or "fixing," that imply a problem can be rectified - that is what the e-commerce customer is looking for, after all.
Use words wisely. Your e-commerce customer service doesn't have to be Shakespeare, but it should use words that are appealing, attractive and inspire a cool confidence - it puts a company's best foot forward and elevates the conversations you'll have with your customers.
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